UO lays off 282 classified & OA’s, income doubles under UI for lowest paid

(Note: updated with info from an always well informed commenter, who also points out that this blog and its commenters sometimes come across as uncaring about the staff and OA’s who keep the university running. She is right, and for my part I resolve to try and do better on that.)

They will still get health benefits – thanks to work by HR. Assuming an average salary of $30,000, this will save UO about $2.2M a quarter, or 1/6 of a Jumbotron. It will be a windfall for the employees, except perhaps the most recent hires and ones who are paid the highest, who would be eligible for other policies, such as key employee insurance. This can help insure all the extremely essential employees a company has. For full-time workers at $15 an hour, instead of $500 or so a week take home, they will get ~$400 in regular unemployment benefits, plus the $600 per week CARES act add-on. Part time workers will do even better in percentage terms.

Of course first Oregon’s Employment Division needs to figure out how to get the checks out. Their COBOL system crashed again this weekend. For context, back on March 6th 1933, the day after his inauguration, FDR closed the entire U.S. banking system in response to bank runs. That week he had the Federal Reserve fly bags of freshly printed currency to banks across the country, and almost all banks were reopened and cashing paychecks by March 15.

President Schill’s message below the break:

Dear University of Oregon community,

We are all facing uncertainty and unprecedented challenges as we work collectively to slow the spread of COVID-19. I am deeply thankful and proud of the way each of you has responded to our rapid shift in operations, while juggling your own personal challenges, to meet our vital mission of teaching, research and service. These are far from normal times, and your dedication is nothing short of amazing.

The university’s move to remote education and the departure of thousands of students from campus has created an immediate impact on our auxiliary operations and finances. We normally house and feed more than 4,500 students; fewer than 225 currently live on campus. We have closed the Student Recreation Center and substantial portions of the Erb Memorial Union. Our athletic teams and venues are dormant because of the cancellation of spring sports. In total, our auxiliary operations project a loss of more than $25 million in net revenue for the spring term, including approximately $3.4 million in student fees that were refunded due to facility and operational closures. Looking past these near-term challenges, we face significant uncertainty about how this global health emergency will impact future operations.

We have taken a number of steps to immediately reduce expenses and prepare for future financial uncertainty. We enacted a hiring freeze, which will remain in place indefinitely. In addition, all senior leadership-vice presidents, school and college deans, and the athletic director-have taken a minimum six-month 10 percent pay reduction. I have taken a 12 percent reduction. Unfortunately, these actions are not nearly sufficient to deal with our current reality.

I deeply regret to inform you that we must also adjust staffing levels in some of our auxiliary departments to meet our present operational needs and address the immediate net revenue loss. We have begun informing 282 employees of changes to their employment status, all within the hard-hit units of housing and dining, the EMU, athletics, PE and Rec, and the access shuttle program. We have, however, developed an alternative to traditional layoffs that is designed to preserve employment relationships, provide financial stability, and ensure continued access to health insurance. This program-called the UO Extended Benefits Program-is designed to retain a connection with these impacted employees, with the goal of bringing them back when work returns to campus. The program was developed after consultation with our unions and employee groups about ways to reduce hardship for employees and position the university to quickly resume operations once this temporary disruption ends.

All impacted employees will receive a minimum 30-day paid notice and then be enrolled in the UO Extended Benefits program through August 31, 2020. During this time, employees will be on leave-without-pay status. Of course, impacted employees are free to end their employment with the university if that is in their best interest. Employees in the UO Extended Benefits Program will be able to apply for unemployment insurance benefits and the UO will to continue to pay its portion of each employee’s health insurance premiums. For a good number of employees it is likely that the combination of expanded unemployment insurance benefits and our health insurance will keep them financially whole during the period. Our hope is that this extended benefits program will provide some financial security and preserve the option of employment with the university until we know more about what the fall term will look like.

A team that includes unit leadership and Human Resources staff has been assembled to assist and support notified employees through this difficult time. Our friends and colleagues deserve our respect, compassion, and gratitude for their service to our students, and I sincerely hope that we will soon welcome them and our students back to campus.

This is not our first challenge, nor will it be our last. We are discussing with each of our employee groups and unions contingencies for responding to the COVID-19 crisis that would further allow the university to reduce operating expenses and protect as many jobs as possible should that become necessary. It is very possible that we will face an enrollment decline in the fall and/or a cut in state funding, and we will need flexibility to preserve the institution’s long-term viability.

I want you to know that my focus, my every waking moment, is on preservation-keeping as whole as possible our university community while continuing to deliver excellent education and life-changing research. I am committed to creatively addressing our financial realities with flexibility and compassion while positioning the university for success in the decades to come.


Michael H. Schill
President and Professor of Law

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33 Responses to UO lays off 282 classified & OA’s, income doubles under UI for lowest paid

  1. Sun Tzu says:

    Faculty should take a 10%-25% pay cut to save UO jobs.

    • uomatters says:

      To save Coaches jobs too? Strategic Brander’s jobs? To help pay for wiring up The Phildo? Knight Arena Bonds? To keep law school tuition at 50%? The do-nothing VPEI’s $3M budget? Uncle Phil’s “Athletic Village”?

      • Oryx says:

        UOM is correct. Asking faculty to cut their pay while UO shows an astonishing willingness to spend money on crap is insulting. From the recent post, the UO police department budget increased 30% last year! Why not immediately turn this into a 30% drop from the 2019 budget, saving $4 million?

        • Hippo says:

          Agree with UOM. If necessary, I would agree to (progressive) cuts only in exchange for significant faculty control of how these savings are spent (e.g. faculty tracking software? police? VPs?).

      • not a JH fan says:

        I’m not one who usually agrees with UOM, but he is spot on here.

    • CSN says:

      So at a minimum you are suggesting that faculty cut their pay by a higher percentage than the administration, who make (generally speaking) multiple times the salary?

      Interesting take.

      • Sun Tzu says:

        Self-serving and frankly poor decision-making by JH should not be used as an excuse by faculty to avoid our responsibilities to our university colleagues who are being furloughed. Our co-workers are losing their livelihoods while we, who more often than not make more, are still employed at full salaries. This is an opportunity for faculty to take a leadership role to help our university through this crisis regardless of what JH does.

        • thedude says:

          I’m still working. And more than usual.

          The staff in question aren’t (because they can’t) and they get UI that covers their salary (especially given the recent UI top off). The fact is, given incentives, and current UI replacement rates which will be close to 100 percent for them, the UO did the right thing for the staff and the university.

          To say I should take a 25 percent pay cut so rec center staff can watch Netflix subsides the federal government at my expense.

          Let’s all share the burden together through higher taxes or more inflation in the future.

    • Dog says:

      I am all for faculty salary cuts of N% under three conditions

      1. The spring term tuition revenue has to be clearly shown that it is less than last year (preliminary estimate suggest this to be less than 5%)

      2. The salary cuts are applied uniformly

      3. The JH people clearly show how that savings translates into preserving other jobs and programs at the UO

      • uomatters says:

        This is pretty much the union position from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtU0pUkkWe4&feature=youtu.be – along with the insistence that it be progressive, and put to a membership vote as with any substantial contract modification.

      • charlie says:

        Spring tuition drop off is currently estimated to be less than 5%. What’s going to occur if tuition decreases double digits going forward? Given the current financial times, that could be a possibility, even if the flagship resumes traditional teaching….

        • uomatters says:

          Do the math. Recession, no jobs for HS grads, parents desperate to get kids out of the house, kids desperate to get out. A good chance the football season will be cancelled, reducing the worry they’ll party and flunk out or get assaulted. Multiply by record low rates for student loans and the fact faculty are giving out A’s like popcorn. It’s going to be super-modular.

          • charlie says:

            Ahh, but I’m a lucky man! These kind people have done the math for me/us…


            Executive summary: aggregate uni enrollment has fallen for eight straight years. That’s before pandemics, social distancing, projected 32% unemployment rates, dwindling endowments, on and on….

            • thedude says:

              If you actually did the math, you’d see 4 year publics are doing just fine, even with a red hot economy. It’s the 4 year for profit schools (online ones) that are getting hammered.

              So I’m not sure if that’s good or bad news for us. Probably good news, because the people that enroll at online colleges typically can’t get into 4 year publics. They aren’t going to univ of phoenix because the labor market is hot.

      • unclassifiedUO says:

        Might be a little more complicated…majority of spring tuition revenue loss has been due to first-year attrition. If these students don’t come back next fall and we see more first-year attrition through the summer (which is very likely) the impact will be felt well into the coming years. Not to mention the potential impact COVID-19 will have on our Fall 2020 class. It’s a bit too early to tell but things could get ugly fast. While it may not be time for faculty salary cuts, it would be a good time for faculty to consider that their pay is mostly dependent on tuition revenue and the courses they teach. The shift to remote teaching is only highlighting for students those faculty who have been mailing in their teaching duties for years and actually don’t care about them or their learning one bit. These folks will likely have the greatest impact on whether students stay or go, not your good-for-nothing JH administrators.

        • Dog says:

          yes this is a good reflection of the situation and I agree that we really won’t know anything concrete until fall term enrollment. That perhaps could be significantly lower than past norms and that is really the time to do faculty salary cuts. Might also be the time to ramp up truly ON line courses.

  2. Hundred-and-fifty is enough says:

    Better plan than 10% for select leadership: Everyone with an annual salary > $150000/yr has their salary reduced to $150000/yr (for the next 6 months). Above that, UO is just contributing to individual wealth during a crisis… it’s not the time for that.

    p.s. has anyone scraped the PDF salary database into a spreadsheet? That’d make it easy to see the impact of these plans.

    • Environmental necessity says:

      This is an excellent idea that will never even be considered, let alone implemented.

      • Hundred-and-fifty is enough says:

        Ok. I took the 5 minutes to convert the PDF files to text files, and 15 minutes to scrape out the salaries with Python. Total savings with my plan, cutting annual salaries >150,000 down to 150,000, for a period of 6 months: (…drumroll…) $13,874,399 and 50 cents. I’ll take the $399.50 for my 20 minutes of time.

        The university can take that 13 million plus the 16 million CARES act funding, and plug the 25 million dollar hole Schill mentions. I request the 4 million dollar excess be used to add two geodesic domes at the base of the Phildo. There should be plenty of time, considering the one-year delay in the World Athletic Championships.

        • uomatters says:

          Congratulations for the comment of the pandemic. Your reward is a 6-pack of triple-ply Charmin from my private reserve.

        • CSN says:

          Sorry, that hourly rate might have been valid before the crisis, but thanks to your own suggestion you earn roughly $30.

          • Hundred-and-fifty is enough says:

            I’m not employed by the UO, so my suggestions don’t apply to myself. I thought you liked pricey outside consultants anyways. If you’re wondering where the $874,000 went in my accounting… that’s for my car allowance, thanks.

  3. Larissa Ennis says:

    There’s an error in the title and in your assumption about who has been impacted: the 282 includes some OAs as well.

    I will also share my thoughts that it would be refreshing to see and hear in this venue some appreciation for the hard work of our colleagues in HR and central administration for creating the extended benefits program, which is a humane response that preserves employee benefits as long as possible and reduces harm as much as possible. This blog and its regulars spend a lot of time complaining about the administration and all those “useless” people who are adjacent to it, but those people have worked nonstop for weeks to respond to this crisis and many of them will now spend days having heartbreaking conversations with community members who are being impacted by financial realities outside the university’s control. A little compassion for them would be a welcome change. Isn’t this hard enough already?

    • uomatters says:

      Thanks for this comment. Changes made, and I resolve to do better on the compassion thing.

  4. Bitter Poor Person says:

    I’m already tired of hearing Schill talk about his pay cut like it’s a major sacrifice.

    $720,000 Pres Salary +
    $493,041 Indefinite Tenure @ Law School +
    $14,100 Car allowance stipend

    If he took a 12% cut from that total number (don’t know if that’s even the case), his annual gross earnings are still over a million dollars. Gee, sounds rough.

  5. Gulliver says:

    Why are the Houyhnhnms still getting car allowances? Since the COVID-19, there is not a lot of driving to be done on University business.

  6. Observer says:

    If there’s a hiring freeze and staff are being cut left and right, how come the advertisement for a $825,000 assistant football coach is still up? And it is still up, I just looked. I’ll be damned if I’ll take any cut at all to fund a $825,000 assistant football coach.

    • thedude says:

      Especially given Football might be cancelled in the fall.

      The whole athletic staff should be furloughed if the season is cancelled, just like the rec center staff. Let the student athletes be students for once.

  7. Fishwrapper says:

    Everybody should read that.

    Especially parents of students who are back home learning remotely.