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Universities lay off and furlough staff amid pandemic

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INDIANAPOLIS – Colleges and universities nationwide are making dramatic changes to their staff.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education and Department of Labor statistics, more than 500,000 people in the higher education sector have been laid off since February.

“Short term, it’s potentially going to be less students services and less opportunities for majors,” said Dan Bauman, the Chronicle’s data reporter. “Universities are in a bind to make their budgets.”

Bauman has been collecting surveys from schools nationwide. He says every day, he learns about new furloughs and layoffs.

“Seventy-five jobs here, 23 jobs here,” he told CBS4. “This is a very different and extraordinary moment when it comes to economic downturns.”

CBS4 asked every institution in Indiana whether they had downsized. Almost every single private institution declined to comment, saying that because they are privately funded, they are not subject to the typical public record request laws.

None of the public institutions responded in time for our report.

The Chronicle of Higher Education, though, listed dozens of staff had been let go at places like Ball State University.

Local professors are concerned about the trend.

“If we lose administrators, if we lose support staff, if we lose the people that help take care of the university, that shifts the burden onto professors even more,” said Dean Wiseman, an associate professor at the University of Indianapolis.

Wiseman teaches physiology. He said having an administrative assistant makes a big difference and he would hate to lose that extra help.

“Now, I don’t have to spend ten minutes xeroxing something or scanning a form or putting in a requisition for a purchase,” Wiseman said. “They’re just going to dedicate less time to the really good stuff and were going to find ourselves more and more tasked with the in between things that are – while important – aren’t the real essence of the educational mission we want to achieve.”

Universities have also offered staff members early retirement. It’s something Notre Dame Professor Richard Williams has considered.

“Had I been told I had to teach face to face, I very well would have retired early and taken an unpaid leave,” he said. “If I had to teach face to face, I wouldn’t be teaching period.”

Williams and at least 146 other professors signed a petition saying the prestigious school should scale back its reopening plan.

“I just don’t think you should take that huge of a risk,” he explained.

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