Budget issues require department cuts, made this summer

Keyla Beebe

In Sept. 2011 the Guilford Beacon reported a robust sustainability program in an article titled “Staffing Changes Strengthen College’s Sustainability Program.” No one could ever guess that 12 months later the college would notify those in both building and grounds, and sustainability by email that their jobs had been cut.

In July, while most students were away on break, administrators implemented their “worse” case plan, laying off staff positions campus-wide.

All in all, 16 faculty and staff positions were on the chopping block; though some of the staff positions targeted for elimination were already vacant, administrators say.

Kent Chabotar, president and professor of political sciences, said that cutting jobs was a necessary evil boiling down to dollars and cents.

“Trying to balance a budget when the state cuts $2.5 million in financial aid is always going to involve painful decisions,” said Chabotar. “When over half the budget involves pay and benefits, positions and people are almost always going to be affected.”

The college took precautions to insulate students from as much impact as possible by boosting institutional financial aid for N.C. students by $950,000. Even so, not all members of the community were safeguarded from loss. Buildings and grounds took the most significant cuts, with seven positions eliminated.

The cuts included former Environmental Sustainability Coordinator Jim Dees, a celebrated favorite of the community who, until recently, had been coping with a young son battling cancer.

Jon Varnell told The Guilfordian that thankfully Dees’ son has received a clean bill of health, with his cancer in remission.

“We were sensitive to staff needs and in some cases waited until the last possible minute in order to let people go,” said Varnell.

David Petree, director of environmental sustainability, said that the job cuts have been a major downer, which his department is handling with the mental grace of sandpaper.

“Having these kinds of cuts suck,” said Petree. “Having seven folks cut from my department left a gaping hole that will be hard to fill.”

Adrienne Israel, vice president and academic dean, said that without enough students, some part-time faculty were not asked to come and teach this year.

“We hired 90 part-time faculty to teach in Fall 2011, and have hired 80 to teach in Fall 2012,” said Israel. “There simply were not enough students to fill some classrooms, so we did not offer some classes; which means there was no reason for part-time faculty to teach those classes.”

Students like senior Tim Leisman, president of community senate, said that they have not had time to fully digest and reflect on the layoffs.

“I regret we lost valued members of our community,” said Leisman. “But these are very hard times. We took a $2.5 million budget cut. The way the administration is doing the cuts is very transparent, in a respectful way.”

College administrators told The Guilfordian that the college hopes not to make any further cuts this fiscal year.

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