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The exterior of Cutler Hall, located on College Green, which houses the offices of the president, the provost and other senior administrative officers. (Kaitlin Owens / File)

OU announces pausing ‘budget reductions’ amidst COVID-19 pandemic

Ohio University announced Wednesday that President Duane Nellis asked OU leadership to pause “personnel-related budget reductions” because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a message on Feb. 28, Nellis said the scope of reductions is significant and that there would be about $26 million in reductions on the college level over the next three years, while at least $8 million would be cut in administration.

The Board of Trustees approved OU to use $65 million from its reserves through the 2024 fiscal year.

The university will reevaluate the budget planning and institutional priorities, according to a letter from Nellis, senior vice president for finance and administration Deborah Shaffer and Elizabeth Sayrs, executive vice president and provost.

“This very difficult time is one that calls us to come together,” according to the letter.

The OU chapter of the American Association for University Professors, or OU-AAUP, asked Nellis to halt faculty non-renewals in early March, before the COVID-19 worry.

The organization “applauds” Nellis, Sayrs and Shaffer for the pause in personnel reductions. The group said in a statement it appreciated the security that this announcement gives to OU employees, especially instructional faculty members who are “on the chopping block this year.”

OU-AAUP said in the statement that to provide a quality education for students, faculty members need to be supported because they are at the “front line” of teaching and defending OU’s academic mission.

The organization wrote a letter to Nellis that said the group was “disappointed in (the administration’s) lack of transparency and engagement with faculty,” according to a previous Post report.

The letter also asked Nellis to make a public comment to halt the non-renewal of employment contracts for instructional faculty.

Another letter from the OU-AAUP to Nellis and the Board of Trustees said OU “has shown great leadership in shutting down university operations and moving classes online to keep students, faculty, and staff as safe as possible.”

The letter said laying off faculty members during the COVID-19 pandemic would be “inhumane” because access to healthcare is highly necessary.

“As a faculty member, I appreciate the decision by President Nellis and the executive administration to pause any decisions on personnel,” Julie White, vice president of OU-AAUP, said in an email.

White, who is a political science professor, also said instructional faculty have done “such an incredible job stepping up to meet the educational demands of this moment.”


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