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Lean Mean Times

February 13, 2009

gulp: Turmoil Over 70 Faculty Layoffs at Clark Atlanta

Jennifer Jiles, a spokeswoman for [Clark Atlanta University], said that a committee decided which professors and other employees would lose their jobs. Asked whether faculty members were involved, she said that the committee consisted of the four college deans and other administrators and that she was not aware of whether professors were involved. As to why the university didn’t take the faculty suggestions for avoiding layoffs, she said that “pay cuts [faculty suggested all faculty salaries be cut by 10%] would have to be a matter of seeking agreement from all personnel and this was not likely, given our current salary configurations and the process would have exceeded the time period necessary to maintain good financial positioning.” She also said that the faculty plans didn’t save enough money.

and

While Clark Atlanta has not declared financial exigency, she said that the university did face an “enrollment emergency.” Asked about the AAUP [American Association of University Professors] ban on layoffs of tenured faculty members without an institution being in a state of financial exigency, Jiles said initially that she was “not aware of that policy.” In a later e-mail message, she said that Clark Atlanta was justified in ignoring the AAUP.

“Whereas we certainly can appreciate AAUP’s purpose, universities, with their accrediting bodies, determine the place of tenure in the organization. Universities determine when and how tenured faculty may be removed or laid off and can lay off tenured faculty for a variety of reasons,” she said. “In this instance, CAU used productivity measures to make assessments and decisions. All measures taken in this process are within our faculty handbook.

Diane Plummer, a professor of psychology who is chair of the Clark Atlanta Faculty Assembly, said she was “in shock” about the layoffs. Professors “are loyal and committed to our school and want to educate the students,” she said, but most disagree with the decisions and wish their other ideas for savings had been considered. “We’re in a difficult position at this time.”

Plummer questioned whether departments would really be able to serve students without the professors who are leaving. She said that in her department, there are six faculty members. Two were in the layoff group — one was told he had to be out immediately, with the other getting to finish the semester. The one who is already gone was teaching four courses as scheduled, plus an overload course, with about 50 students in each course. That’s a typical schedule for the department, she said. She said she didn’t know how the remaining faculty could take on more courses, especially given that these will be courses they didn’t necessarily plan, a few weeks into the semester, with overload courses already the norm.

emphasis added

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