University lays off 24 employees amid pandemic

As part of sweeping budget cuts mandated by the University System of Georgia, Kennesaw State laid off 24 campus employees on Monday, Aug. 10.

These layoffs come amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which triggered a decision by the USG to decrease its budget by 14 percent for fiscal year 2021. Two-thirds of the relieved KSU employees made less than $50,000 a year.

The United Campus Workers of Georgia released several videos and statements castigating the university for its lack of action for its employees.

The UCWGA has made a list of demands for KSU President Pamela Whitten, including calls to release the university budget and its decision-making process for layoffs.

A USG budget proposal released in May showed that KSU is set to have a near $23 million budget reduction for fiscal year 2021 and that an estimated 202 jobs will be eliminated or held vacant.

UCWGA has called for Whitten — who makes nearly $500,000 annually — to reduce her salary in order to help keep the campus workers employed.

“Personally, I just think it’s heartbreaking to let these folks off in the middle of a pandemic when there’s other alternatives that the university could have pursued,” KSU UCWGA chapter member Amy Donahue said.

Over 70 percent of the laid-off employees were women and 20 percent of the employees were African American, one of whom is a retired veteran who has worked for the university since 2015, according to the UCWGA.

“To be fired in the middle of a pandemic, to lose health insurance, it really is a tragic situation,” Donahue said.

Colleges and universities are strongly encouraged to avoid laying off workers, according to a memo by the USG. The KSU chapter of the UCWGA stated that these are permanent reductions in force.

“At this point, our main concern is with the workers who’ve been let go,” Donahue said. “Some have filed appeals with the Board of Regents and we’ve tried to assist in that process.”

Donahue stated that the university should explore alternatives to layoffs but believes that KSU President Pamela Whitten has not considered those options.

“There remain a number of vacant positions that are budgeted, some of which overlap with those people who have been let go,” Donahue said. “It appears that layoffs were their first option.”

KSU has yet to respond to the UCWGA’s demands.

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