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Marquette University employees protest potential layoffs amid COVID-19 pandemic

Marquette University
Posted at 5:14 PM, Nov 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-16 20:17:10-05

MILWAUKEE — Marquette University employees are speaking out against the university's decision to potentially lay off hundreds of workers amid a steep budget hole.

The dissatisfied employees gathered outside Zilber Hall on the university's campus for a press conference Monday afternoon. They criticized the university's preparations to potentially fire as many as 300 faculty and staff, as previously announced by university officials at a town hall last month. The employees also allege the university intends to also eliminate academic departments and renege on commitments to diversity, as the university struggles amid the pandemic and projected declines in enrollment.

A university spokesperson released a statement following the press conference, saying that Marquette is continuing to evaluate next steps, "which includes the important process of engaging our university community."

"While the realities of the pandemic have rapidly accelerated challenges across the nation, transforming higher education in the process, we are confident that our strong foundation positions us well. Throughout this unique academic year, we have worked to ensure care for our students, families and Marquette community, and we will continue do to so moving forward," according to the statement from Marquette.

Monday's press conference.
Monday's press conference.

At the press conference Monday, employees of the university said that Marquette's alleged actions "are making faculty and staff sick."

"Faculty, staff, and students have come together to call on the University to prioritize their lives and livelihoods," according to statement released Sunday from several employees.

The statement included several demands:

  • Pledge to use the University’s endowment or other funds to make sure that #NoOneGetsFired;
  • Provide equal representation to faculty, staff, and students on all bodies responsible for deciding Marquette’s budget;
  • Open its financials to public scrutiny;
  • Fund the Hispanic Serving Institution initiative and honor commitments to hire for positions in the Race, Ethnic, and Indigenous Studies program;
  • Expunge all sanctions from the record of student leader Brooke McArdle.

During a Sept. 28, 2020 town hall, Marquette University officials outlined the potential cuts, in which University President Michael Lovell said that "it is likely Marquette will change more over the next year than any time since 1909."

Marquette's chief operating officer, Joel Pogodzinski, said during the town hall that there may be a need to cut as many as 300 faculty and staff positions in the short-term.

Pogodzinski explained during the town hall that he has calculated $20-25 million in "known risks" next year, expenses that include a smaller incoming class, increased financial aid needed for students and COVID-19 recovery costs.

The university has already enacted a series of temporary cutbacks Pogodzinski hopes will reduce some of those costs, including cuts in faculty development awards, implementing "discretionary spending reductions," suspending the 8 percent matching for 403b, and temporary pay reductions for those who hold leadership positions.

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