WMU plans for worst, says more layoffs unavoidable

Coronavirus

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Anticipating a budget devastated by the coronavirus closures, the president of Western Michigan University is warning of a “substantial number” of layoffs.

At a virtual forum Monday, Edward Montgomery, Ph.D., said budget cuts will impact every division.

“We anticipate that we will lay off a substantial number of our fellow employees. At this moment, we are still analyzing and taking great care in making a very difficult decision,” he said. 

The university has already lost $45 million in revenue this fiscal year because of closures aimed at slowing the spread of the virus and says it could lose an additional $45 million to $85 million next fiscal year. Leaders are planning cuts to compensate for the high end of their estimates.

“We have to aim higher rather than to aim low so that we don’t have to repeat the process,” Montgomery said. 

WMU says nearly two thirds of the budget goes to employee compensation so cuts cannot be avoided.

“In the coming days, division leaders will submit to human resources their detailed reduction in force plans, which will include specific positions and any organizational change needed,” Montgomery said.

Some 240 workers have already been laid off and other employees took pay cuts.

Western has also canceled approximately $32 million in planned construction projects. The Arcadia Flats dormitory and new student center, which are already underway, will be completed.

With questions remaining about social distancing and other health requirements this fall, planning is difficult for universities.

“It is our full intention to welcome students back to the campus and to be fully operating in person this fall semester. That assumes that government directives and health constraints beyond our control allow us to do so,” Montgomery said. 

Kathy Beauregard, Western’s athletic director, says 40% of her department’s budget is funded through events.

“The intercollegiate athletics department has set forward a plan that does include a 20% reduction in the intercollegiate athletics department,” Beauregard said.

She said no sports will be eliminated.

“You will find that we will look different. It will be a large reduction, the largest we’ve ever taken,” she said. “In order for that to happen, we have had our coaching staff and our administrative staff that have volunteered to take very large reductions in their own salary.”

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