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WU lays off 25 as cuts continue

Wrighton’s e-mail paints uncertain future, despite partial recovery

| Senior News Editor

Washington University’s endowment decline can be seen in visual form around the campus. Stalled or halted construction projects and pay freezes are among those things that have resulted from the endowment decline.

In an email to the University community on Monday afternoon, Chancellor Mark Wrighton laid out the results of the administration’s efforts to cut costs while continuing to develop the school’s endowment for fiscal year 2011 and beyond.

Wrighton highlighted some measures that have been taken to reduce expenditures. Among other initiatives, the cost plan for fiscal year 2011 includes the elimination of 25 part-time and full-time employment opportunities in addition to approximately 25 unoccupied positions.

“These human resource reductions have occurred in central administrative areas and in the Danforth Campus schools,” Wrighton wrote. “Individuals who have lost their jobs were given advance notice, severance, and job search assistance…Overall, reductions in staffing and in non-personnel administrative expense in the central administration alone have reduced annual expenses by about $10 million, a 6.5% reduction, over a 2-year period.”

In addition, the administration earlier this year decided to eliminate the print version of The Record, what used to be a weekly newsletter highlighting events and people in the community. Now, The Record publishes exclusively online daily.

“In this instance [ending print publication of The Record], it is arguably the case that we have simultaneously reduced expenses, improved the effectiveness of our communications, and reduced the amount of paper consumed,” Wrighton said.

Other budget changes include the changing of health benefits programs, a reduction of spending on library materials, improved automation and distribution of personnel forms, reduction in landscape work, and improvements in energy efficiency. Particularly with regard to energy, the administration plans to install more automatic lights controls and more energy-efficient lighting in the buildings throughout campus and the South 40 residential area.

Despite the reduction in many of the University’s expenditures, Wrighton echoed the idea that both the academic programs and the financial aid availability at the University remain strong. He argued that the University remains committed to supporting those who cannot fund their education alone.

“We will continue to support the financial aid needs of our students,” Wrighton wrote. “Even though there are signs of a recovering economy, we know the recovery is uneven and additional financial aid resources will be needed in the future. We will continue to respond to changing needs in financial aid for students so they can complete their degree programs at Washington University.”

To achieve these ends, the University has ventured on the fundraising initiative Opening Doors to the Future: The Scholarship Initiative for Washington University. The goal is to raise $150 million by midyear 2014. So far, the University has raised $35 million.

In addition, the University has received numerous donations over the past year, including $30 for the John C. Danforth Center on Religion & Politics and over $100 million from the stimulus bill.

Students were disappointed in the cutbacks.

“Obviously change needs to be made so you have to do what you have to do,” freshman Sondra Polonsky said.

Others see waste in places that aren’t being addressed.

“I think that [the University] probably should spend their money places other than landscaping all the time,” junior Doug Richardson said. “Instead of putting in new grass every few days, they could spend it on something more useful.”

According to Wrighton’s letter, the endowment has been on a slow but steady rise over the current academic year. Since July 1 of last year, the endowment has gone up by 10 percent; but Wrighton noted that the board of trustees predicts that the endowment will decline by $10 million over the next year.

With additional reporting by Michelle Merlin

  • I hope nobody has to be laid off, but if this is necessary, let it be done in the right order, with the right priorities, and let all who lose their jobs be offered good union jobs here, as service workers, with health care benefits and University College tuition benefits, so they can retrain to serve our community and our potentially great University in another capacity. I have said this before, I will say it again, and I will never stop saying it until it all comes true.

  • Devil’s Advocate General

    Pfff, are you kidding? Everyone read the Chancellor’s wall of text, and then thought, “Screw it, I’ll just let Student Life summarize it for me.”

  • ugh

    This article is nothing more than a summary of Chancellor Wrighton’s Email. The vast majority of people who read Stud Life will have also read his Email. What is the value of this article?

    StudLife- if you are going to tackle a mid-year “state of the university”, at least include new information or interview Wrighton and/or other administrators.

    Even better — a real newspaper would have had an article BEFORE wrighton’s email with a headline of “chancellor expected to give update on university’s mid-year financial status”. And, even better than that, a real newspaper would have been writing about specific cuts mentioned in this email (25 layoffs, less landscaping, energy efficient lighting) weeks ago.