‘The prudent thing is to delay hiring’: WU initiates faculty and staff hiring freeze

Sulan Pathiranage | Staff Reporter

Washington University implemented a hiring freeze to conserve University resources in the face of the COVID-19 emergency.

Photo by Grace Bruton

There are limited exceptions to the freeze and existing employees are encouraged to stay home.

Hiring freezes are commonplace in universities nationwide during this time. The uncertainty around the crisis means that universities are preparing to significantly reduce spending to maintain essential functions for as long as possible.

“During the period when revenues are very challenged and when your demand for certain kinds of staff are lessened… the prudent thing is to delay hiring,” Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Administrative Officer Hank Webber said.

Without students on campus, the University has only a skeleton crew operating on campus.

“There are many areas of the University where at the moment and through, in all likelihood, the fall semester, our need for staff is significantly lessened,” Webber said.

One constant throughout all the messages from the University is the unpredictability of the current state.

“It’s our hope that this will be a temporary setback, and that we’ll be able to revisit this policy quickly once we return to normal operations,” Chancellor Andrew Martin wrote in his message to faculty.

Normal operations, however, will not resume until COVID-19 is controlled and no longer a threat to public health.

There is an exception process, however, and critical staff and professors teaching core academic classes are included in this process. Student hires could be made, contingent on the University returning to normal operations.

Existing employees are also being given work to help the University maintain essential functions, even if they belong to a different department.

“It is important that employees continue to work as required, including having some employees take on different responsibilities that help us address the pressing circumstances brought on by the pandemic,” the Human Resources department wrote in a memo to managers.

The unpredictability around the coronavirus has made it significantly difficult for the administration to determine the impact of such actions.

“Because of what we’re dealing with, this is a prudent step to handle revenue shock and the enormous uncertainty that this institution and this industry face,” Webber said.

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