Under budget strain, UT eyes staff cuts amid coronavirus pandemic
University of Texas announced Tuesday several revenue-generating departments would likely face furloughs and layoffs. [LOLA GOMEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

Under budget strain, UT eyes staff cuts amid coronavirus pandemic

Facing declines in future revenue, University of Texas leaders on Tuesday said several units will likely furlough employees or permanently reduce staff numbers in the near future.

In a letter to the community, UT President Gregory L. Fenves and incoming Interim President Jay Hartzell said the cost of shifting classes online, coupled with declining revenue and uncertainty about the next academic year, have significantly altered UT’s immediate financial outlook. As a result, some revenue-generating units, such as the Performing Arts Center and the AT&T Conference Center, will develop new financial plans that will likely include furloughs or permanent reductions in staff members.

According to Fenves and Hartzell, the units facing cuts draw their revenue primarily from providing services to paying internal or external customers. It is unclear which specific units and employees will be affected, but the cuts will not affect academic units, a spokesman said.

“These are very difficult steps for everyone affected, and we understand your concern as you wait for specific information about your units, but they are necessary given the impact of COVID-19 and the university’s financial situation,” the letter to faculty said.

The university will closely monitor revenue sources in the coming months, and will probably have to make “other difficult employment decisions,” to mitigate budget shortfalls that may arise, the UT officials said.

Like many schools around the country, the costs of handling the pandemic have been significant for UT. Refunds on students services, such as parking, housing and dining, cost the university about $26 million, officials reported last month.

The university has already taken steps to mitigate the financial fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. In April, UT canceled merit-based raises and limited new hires and large expenditures to only essential needs.

UT is not the first college to face employee cuts because of the coronavirus. Last week, St. Edward’s University laid off 10% of its employees, including several non-tenure and tenured faculty members.

On Tuesday, officials said UT would also suspend emergency leave starting May 31. During the past two months, emergency leave has been extended because of the pandemic to benefit many staffers, but UT “cannot extend this leave indefinitely without having a significant financial impact,” Fenves and Hartzell wrote.

“The University of Texas has been through hard times before, and we’ve always come through them with a strengthened sense of purpose and a dedication to our world-changing mission,” Fenves and Hartzell said. “We have no doubt that this will be the case with COVID-19, and we thank you for your understanding and commitment.”

Originally posted by Lara Korte for statesman.com.

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