The most recent round of layoffs at Temple University last week has raised an outcry from faculty and staff members, bitter not just over the consequences of a lagging economy but over the "cruel" way in which the layoffs were handled.
On Wednesday morning
, members of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, AFSCME, the union that the represents much of the university's staff, protested outside of the home of University President Ann Weaver Hart because, they say, Temple did not give enough notice to the 18 employees who were fired last week.
"They were treated cruelly," Arthur Hochner, president of the Temple Association of University Professionals, TAUP, told The Philadelphia Inquirer. According to Hochner, some of the laid-off employees had worked at Temple for decades.
Although angry about the layoffs as a whole, the protesters were primarily reacting to eyewitness reports that the laid-off employees were escorted off campus by security and that the locks on their doors were changed immediately after the dismissals.
According to the university, all of the layoffs -- primarily administrative assistants -- were done to deal with financial constraints imposed by the economy.
Temple spokesman Ray Betzner said that security was not used to escort the former employees out of buildings and that because the union had been notified of the impending staff cuts before Memorial Day, the university had met its responsibility for early notification. The employees were paid through June 1.
"Layoffs are never easy, and a lot of care was taken to be as humane as possible," Betzner told The Chronicle of Higher Education
. "Any layoffs were done in compliance with union rules, including those rules on notice and severance packages."
The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the university announced the cuts on Monday, May 18, giving employees until 1 p.m. the next day to schedule interviews for positions in the reorganized administration; until Wednesday, May 20 to submit their applications; and until Thursday, May 21 to submit letters of recommendation.
The final hiring and firing decisions were made on May 27. Nine employee were hired into vacant jobs. One dismissal is pending.
"To brutalize workers in this way shows how little Temple's administration cares about due process and common decency," Temple AFSCME and TAUP wrote in a press release
. "To do so without any consultation with the staff or faculty who actually run departments (not to mention doing all the teaching and research) shows the contempt Temple's administration holds for the people most central to the core missions of the university the administration presumes to run."
Specifically at issue is one clause from Temple's contract with AFSCME that stipulates, "In the event Temple finds it necessary to make major changes...Temple agrees to meet and discuss the changes with the union in advance of the initiation of such changes."
Colleges and universities around the country are cutting staff, benefits and budgets to make up for sinking endowments and the decreased ability of students to pay tuition.