Gordy Hall sits at the top of Morton Hill on the OU Campus.

Gordy Hall sits at the top of Morton Hill on the OU Campus.

Instruction After Layoffs

February 3, 2022

OU faculty continue to grapple with the effects of 2020 layoffs

By Paige Fisher | For The Post

Ohio University’s faculty morale has been low since cuts made in 2020. The faculty that remain are trying their best to keep their programs going, but it has been difficult for those affected.

In May 2020, OU notified 53 instructional faculty members that their contracts would not be renewed to mitigate some financial troubles the university was facing at the time, according to a previous Post report.

“Before we headed into the pandemic, the administration was signaling now we were facing a kind of historic drop in enrollments,” Loren Lybarger, a professor of classics and religious studies, said. “What that meant was to shed jobs, to shrink the faculty.”

OU had been planning potential layoffs prior to the pandemic, due to previous financial trouble and declining enrollment, Carly Leatherwood, a university spokesperson, said in a previous Post report. However, the pandemic increased university urgency and amplified revenue pressure.

Molly Morrison, an Italian professor in the department of modern languages, believes OU is trying to cut programs that appear to not garner as much interest by students based on the number of people enrolled in the certain classes.

“The philosophy here is ‘Let's eliminate programs that have small enrollments’ because it's not … cost effective,” Morrison said. “The number one purpose of a university is to preserve knowledge, to teach, to educate. It's not just a simple business.”

Professors in departments that were affected by the 2020 layoffs are continuing to face certain repercussions of the faculty reductions.

“A portion of reductions in early 2020 were a result of reduced operations that continue to impact service levels in some areas such as Facilities Management and Safety including grounds, custodial services, and maintenance,” Leatherwood said in an email.

While Morrison understands that OU’s enrollment and financial concerns are reality, she does not agree with the way the situation was handled.

“I feel very dismayed by it,” Morrison said. “I feel very saddened by the turn of the university and the way they've chosen to deal with this situation … I feel very saddened by it.”

Some academic programs have been influenced by the reductions made by the university, shifting more workload onto the faculty that remain in those programs.

“All of us are being forced to do much less research and a lot more teaching,” Lybarger said. “We've had to take on the courses that weren't getting taught as a result of people leaving.”

Morrison said one of the main characteristics of a larger university in comparison to a community college is to have a wide variety of course offerings.

“Let's be clear, ‘What is the heart of the university?’ The faculty and students,” Lybarger said. “Without faculty you don't have a university.”

Morrison wonders if somehow the “tremendous amounts of money” that are being spent on extracurricular activities, such as sports, may be managed better elsewhere.

“Why are we cutting the academic side, which is really the heart of the university,” Lybarger said. “I'm not sure what the priorities here are.”

Faculty members remain concerned about the future of the university and what this may mean for the upcoming academic years.

“Where are we headed?” “That’s a question that many faculty have on their mind right now. They're looking sideways and looking around … and they don't like what they're seeing.” —Loren Lybarger, a professor of classics and religious studies
AUTHOR: Paige Fisher
EDITOR: Molly Wilson
COPY EDITOR: Anna Garnai
PHOTO: Carrie Legg