ACU’s budget struggles took a personal toll this week: several departments were notified of impending structure changes, certain professors were offered early retirement, and, perhaps most emotionally, many workers were warned that their positions will be eliminated in May. Eleven faculty members and numerous staff members will lose their jobs as a result.
The news comes as a shock to the university. A certain sense of panic accompanies learning of what will happen.
While our hearts are with those now searching for new employment, eventually we must realize that the same events are taking place in universities across the nation.
The lay-offs may seem to put our university in a bad light. ACU is trying to build up its reputation; why would we let go of some of the exceptional faculty that we have worked to accumulate? However, the events of the restructuring do not reflect poorly on our university. Rather, they reflect poorly on the state of the nation’s economy. We may no longer be in the throes of a recession, but the employment rate is still at 9.1 percent, shockingly high. ACU, as part of the U. S. economy, has no option but to feel the effects of the economy’s woes.
Other universities in our own state have experienced the same problems. The major state schools – Texas Tech, University of Texas and Texas A&M – have laid off employees numbering in the hundreds and have cut the salaries of many others.
In some respects, ACU has fared well. Because it is a educational institution and not primarily a business, and because it is a Christian institution, we have managed to lay off employees in a compassionate manner. Unlike corporations, we’ve given the faculty and staff who have lost their jobs time to find new work before their last day at this university. In addition, layoffs weren’t the administration’s first reaction. We did attempt to avoid this outcome by cutting other expenses first.
And, looking at the situation pragmatically, the administration’s decisions will avert further budget crunches. The university’s image, we hope, will benefit from the cuts because we’ll avoid having to scramble to repair damages later.
Even recognizing the broad picture of the situation, however, won’t negate what will happen at the end of this year. People were fired. Men and women lost their sources of income. ACU is somewhat of a family, so though only 11 faculty members and a number of staff workers will be laid off, we will feel their absence later as we feel their pain right now. We sympathize with those who have lost their jobs. As a Christian community, we are called to surround those suffering from the restructuring with love, understanding, and prayer. At the same time, we must keep from overreacting and realize that the lay-offs are part of much larger economic woes.