Marietta talks college job cuts

MARIETTA – Marietta College staff and students said Wednesday they were surprised and saddened by the news of a reduction in force of 20 positions at the college, a move longtime employees say they don’t remember happening before.

Marietta College announced Tuesday that it would be cutting 20 full-time positions as a result of short-term budget woes and the need to remain sustainable in an increasingly-competitive market, but officials have kept mum about further details.

An email sent to Marietta College employees Wednesday from Tom Perry, spokesman for the college, asked that employees not speak to media.

“In light of recent administrative decisions, members of the media may attempt to contact you for interviews or individual comments…,” the email read. “While you are, of course, free to speak to whomever you will about your opinions, the administrator asks that you refer all media requests to (Perry).”

Perry declined to release any new information Wednesday.

Department officials have confirmed that the 20 positions came as a “second round” of cuts made after several adjunct positions were eliminated, and that though the 20 positions were not available for release, that they were across the board, from cleaning staff to instructors to administrators. Total savings is estimated at $1.1 million.

Attempts to reach several of the affected employees Wednesday were not successful.

In a press release Tuesday, President Joseph Bruno said the college will try to minimize future reductions. Members of the college community said the decision, however necessary, is disappointing.

“Even though they had already informed us that several adjunct faculty would be cut, I was surprised when I received the email about the full-time positions,” said Ken Itzkowitz, a philosophy professor at Marietta College. “I know we will be losing some good people, so I also know this wasn’t an easy decision for them to make.”

Some faculty cite a decline in enrollment as one of several issues, where the number of college aged-students is shrinking as a result of the baby-boomer rebound generation-the generation of young people whose parents are World War II baby boomers-finishing up college.

“I also know it wouldn’t have been done unless it was absolutely necessary,” Itzkowitz said.

Enrollment numbers had been rising at Marietta College in recent years from about 1,050 full-time undergraduate students in 2000 to 1,432 in the 2012-2013 school year. College officials declined to release current enrollment numbers Wednesday.

For all post-secondary education institutions in the state, Ohio is projected to see a reduction of 9.4 percent in high school graduates from 2007 to 2021.

Itzkowitz confirmed that as a professor, he received the notification via email that the cuts would be made, but was given no further details regarding who would be affected.

“They send us emails all the time about updates or possibilities for what might happen, but this was all very real,” he said. “It was definitely an email I didn’t expect to see, and it certainly hits close to home.”

Because Marietta College is a private institution, records and information related to reductions in staff and budgeting are not publicly available, and the administration has no obligation to release them.

Bruno and support staff were not able to comment any further on details.

“I have to, as a trustee, hold any comments,” said Nancy Hollister, a member of the college’s Board of Trustees. “All I can say is that this was not done lightly, but was done with a lot of thought and consideration.”

Though students are on spring break, all were notified via email of the changes.

“There’s some students that think there should be more done in regards to sustainable changes instead of just cutting staff; making things more efficient can save money too,” said Chelsea Smith, 21, a student at Marietta College. “The economy is bad enough already.”

Classmate Hannah Davis, 19, agreed, and believed there was more opportunities available to save money besides resorting to job cuts.

“I think there are a lot of activities that get a lot of funding that students don’t even always benefit from. Events and services that receive thousands of dollars, a lot of students either do not know about them or do not need them,” Davis said. “They either need to advertise for them more or get rid of them.”

Long-time faculty could not confirm if cuts to this degree had occurred at the college anytime in the near past, except for technological advancements in the late 1990s to early 2000s that resulted in reductions of employees whose positions were no longer needed.

As of 2012, Marietta College was the fifth-largest source of employment in Washington County, employing 394 people, according to the Marietta Area Chamber of Commerce.