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U of C Braces for MORE Layoffs

Cue7Cue7 2724 replies119 threads Senior Member
http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20160601/NEWS13/160609982/u-of-c-braces-for-more-layoffs-budget-cuts

Chicago's big bet of expanding during the recession (and incurring lots of debt) has clear casualties, as seen in the above.

I will say this, Zimmer et. al. are absolutely tenacious about staying as close to the "first rank" of universities as possible. Other schools have not been nearly as aggressive BUT, notably, have also not seen the same level of upheaval and uncertainty. (I can't remember the last time a top U had a mass round of layoffs - maybe in 2008?)

Interestingly, layoffs are expected to hit about 100 people. Assuming salary/benefits for each person comes to about $100k/person, if President Zimmer and the rest of the senior leadership accepted 50% pay cuts, most of those jobs could be paid.

Either way, if belt-tightening is necessary at Chicago, senior leadership should be tightening their own belts. This is, of course, not happening. Zimmer et al. tend to present as cold when it comes to this.

Here's hoping for a more humane and human next U of C president!
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Replies to: U of C Braces for MORE Layoffs

  • PoplicolaPoplicola 174 replies5 threads Junior Member
    edited June 2016
    I thought those affected are mostly non-faculty staff members (e.g. secretaries, research assistants, etc)? I don't think any faculty members are affected by these layoffs. UChicago appears to be expanding too quickly. Its fundraising machinery simply hasn't caught up.
    edited June 2016
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  • VeryLuckyParentVeryLuckyParent 466 replies38 threads Member
    edited June 2016
    The University has to do something. Between 2010 and 2015 Operating Revenue increased 27% while Staff Salaries and Benefits increased 37% and 38% respectively. Other Operating Expenses have also increased 34%, while Interest expense (based on the massive debt the University has taken on) has increased 191%. Academic salaries are the only category that have grown at a clip rate of 24% to match the Revenue increases

    Those numbers are just not sustainable. The University has gone from running a net excess from Operations of $157M in 2010 to a razor thin excess of $13 M in 2015.

    They have to cut non academic staff and bring expenses under control. Just because UChicago is a non-profit, doesn't mean it can operate under new rules of Math. Even without all the debt, the University is just not running as efficiently as it should.

    Zimmer and seven other U of C officers are making 75 percent more as a group than they did in 2010 while University operating revenue grew only 27% percent.
    edited June 2016
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  • Cue7Cue7 2724 replies119 threads Senior Member
    @VeryLuckyParent

    You pointed out the discrepancy well - If it's time for belt tightening, why is senior staff - pretty much across the board - making so much more money? Also, the way this is being done - with corporate sounding language about efficiencies and such - just sounds so soulless for an educational institution.

    Further, I know higher ed admins at a bunch of other top schools, and mass layoffs (especially multiple rounds of mass layoffs) are very rare (outside of struggling medical systems). It's just rare for top schools to layoff hundreds of people, even non academic staff, secretaries, whatever.

    If this had to be done, fine, but the approach seems cold as well. Senior staff could've made a symbolic gesture - eg we will all take pay cuts to give better severance packages to those being let go. There could be a public statement and apology to staff. There could be ample warning given to those staff at risk, and support provided for relocation. Zimmer could be at the front of all of this, and show his willingness to tighten his own belt and commiserate with those who are losing jobs, essentially, because of haphazard planning on the university's part.

    Of course, none of this will happen, and it'll seem like a cold corporate decision, which is why it's time for zimmer to go soon. Chicago can't forget that it's a place of learning first, and there are certain values (like compassion) the school should try to espouse. Between this and the trauma center fiasco, there's a lot of merited frustration with the schools values and approach.
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  • bluewater2015bluewater2015 559 replies5 threads Member
    I recall that back in 2008, when a number of universities had to make cuts, that some presidents and top administrators (like Hennessy at Stanford) started by cutting their own pay . . . didn't stop the need for layoffs, but important symbolically.

    http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Top-Stanford-execs-to-take-10-pay-cut-3182623.php
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  • NerdyChicaNerdyChica 516 replies41 threads Member
    How much money does it cost to operate the trauma center? I remember reading something about the administration being opposed to the idea of opening one because of the expense involved.
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  • Cue7Cue7 2724 replies119 threads Senior Member
    edited June 2016
    Trauma Centers operate at a loss, and University's usually look to other departments to subsidize their cost. UChicago will be following the same model, as seen in this great story: http://www.chicagobusiness.com/section/trauma-power

    U of C wound up cutting a sweet deal with the state - it'll open the trauma center but, to subsidize its cost, it's getting state-backing to open a bigger cancer center (which can rake in cash). They should've pushed for this years ago, but of course didn't until the protests got out of control.
    edited June 2016
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  • Cue7Cue7 2724 replies119 threads Senior Member
    @bluewater2015

    Zimmer should make the symbolic gesture, just as Stanford's leaders did in 2008. Zimmer will not, of course, because he's fairly heartless as a leader. Some examples:

    - While layoffs are announced, he's purchasing a $3.25M condo with his new wife. http://www.chicagotribune.com/classified/realestate/elitestreet/ct-elite-street-university-president-north-side-condo-0526-biz-2-20160524-column.html

    - His new wife, incidentally, was/is one of his employees - a Classics Professor (http://chicagomaroon.com/2010/02/02/zimmer-dating-professor-after-split-with-wife/ ; http://chicagomaroon.com/2011/10/14/zimmer-marries-classics-professor-shadi-bartsch/)

    - Zimmer was notably absent amidst the trauma center debates, and certainly didn't mitigate the PR disaster that unfolded with that whole episode (http://www.chicagobusiness.com/section/trauma-power)

    - Zimmer spearheaded the risky strategy to build and expand at a breakneck pace (http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20130817/ISSUE01/308179974/u-of-c-tries-to-keep-up-with-the-ivy-league). Certainly, incurring debt when money is cheap can be good, but the PACE is questionable - why do so much so fast? The U. hasn't really caught up to anyone.

    All of this relates primarily to optics - yes, Zimmer can do whatever he wants (legally) in his private life, and yes he can lay people off, with approval from the Board. BUT, the optics of his presidency have been poor - perhaps even worse than the last disastrous (but pragmatic) U of C President, Hugo Sonnenschein.

    The plan may work, but execution, delivery, and PR matter a lot. Zimmer's failed on the last three fronts.

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