Willamette University lays off 37 employees, furloughs 80

Two people walk through Willamette University on May 15. 2020. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Willamette University is furloughing 80 employees for two months and laying off 37 workers in the latest move to balance the budget amid revenue hits from event cancellations and dorm closures.

The university’s Board of Trustees approved the layoffs and furloughs at a May 16 meeting. They’re expected to save $4.5 million in the coming year, said Colleen Kawahara, chief of staff and administrative secretary to the board.

Oregon’s public colleges and universities are bracing for significant cuts next year after a state revenue forecast showed Oregon is expected to collect billions less in tax revenue than expected.

But private colleges are not immune to the economic factors that have decimated budgets across the state. Willamette refunded some student fees for dorms as many students left campus following a March 16 move to all-online instruction, provost Carol Long told Salem Reporter last week.

The university is also forecasting record demand for financial aid with the U.S. unemployment rate close to 15%. Long said Willamette was seeking to trim its budget by about 10% to offset losses elsewhere.

Willamette officials declined to say which jobs are being furloughed or laid off “out of respect for those impacted,” but said the cuts impact employees across campus and are mostly in administrative roles.

“In general, we sought to balance our educational mission and needs in making these decisions,” Kawahara said in an email.

Trustees also approved a progressive pay cut plan for all employees, including faculty. Staff would see no cut to the first $35,000 of income, a 3% pay cut of salary up to $60,000, a 5% cut to salary up to $200,000 and a 10% cut to any earnings above $200,000.

The university is planning to resume in-person classes in the fall with modified schedules and smaller sizes to limit the number of people in buildings and rooms at one time.

SUPPORT SALEM REPORTER’S JOURNALISM – A monthly subscription starts at $5. Go HERE. Or contribute to keep our reporters and photographers on duty. Go HERE. Checks can be sent: Salem Reporter, 2925 River Rd S #280 Salem OR 97302. Your support matters.

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

Rachel Alexander is Salem Reporter’s managing editor. She joined Salem Reporter when it was founded in 2018 and covers city news, education, nonprofits and a little bit of everything else. She’s been a journalist in Oregon and Washington for a decade. Outside of work, she’s a skater and board member with Salem’s Cherry City Roller Derby and can often be found with her nose buried in a book.