More than 100 demonstrators gathered at Flagstaff City Hall yesterday to protest large-scale job cuts at Northern Arizona University in the wake of pre-existing budget shortfalls worsened by the coronavirus pandemic.
Last week, the university reportedly "pink slipped" an unconfirmed number of non-tenure faculty, lecturers and other staff. Yesterday's protestors demanded to know the exact number and how NAU came up with it.
Audra Travelbee was laid off from her job as a Spanish language lecturer. She told KNAU, "I'm feeling incredibly sad, kind of angry as well, and pretty shocked. I really felt like I contributed a lot to the university, and it just kind of feels like none of that matters. It's so hard to understand why."
Other employees are facing furloughs and pay cuts in the range of 5 to 10%, according to NAU administration. Kristen Waring is with the School of Forestry. She says that's preferable to people losing their jobs and health insurance during a pandemic. "We just want more transparency and more of a voice in what's happening. Those decisions should be made with our input, not just top-heavy decisions that come down."
Some protestors say they received no warning about their jobs being cut and had full classes lined up for the fall semester 2020. In a statement to media outlets yesterday, NAU President Rita Cheng said fewer than 100 faculty positions will not be issued contracts for the next academic year and that she will continue to make decisions, quote, "in the spirit of shared sacrifice."
Cheng and her executive team will take a 10% pay cut. Student enrollment at NAU is expected to decline as much as 20% in the fall.