Hitch downsizes Wasatch Campus Staff

A dismal atmosphere surrounded the Wasatch Campus Thursday afternoon after six of the eleven members of the support staff were told their employment would be terminated due to budget cuts as of May 1.

University spokesperson Bradley Plothow said the campus is not shutting down and that the restructuring will only affect the student service functions at the campus.

“Course instruction will continue as usual at UVU’s Wasatch campus, but the delivery of student services will change to reflect the model followed at other distance sites, including Lehi and Spanish Fork,” Plothow said.

The news came Thursday afternoon during a mandatory staff meeting.

“President Hitch brought us all together and explained the situation and we looked at the projected enrollment, current enrollment and the budget,” said Shad Sorenson, Wasatch Campus Assistant Vice President.

“If you look at our current budget, we have only 25 percent going toward the cost of direct instruction and 59 percent toward student support services and administration,” he said. “The goal of President Hitch was to meet the budget and still have opportunities for students to receive degrees at the Wasatch Campus.

After the 45-minute meeting ended, each member of the student support staff met with a representative from Human Resources to discuss whether or not their employment would continue.

“During these meetings, UVU Human Resource representatives explained to employees whose positions are being terminated their options and the benefits to which they’re entitled under UVU Policy,” Plothow said.

One Wasatch campus employee said that because his/her position is being terminated, he/she would have to look at early retirement which will be less than one-third of what she is currently making.

“I will have no health insurance unless I want to pay approximately $400 a month, not including dental and the cost of keeping my life insurance,” he/she added.

Plothow added that under normal severance, exempt employees are eligible for one month’s pay or two weeks’ pay for non-exempt employees. Also, they have the option for job-seeking skills training — such as mock interviews and cover letter and resume writing assistance. In addition to this, their unused vacation time will also be paid out.

The school administration has also encouraged these employees to apply for open positions at the main campus.

“I really thought they would place us in other positions at the Orem Campus,” said a Wasatch Campus employee. “I was surprised and disappointed that we have to apply for any available position.”

Another Wasatch Campus employee, expressed how he/she felt that President Hitch should have explored other options rather than terminating employment.

“They could have reduced the pay of each employee or even furlough employees like the state of Utah has recently done,” he/she said.

Chris Taylor, university spokesperson, said higher education needs to bear its fair share of the burden the state is currently experiencing, but now — during an economic slump — is not the time to make drastic cuts to higher education

“When you cut higher education, it hampers the state’s ability to recover economically,” he added. “Our hope is that further pending cuts will be held to a minimum.”