On Wednesday, Sept. 16, Rhode Island College announced that it would be
permanently laying off 35 Council 95 union employees in an attempt to combat the college’s projected $10.4 million deficit for the current academic year.
The layoffs were brought to the attention of Rhode Island College’s student body via a change.org petition started by undergraduate student, Nathan DeSalvo. The petition called for President Frank Sanchez to “put a halt to unfair staff layoffs at Rhode Island College” and currently has close to 900 signatures.
The petition asserts, “These decisions harm the reputation of RIC and threaten its ability to deliver on its educational mission. In addition to having great concern for those who will be immediately affected by layoffs, we see this as a red flag for those involved with the institution moving forward as well as those considering future education or employment at RIC”.
In an email to RIC faculty and staff, President Sanchez stated that these layoffs were a “last resort” effort to close the $10.4 million gap after previous cost-saving attempts such as, financial aid cuts, executive pay cuts and hiring freezes were unsuccessful.
At Wednesday’s meeting of the Rhode Island PostSecondary Council, Rhode Island CollegeFilm Studies professor Vincent Bohlinger, claimed that faculty were never informed in writing of the layoffs. He also stated that Council 95 union members who were laid off had to inform their own departments of the removal of their jobs.
History professor and President of the RIC chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, Erik Christiansen stated that RIC should “fight tooth and nail to keep public higher education public”. Christiansen also claimed that the underlying problem causing RIC’s budget deficit is a decline in state budget appropriation.
According to a report done by RIC last fall, in 2006 state aid compromised approximately 48% of RIC’s revenue. Comparatively, in 2017, state aid compromised only 38% of the college’s total revenue prompting the RIC administration to rely heavier on tuition and fees. Furthermore, in mid-August Rhode Island College reported a nearly 13% decline in fall enrollment from Fall 2019 to Fall 2020.
However, on Wednesday Sanchez reported that since the beginning of the academic year, that number had dropped to just around 6%. Additionally Sanchez announced that RIC had obtained two more Department of Education grants totaling around $3.6 million. These grants, Sanchez claimed, would be used to provide additional supportive services for students with disabilities and first-generation college students.
In addition, Sanchez also reported on the preliminary success of RIC’s “Be Bold” campaign, citing 2.3 million impressions, 28,000 video completions and nearly 16,000 engagements. The “Be Bold” campaign has run across multiple major media outlets such as radio, television and on streaming platforms throughout the state.
Rhode Island College will not receive its official budget for FY2021 until November and the state has told college administration to start preparing a budget for FY2022 with an estimated reduction of state appropriation of 15%.