Earlier this month I wrote about how some Illinois public universities were in financial distress. Well, today Chicago State University just sent layoff notices to all staff, faculty and administration alike, thanks to the worsening state political and economic crisis. This is no mere queen sacrifice, but a move to resign the entire campus game.
[A]ll 900 employees, including the university president, are receiving layoff notices.
CSU President Thomas Calhoun Jr. said the university has reached a point where it can’t continue to function as it has since the school year began last fall, so layoff notices have been sent to all faculty, staff, and administrators.
This doesn’t mean the university is shutting down tomorrow. These are potential layoff notices. Indeed, things look more contingent than “riffing every single person”:
CSU did not say when the layoffs would take effect, but by law, the university’s employees must receive two months’ notice of any potential layoffs.
Calhoun declined to estimate how many employees would be laid off, but said the school is working on various contingency plans, and emphasized the university will not close. He said the university will remain open, even if it has to do so “in a pared down and different configuration.
Call the new CSU a rump campus. Or think of the process as Survivor, public university style. Alternatively, this is a game of chicken, where CSU’s leadership is daring the Illinois government to not take things to that point.
It is also a disaster, a gut punch to the idea of public higher education. Calhoun again: “So to be in a press conference where we’re talking about wide-scale layoffs is not the business that any of us are even in.”
But it is, apparently, the way we do higher education in America in 2016. We increasingly starve our public institutions, load up students with debt, then celebrate when a handful of rich schools receive enormous donations from the wealthiest.
As a sad coda, I found that CSU’s official Twitter feed offered this ill-timed tweet yesterday: