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TU lays off 47 people as part of 'substantial organizational change'

TU lays off 47 people as part of 'substantial organizational change'

University of Tulsa campus

University of Tulsa campus. TOM GILBERT/Tulsa World file

Describing it as part of a difficult but necessary “transformative path to future success,” the University of Tulsa laid off 47 employees across various departments Friday and cut retirement benefits for those who kept their jobs, officials told the Tulsa World.

The layoffs will save the university $2.4 million a year on top of the 10% to 15% salary reductions that top university leaders and some athletic coaches took last month, officials said.

While this year’s COVID-19 epidemic has put additional financial strain on the university, Friday’s move appears to be part of a larger restructuring effort to close a long-term budget gap.

“As with most significant change, TU will look different on the other side,” Interim President Janet Levit told faculty and staff members in an email Friday.

The school will also suspend employer retirement contributions at least through next June, Levit said, describing the cuts as “the fairest and most equitable way to address our continuing budget challenges.”

“I recognize that the combination of layoffs and the cut to retirement benefits is a tough pill to swallow,” she said in Friday’s email. “If there is a positive aspect of today’s announcements, it is that we have made tremendous progress over the past six months in getting on a path to financial sustainability — despite the headwinds caused by the pandemic — and I am hopeful that we now have established a firmer foundation upon which to stand and prosper.”

Laid-off employees will receive one week of salary for each year of service up to 20 weeks along with health benefits through the end of the year, she said.

Tuition benefits for laid-off employees and family members will continue for the next 12 years, she said.

After President Gerard Clancy stepped aside in late January, several weeks before COVID-19’s impact reached Oklahoma, the Board of Trustees reaffirmed its commitment to a controversial plan to overhaul both the school’s organizational chart and its curriculum.

The board instructed the administration in February to make TU “cash-flow positive” by 2023, a goal that would require $14 million to $20 million in spending cuts and new revenue. Half of that was to be achieved in the budget year that began July 1.

“No additional layoffs are contemplated as part of this process,” Levit told the staff Friday. “For the foreseeable future, however, change will remain a constant.”

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