Dozens of facilities, career center employees laid off amid pandemic

Media Credit: Dean Whitelaw | Staff Photographer

Chief People Officer Dana Bradley said the final impact of layoffs will “likely” fall in the “low hundreds” once administrative offices complete their restructuring efforts this month.

As part of an ongoing effort to cut costs in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, administrators have eliminated at least 70 staff positions, including career coaches, facilities workers and internal consultants, according to University employees.

Administrators announced last week that “dozens” of employees had been laid off as officials aim to plug a $220 million gap in GW’s budget, but administrators offered a vague timeline for the staff cuts and declined to specify the exact number of affected employees and positions. Eight staff members, who requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media, said all Continuous Improvement and Business Advisory Services employees, eight Center for Career Services workers and 52 employees in Facilities Planning, Construction and Management have been dismissed.

University spokeswoman Crystal Nosal declined to answer all of The Hatchet’s questions about layoffs. Staffing levels in administrative units are currently being reviewed and are slated to wrap up by the end of the month, Nosal said.

She said officials can’t rule out the need for “further action” after these reorganizations because of the continued “unknowns” resulting from the pandemic.

“These efforts include very difficult decisions about position eliminations and layoffs that have become more urgent given the financial implications of our fall scenario,” Nosal said in an email, pointing to a University release published last week.

Chief People Officer Dana Bradley said in the release that the final impact of layoffs will “likely” fall in the “low hundreds” once administrative offices complete their restructuring efforts this month.

“Because these efforts are still in the discussion and planning stages in some cases, the full scope is yet to be determined,” she said in the release. “All administrative units are expected to have layoffs as part of this effort.”

Bradley said all laid-off employees are paid for two weeks following their notification date, followed by severance based on their employment length. Affected employees can contact GW’s well-being hotline to receive additional resources, she said.

Laid-off employees who are using tuition benefits will be able to receive them through the end of the spring 2021 semester, Bradley said in the release.

Affected employees in some departments have been able to apply for newly created positions developed as a part of the ongoing restructuring, including in the facilities division, according to documents obtained by The Hatchet.

As part of efforts to reduce expenses, administrators previously announced a suspension on most hirings and capital projects, a freeze on merit salary increases and a suspension of the University’s matching and base retirement contributions. Top administrators also accepted a temporary pay cut.

Facilities leadership notified 52 employees across the division on July 28 that their positions would be terminated, according to an email obtained by The Hatchet. The property manager position and HVAC shop will also be “transitioned,” according to the email.

Nosal declined to confirm layoffs in the facilities division. She declined to say how many workers were employed in the division before the layoffs began.

David Dent, the associate vice president for facilities construction, planning and management, told facilities staff he has “gratitude” and “appreciation” for all employees affected by the layoffs in a separate email sent to facilities staff, which was obtained by The Hatchet.

“The loss of these positions is palpable,” Dent said.

He added in the email that although the staffing changes will “hopefully preempt” or reduce additional staff reductions, facilities leadership may still need to implement additional layoffs.

“While I wish I could definitively state that there will not be additional reductions of FPCM personnel, the fact is that we will not know for certain what additional actions we might have to take until we are through the COVID-19 crisis and understand the full impacts on our University’s financial health,” Dent said.

Following the internal announcement, Dent and facilities leadership held two virtual forums on July 30 and Aug. 6 for employees to ask questions about changes to the department, according to the emails obtained by The Hatchet.

In a written summary of the July forum distributed to facilities staff, officials said Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Cissy Petty created eight residential living neighborhoods as part of the restructuring. The neighborhoods, which will each include residence halls as well as academic and administrative buildings, will be supervised by one of four dedicated zone managers to manage facilities issues, the document states.

Affected employees could apply for 12 open positions in the division, including the four new zone manager positions, according to the document.

Career center
The career center eliminated eight positions, according to three employees familiar with the matter. Seven of the affected employees were notified on Friday, and the eighth employee was notified Monday.

The reductions comprised four career coaching positions – an industry career coach, two career exploration coaches and a managing director of career learning and experience – and four administrative positions – including a student employer manager, an administrator of communications and outreach and an operations coordinator – the employees said.

Rachel Brown, the associate vice provost for University Career Services, held a virtual meeting with career center staff Monday to discuss the reductions, according to an email obtained by The Hatchet.

Rebecca Lynch, a student employment manager in the career center, posted on her LinkedIn profile Saturday that her position was eliminated.

“I miss my colleagues, I miss campus life and at the expense of sounding like I have a big ego, I’m worried what my team is going to do without me,” Lynch wrote in the post.

Lynch managed recruiting and onboarding for thousands of student employees annually.

“Those of you who remain, stand up for yourselves and those we serve – not any fleeting establishment of hierarchical power, but our students and the University mission we attempt to live out for their sake,” Lynch said.

Ben Cerny, the career coach for arts, media, design, communications and public relations, wrote on his LinkedIn profile early this week that his position was also eliminated.

“I was very sad to lose my job and am still very sad to have had to leave my students at a time where they are so uncertain about their own futures,” he wrote in the post.

Officials have also eliminated the CIBAS office, an internal management consulting group at the University, according to two employees familiar with the issue. The office also supported the rollout of University President Thomas LeBlanc’s five strategic initiatives and the strategic planning process, which was paused in April in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CIBAS website was taken offline in recent weeks.

One employee said the layoffs eliminated roughly 10 positions. The office listed 11 employees in April, according to an archived version of the CIBAS website.

At least two CIBAS employees were offered temporary positions, according to another source. Koren Bedeau, the senior associate provost for special projects who arrived at GW in April, will manage the responsibilities formerly overseen by Pam Promisel, a CIBAS senior associate, the source said.

Promisel, who could not be reached for comment, is no longer listed as an employee in the GW directory.

Nosal, the University spokeswoman, declined to confirm that the CIBAS division has been eliminated. She declined to say how many positions this eliminated or if any employees were offered temporary positions.

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