Officials conclude expected layoffs as part of COVID-19 financial mitigation

Media Credit: File Photo by Grace Hromin | Assistant Photo Editor

Blake and Diaz said the average salary of laid-off employees amounted to roughly $80,000 and did not disproportionately impact those at lower salary levels.

Officials announced Friday they have laid off 339 employees and have concluded all expected layoffs to mitigate the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Provost Brian Blake and Chief Financial Officer Mark Diaz told employees in an email that the layoffs saved GW $32 million – roughly 18 percent of the University’s projected annual budget gap – and impacted 29 different units. Officials had signaled last month that layoffs could continue into the future, declining to say when they would be completed.

The reductions have been met with criticism from hundreds of faculty and staff, inflaming existing tensions between administrators and some members of the University community.

“It’s just excruciating making those calls, and we know the feeling of loss is there,” Blake said at a Faculty Senate meeting Friday.

Blake and Diaz said the average salary of laid-off employees amounted to roughly $80,000 and did not disproportionately impact those at lower salary levels.

The two officials also responded to criticism from some about the impact of layoffs on minorities and disadvantaged employees, stating that Human Resource Management and Development found “no discriminatory impact” based on protected status.

“HRMD regularly reviewed outcomes, working with internal and external legal experts to analyze the impact of these decisions on our community,” Blake and Diaz said.

Officials had initially said layoffs would be completed by the start of the semester but continued to eliminate positions well into the fall. In late November, officials said layoffs could continue during a second phase of cuts, a reversal from previous statements indicating the phase would only include reducing non-recurring expenses and using GW’s unrestricted assets.

Many of the layoffs were implemented as part of broader centralizations of GW’s various administrative units, including the University’s communications, information technology and events divisions.

Layoffs also impacted units like the Center for Career Services, Athletics and Facilities Planning, Construction & Management as early as the late summer.

Officials have also enacted measures like suspending retirement contributions and most capital projects and travel.

“Due to the financial challenges GW faced from the pandemic, as leaders we needed to make some very hard decisions that resulted in personnel actions that affected our friends and colleagues,” Blake and Diaz said in the email. “While we worked hard to take a strategic approach that would foster greater long-term financial stability for the University, we recognize that this was painful for our community and strove to act at all times with care and compassion.”

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.