Calvin cut 29 staff positions in spring, summer of 2019

 Calvin reduced 29 total staff positions and services from library journal subscriptions to student pay in Calvin Theater company as a result of declining enrollment. These cuts took place during the spring and summer of 2019. Vice President for Administration and Finance Sally Vander Ploeg said because roughly 60% of the overall budget is devoted to personnel and benefits, it is difficult to make cuts without affecting personnel.

According to Andrew George, director of human resources and financial services, the 29 cuts were a combination of reducing full-time equivalents (FTE) by cutting hours per week, eliminating or condensing positions and not re-hiring for positions that staff had voluntarily left. Through these measures, there are 27.42 fewer FTE than last year as a result.

Vander Ploeg said, “The tightness in the operating budget will continue as long as there are more students graduating than joining us each year.” The vice president was hopeful that plans to diversify revenue streams would help support the budget as the college-age demographics of the Midwest decline.

Chimes reported last spring that former director of commuter student life and assessment Bob Crow, left after his position was eliminated; that Rev. Joelle Ranaivoson left Calvin voluntarily and her position was left unfilled; and that the resident directors were reorganized, so that there would be five total full-time positions and two graduate assistants, rather than seven full-time positions and one graduate assistant. 

Student Activities Office was planned to be reorganized, with Campus Involvement and Leadership taking on some of SAO’s responsibilities. The Save SAO movement launched by students has raised enough money to support an SAO director at .75 FTE for two years.

Additional staff reductions have taken place from Hekman Library to the Calvin Theatre Company. Our reporting is incomplete, as Calvin administration does not comment on personnel issues, making it difficult to know where the cuts took place.

Dean David Malone stated that the library reduced hours of permanent full-time staff within the library’s interlibrary loan and collection management departments. According to Malone, the library tried to avoid cutting staff hours by reducing the library’s journal budget. “The library has identified and canceled some of our non-core single-title subscriptions and ‘big deal’ packages to balance our budget,” Malone said. According to Malone, faculty were involved in decision-making to avoid cutting journals important for Calvin community use. Additionally, Hekman will now use the software Tipasa to handle interlibrary loan requests.

Calvin Information Technology also experienced budget cuts last spring. As a result, Director Brian Paige said that the department had to rearrange services, but said, given the changing nature of information technology, that these changes would likely happen regardless of budget changes. When asked to confirm reports of CIT staff lay-offs as a result of the budget, Paige said, “We reorganized around the budget constraints.” The reorganization happened largely in the service desk. In years prior, the service desk acted as a “gateway” for IT requests. 

Now, CIT is using a swarming model. “Instead of having a dedicated service technician assigned to a particular problem… every morning there’s a stand-up of half a dozen people that evaluate all the service tickets together,” Paige said. The group then handles the issue immediately, or they pass the problem onto a group that can “swarm” the issue and solve it. CIT has completed roughly 2,000 requests since the program implementation at the beginning of August, and their rates of resolving issues are increasing, according to Lucas Moore, a CIT service manager.

Calvin Theater Company had had one full-time costume designer and another part-time assistant costume designer in years past. According to Director Debra Freeburg, given the spring’s budget, CTC had to eliminate the full-time position, meaning the assistant costume designer will cover both of the positions’ work. In order to make the workload manageable, Freeburg has chosen plays with smaller casts and is making the interim shorts completely student-run. The budget for student wages was also cut in half. 

Despite these cuts, Freeburg was optimistic about the addition of both a full-time arts coordinator position, which will mainly assist with music departments but will also help CTC, and a full-time operations manager for CTC. The operations manager will focus on the administrative work of CTC, and Freeburg will handle the creative side of CTC. Freeburg stated that she would welcome any donor who would like to endow a yearly guest director position for CTC.

According to Matt Kucinski, assistant director of media relations, Calvin Marketing & Communications did not fill two positions that were vacated in August of 2018. One of these positions was in graphic design and the other was in social media. Another full-time position was reduced to a contracted position in the department.

Student organizations also had budgets reduced. Following a drop from 84 charters to 70 in 2015, the numbers of charters stayed the same until last spring. Now, only 68 student organization charters were offered. According to J.B. Britton, the associate dean of campus involvement and leadership, many individual student organization budgets were reduced, including those of “big ticket clubs, sport orgs, student senate, conferences and capital accounts.” Chimes and Dialogue are two of these organizations that experienced budget cuts. According to Britton, some small student organizations did not experience any budget reductions.

Following the staff cuts, economics professor Adel Abadeer hosted a grill-out with American and Egyptian food to celebrate the careers of staff who had lost their jobs. Roughly 40-50 people attended. Laura Luchies, an associate director at the Center for Social Research, created a GoFundMe, which raised $1,085. The money was used to buy Meijer gift cards for each of the staff members who fell in the category of having their positions eliminated, according to Luchies. Luchies and Abadeer had organized a party and gifts for those laid off in the spring of 2017 as well.