Marquette University faculty and staff deserve more respect, acknowledgement and support than they have been given in the past few years. Faculty and staff are the main reason that students have a positive, enriching experience at Marquette, whether it is through classroom dialogue or campus interactions.
Despite the fact that faculty and staff are at the heart of an institution, University President Michael Lovell announced Jan. 21 that 39 faculty and staff positions would be eliminated at the start of the spring 2021 semester due to financial shortfalls.
Although everyone is experiencing financial struggles due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the university could have taken action to avoid laying off 39 university employees.
Marquette has a nearly $700 million endowment, which could have been used to maintain the positions and ensure that no faculty or staff members were laid off. The university is also expected to receive $9.7 million in federal relief funds from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, according to a Jan. 28 university news release. While $3.3 million of those funds must go toward supporting students, the university has not specified where it will allocate the remaining $6.4 million. The university should use a portion of these funds to maintain faculty and staff positions.
Additionally, the university is still getting a steady flow of tuition money because students and families are still paying for the 2020-2021 academic year. Unlike the spring 2020 semester, in which Marquette issued 50% credits to students for living expenses due to the COVID-19 pandemic sending students home, the university did not decrease tuition or issue any refunds for the 2020-2021 academic year, even though students’ experience is less than normal.
Marquette also announced that it will not be changing tuition costs for the 2021-2022 academic year — the first year since 2016 in which the university has not increased tuition. Despite tuition costs staying the same, the university announced that housing costs will increase for the 2021-2022 academic year.
Overall, the university has lacked transparency about where tuition money is being used and why the endowment hasn’t been touched. This has led to confusion and frustration about job eliminations and the consolidation of several university offices and departments.
Marquette students’ college experiences are still dramatically different this year and many are not receiving the learning experiences they wanted. Students may have more online classes than in-person ones, live at home or face personal and familial struggles.
Considering these changes can lower the quality of education students receive and present challenges, it is not fair to faculty and staff, or students, to continue eliminating positions.
Now more than ever, faculty and staff roles in the classroom are essential to students’ learning experience. The university should have made a stronger effort to maintain laid off faculty and staff members’ positions. Professors are choosing to make the most out of these unprecedented circumstances with the resources they have, in order to ensure students have a positive learning experience during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Marquette should have made the same efforts.
The university should be more transparent about where and how it allocates incoming money, which could provide some explanation for its decisions. Moreover, the university should ensure these resources support students and faculty and staff currently at Marquette.
Faculty, staff, students and families deserve more respect.
According to the university budget for the 2022 fiscal year, Marquette plans to eliminate 225 faculty and staff positions, even though it is expected to operate on a $121.1 million surplus, which is about a 3% budget increase. Marquette should allocate these funds to ensuring no more faculty and staff are laid off, and the university should work to reinstate the 39 faculty and staff that were recently laid off.
The university should also have given faculty and staff who were being laid off more notice, as they were notified only days prior to the start of the semester. Marquette was not transparent and did not respect those being laid off. Faculty and staff deserve better.
For a university that prides and establishes itself on Jesuit principles — one of them being “cura personalis” — it should ensure that it exhausts all efforts to prioritize faculty, staff and students.
Editorial topics by the Marquette Wire are decided at weekly meetings between members of the executive board. The editorial is crafted with leadership by the executive opinions editor. The executive board consists of the executive director of the Wire, managing editor of the Marquette Tribune, managing editor of the Marquette Journal, general manager of MUTV, general manager of MUR and nine additional top editors across the organization.