For the 2018-19 academic year, AU saw the largest freshman class it has seen in years. Thus, it came as a surprise and disappointment to many when the 2019-20 freshman enrollment numbers reflected a significant decline.
Perhaps none felt let down more than the numerous faculty and staff who were consequently terminated.
Although the faculty affected by the layoffs had already signed onto 12-month contracts and will be paid through August of 2020, they will be out of jobs next fall.
It is obvious that the administration needs to cut the budget in some areas if they have any hope of keeping the institution afloat.
However, eliminating faculty and staff positions should have been a worst-case-scenario or a last resort, occurring only after ridding the budget of unnecessary or superfluous additions to campus, such as a flat bed of decorative concrete that cost a small fortune.
Whether intentional or not, AU’s financial decisions communicate to the student body that a $75,000 “Prayer Labyrinth” is more highly valued than several of their professors.
Over the summer, AU demonstrated its fiscal irresponsibility by choosing to remodel Mocha Joe’s, reinvent Rodney Raven, repaint the Dunn and Myers lobbies, redesign the Student Financial Services office, create a new lounge in the School of Theology, move a campus museum and pour countless funds into marketing and advertising to its own campus by plastering humongous posters to buildings in the Valley.
There is nothing inherently wrong or devious about these campus updates—most of the projects benefit students and aid in making the campus more visually appealing, and some were even funded by donations. However, this points to the increasingly apparent priority of AU leadership: surface-level attraction.
Though laying off faculty and staff members will cut short-term costs, it will likely cripple the university’s ability to recruit prospective students in the academic areas where administration is scaling back. These layoffs will contribute to long-term drops in enrollment in areas such as music and dance. Rather than cutting valuable faculty members, perhaps the university should consider cutting spending on projects that don’t contribute to the value of education at AU.