SNU faces potential faculty layoffs, budget cuts

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Sierra Nevada University’s Prim Library

Brayden Stephenson, Managing Editor

News of potential impending layoffs hit the e-mail inboxes of Sierra Nevada University faculty members April 30, in a letter from SNU president, Dr. Rob Valli. In it, he expressed that the combined financial effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, along with general hardships that have been threatening higher education, require SNU to reconsider eliminating faculty positions.

“For SNU, consolidations will be necessary including reductions in faculty,” he wrote in the all-faculty e-mail. “SNU is not renewing or awarding any faculty agreements at this time. SNU intends to award faculty agreements for the 2021-2022 academic year after the Board of Trustees meeting in June and after next year’s budget is approved. We cannot guarantee your employment past your current active agreement date. No reliance should be made on the above estimated timeline nor should the timeline create an expectation or guarantee of future employment with SNU.”

Due to the nature and timing of the situation Valli did not agree to an interview before publication of this story.

The uncertainty and vagueness expressed within the e-mail has contributed to a level of panic within the faculty. While the logistics of this proposal won’t be worked out until at least the beginning of summer, professors that call SNU home are caught in a sort of employment purgatory.

A professor that wished to remain anonymous expressed their hope that this was simply a legal precaution, and enough incoming students will enroll for the 2021-2022 school year to prevent any extreme cuts.

“At least that’s the most positive way to look at it,” they said.

Like many small, private colleges, SNU is highly dependent on tuition revenue to fund its operations.

The faculty member also expressed that now is the time for students on campus to share their love and passion for the programs at SNU. The faculty members and unique programs are what separates the learning experience at SNU from other mainstream colleges across the nation, they said. However, they fear that the alternative education style at SNU won’t be enough to keep the school afloat is an existential threat to the college.

“The time for significant strategic change is here, and we must make substantial adjustments to our operations to move ahead,” Valli wrote in the email.

A trend in declining enrollment has long been a strain on the college’s financial health. Over the last five years, several faculty, administrative and staff positions have been eliminated or organized off the college’s books. Other measures have been employed to reduce operating costs, including on ongoing pay and retirement benefits freeze.