Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Despite Protests, St. Louis Community College Board Approves Layoffs, Voluntary Buyouts

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Despite Protests, St. Louis Community College Board Approves Layoffs, Voluntary Buyouts

Article excerpt

ST. LOUIS * Minutes before a much-anticipated vote Thursday night regarding layoffs of up to 18 percent of the full-time faculty at St. Louis Community College, a protest halted the meeting.

Students and supporters stopped the college's governing board when some lay down in front of the board and started shouting, "Justice for faculty."

The protest continued for almost an hour before the board returned and took multiple votes in a huddled mass while protesters continued to yell.

The board approved a series of budget reduction proposals, including a voluntary buyout, suspension of sabbaticals, changes to benefits and the hotly contested layoff of as many as 70 faculty and 25 staff members.

Nez Savala, a spokeswoman for the college, could not confirm whether any items had been amended before the vote, urging reporters to ask more questions Friday when they speak individually with the chancellor.

A statement sent later said that those employees affected by the layoffs would be told by March 1 and that "their roles will continue through the end of the academic year in May 2018."

St. Louis Community College Chancellor Jeff Pittman called the decision difficult and necessary.

The statement touted the buyout option that passed, too.

"Essentially, a buyout means saving a job for another person," the statement reads.

The college also announced that the board voted to extend Pittman's contract as chancellor through June 2023, commending him for "significant accomplishments." He was hired in March 2015.

Protesters outside shouted in frustration after they were alerted about the layoff approval and Pittman's contract. Some faculty and the unions that represent them are working toward gathering support for a vote of no confidence in the board and Pittman because of management and budget concerns.

"This is his dream," a protester said about the contract extension. "We've got to keep the pressure on."

More than a dozen people, most of them professors, stood up and spoke out against the proposed layoffs during the public comment segment of the meeting before the protest began. The conference room used for the meeting holds about 75 people, according to a college spokeswoman; it was full as well as an overflow room that holds about 50.

Leaders have said cuts are needed in order to address ongoing budget woes from losing more than 10,000 students since 2011 and multiple reductions in state funding most recently a $3. …

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