NEW REPORT: University System of Georgia Job Cuts Disproportionately Impacted Black Employees, Service and Clerical Workers and Part-Time Faculty During COVID-19 Pandemic

Monday, May 24, 2021

University System of Georgia Cuts Jobs During Pandemic Despite Strong Financial Position + Significant Federal Aid – Management Positions Resilient

New Report Details How USG Job Cuts are Part of Existing Pattern of Whittling Down Georgia's Public Education Workforce;

United Campus Workers of Georgia Demand USG Recommit to Diversifying Employee Ranks, Return Staffing Levels to Pre-Pandemic Baseline, and More

ATLANTA – Black employees, service and clerical workers, and part-time faculty across the 25 University System of Georgia (USG) institutions analyzed disproportionately had their jobs cut during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report from the United Campus Workers of Georgia, Communications Workers of America (UCWGA-CWA). UCWGA-CWA represents staff, faculty, graduate and undergraduate assistants, and more who work at any of the public USG Universities and institutions in Georgia.

The new report, which examines data from November 1, 2019, through November 1, 2020, details that:

  • Black employees made up 23% of USG's full-time workforce in 2019, yet experienced 34% of the total cuts, or a net loss of 502 positions. Black employees made up 24% of the 2019 part-time workforce and saw 34% of the total job loss, or 321 positions.
  • The Service job category (including facilities, grounds, dining, transportation, etc.) accounted for 11% of USG's 2019 workforce and represented 24% of the total job loss (596 positions); Administrative and Clerical positions accounted for 14% of the 2019 workforce and represented 38% of total cuts (967 positions).
  • In the faculty job category, part-time adjunct faculty made up 26% of faculty positions across the 25 institutions in 2019. Between 2019 and 2020, this category lost 458 positions, or 69% of the total faculty job loss.

In comparison, USG management positions were resilient during this time period. In 2019, management positions made up 11% of the total workforce and represented just 6% of the total job loss, or 173 positions.

The University System of Georgia made these job cuts despite the fact that the state of Georgia and USG both are in strong financial positions and could afford to maintain steady staffing levels throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, USG institutions accepted more than $700 million in federal aid (via CARES Act and the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund) that were allocated in part to help keep people employed during the pandemic.

"It was deeply upsetting for me to lose my job at Kennesaw State during a pandemic. However, I was outraged to soon discover that many of my colleagues who were laid off looked like me and were in the same age group as me," said April Braxton, a 55-year old African-American woman who lost her job at Kennesaw State University. "What this report proves is that my experience sadly was not unique, and that Black workers at USG in particular lost their jobs – all while management kept theirs. The University System of Georgia must answer why people like me were the ones who lost our jobs."

"It is alarming that the University System of Georgia continues to cut its own workforce, with Black employees disproportionately impacted by the job losses, despite its strong financial position and receiving significant funding from the federal government," said Heather Pincock, member of the Kennesaw State University chapter of United Campus Workers of Georgia. "This report clearly shows that the USG job cuts cannot be explained by enrollment figures or even the COVID-19 pandemic; rather it is the misplaced priorities of the USG administration that are to blame. Public higher education is a key pillar of a functioning democracy and a healthy economy, but the whittling down of the higher education workforce undermines the institutions that our students and communities are counting on. We are calling on USG to recommit to diversifying its employee ranks and return staffing levels to at least the pre-pandemic baseline, and make investment in public higher education a priority."

As the report makes clear, the job losses are not new to USG; rather, they are part of an existing pattern of Georgia's diminishing public education workforce, either by laying off workers in the name of "efficiency" while unreasonable workloads are placed on existing workers; outsourcing jobs to private corporations; or shrinking campus services. The number of jobs across USG has been shrinking for decades, even as the system has increased its reliance on part-time faculty.

In light of these findings, UCWGA-CWA is demanding the following from USG:

  • Recommit to diversifying employee ranks;
  • Return staffing levels to at least the pre-pandemic baseline;
  • Ensure that initiatives to hire diverse staff prioritize rehiring people of color and women whose jobs have been cut over the past year;
  • Hire back adjunct faculty that would like to be part-time and increase the number of full-time non-tenure track and tenure-track lines to at least pre-pandemic levels;
  • If cuts are deemed necessary by administration and a representative group of employees, cuts to positions, salaries, or other perks should focus on Management.

Before the pandemic, USG already had a diversity problem, with job segregation of women and people of color in lower-paying jobs and a lack of diversity in higher-paying positions, particularly for Hispanic/Latinx employees but across all minority groups.

The research included in the new report is directly from the University System of Georgia (USG) dataset of all system employees, their salaries, and demographic details that USG institutions compile to respond to the Department of Education's IPEDS human resources survey.

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Contact: Josh Levitt, josh.levitt@berlinrosen.com