ASHLAND, Ore. – Southern Oregon University has furloughed 523 full-time employees. 159 of those workers are unclassified and 132 are classified.

290 workers are seeing a 20% reduction in salary and 46 workers are seeing a 40% reduction in salary. Faculty, part-time workers and student employees are excluded from this furlough. Linda Schott, the President of SOU is taking a 25% reduction in salary.

“What I want to do is maintain flexibility as long as we can,” said Schott, “by taking these furloughs it gives us some runway, so to speak.”

The decision to furlough workers came because of budget impacts directly related to COVID-19 and a decrease in revenue.

“We’ve lost about $2.9 million in revenue in the residence halls and in our dining facility and other auxiliary operations,” said Schott.
There are multiple factors that play into the revenue decline and there are a lot of unknowns.

“The reduction of state funding, lottery funding and our understanding of our losses throughout auxiliary operations have helped us begin to understand the depth of our problem and the approaches we need to solve it,” said Schott.

“What we don’t know is huge right now,” said Greg Perkinson, Vice President for Finance Administration at SOU, “especially regarding fall enrollment and student behavior. We would love it if we get a lot of students that come back in the fall and get the revenue stream back up; that would enable us to dial the furlough program back.”

According to a statement released by the university, “When work returns to the units, or state budget allocations reposition the university to return employees to work before December 31, 2020, they will return to work by seniority order.”

The estimated limit of December 31st is based on the current timeline for the Work Share Oregon program that SOU has applied for. According to SOU, this program will “significantly aid in streamlining the unemployment compensation process through the State.”

That program is currently in place until December 31st.

According to Schott, the combination of the Work Share Oregon program and unemployment benefits should make up the salary difference for furloughed workers, however there has been issues with unemployment at the state and federal levels and so furloughed workers could ultimately have to wait weeks before they see that supplementary income.

At this time no SOU employees have been laid-off and Schott says that is not a part of her current plan.

“We could have laid-off people but we would’ve had to lay-off about 100 people instead of taking furloughs. I did not want to do that because I know how important this university is to the region,” said Schott.

At this time there are so many variables that could impact the duration of the furlough and recovery, should the current budget deficit worsen, SOU could have to begin laying-off employees.

“If we’re not able to get more federal relief money or more state relief money then we will have to begin thinking about more permanent types of reduction,” said Schott.

Schott says right now she has no plans to increase tuition in order to help with the budget deficit.