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Johns Hopkins faculty push against cuts prompted by pandemic

Johns Hopkins University.(The Daily Record/File photo)

Johns Hopkins University.(The Daily Record/File photo)

Faculty members at Johns Hopkins University are demanding that the Baltimore school provide a detailed report of its finances and put a moratorium on the cuts to research funding and staffing salaries announced in April as a result of multimillion-dollar losses arising from the coronavirus pandemic.

Six-hundred faculty from across the university, which has been at the forefront of the global response to the virus, made the demands last week in a letter to the school’s president and board of trustees, the Baltimore Sun reported Monday. They wrote that they believe the institution’s financial health can be maintained without “undermining the work it was created to enable.”

The private research university has played a globally prominent role in tracking the spread of the virus. But like other colleges across the nation, it is facing financial challenges because of the public health emergency.

University President Ronald Daniels in April announced that the university expects to lose more than $100 million by the end of June and as much as $375 million during the coming fiscal year. Before the outbreak, the university had projected a positive margin of $72 million this fiscal year on an overall budget of $6.5 billion.

Daniels said furloughs and layoffs within parts of the university will be an “unavoidable consequence of the losses.” The school also imposed a hiring freeze on staff positions for the fiscal year starting July 1 as well as restrictions on hiring for academic positions. Base salaries for faculty and staff for the same period will not increase, with no annual merit raises.

The school at the time said the reductions would have no impact on its data-gathering and research on the virus.

Faculty say they want more information about the university’s projected revenue shortfalls and existing liabilities from capital projects.

“I have never seen a faculty as upset and publicly pushing back as at Hopkins right now,” said Shane Butler, a classics professor who said he has worked at multiple colleges. “I think the situation is unprecedented and the faculty step here is quite forceful.”

On Monday, the university responded to faculty in a six-page statement saying the institution’s “balance sheet is strong, and significantly stronger than it was during the 2009 global financial crisis.”

The school said the pandemic created an unprecedented downturn, but instead of extensive layoffs and furloughs, it ”focused intensively on protecting jobs, driven by concerns for the well being of our employees and their families, as well as our broader responsibility as an economic anchor for the city of Baltimore and the state of Maryland.”

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