On Wednesday, July 8, Tarleton State University President Dr. James Hurley sent an email out to faculty and staff announcing that the university would have to make budget cuts following the pandemic, leading to more than 30 layoffs and reassignments.


"The budget shortfall was simply too much to overcome without reducing operating budgets and cutting our workforce by 34 positions. These positions and/or employees have been assessed and approved according to Texas A&M University System standards and policies," Hurley wrote in his letter.


He noted that any employee affected by the reorganization plan would be notified by the end of the business day on Friday, July 10.


"As difficult as these decisions are, we must ensure that we treat every employee with dignity and respect consistent with our six core values. None of us asked for this pandemic, and it isn’t anyone’s fault. We must simply get through this period together in a spirit of unity and compassion," he wrote.


FASHION STUDIES PROGRAM CUT FROM UNIVERSITY


On Thursday, July 9, faculty and staff in COLFA (College of Liberal and Fine Arts) received an email from Dr. Eric Morrow stating that the fashion studies program will be phased out.


"This is the only program in our College that has this status going into the upcoming academic year, as most but not all of the focus of the budget reductions has been outside of academic areas. The primary intent in the reduction and realignment plan has been on our ability to meet instructional needs for the Fall in both the general education core curriculum and in our programs. Current data shows Fall registration and orientations to be at record numbers, however, we have to be cautiously optimistic," Morrow wrote in the email.


Morrow thanked Dr. Cynthia Williams and BreAnna Richardson for their "diligent and dedicated work" with the fashion studies students.


"They have continued the quality program that was led by Karol Blaylock for a number of years, and I know that this decision has a very challenging impact on them as well as the students. Under their leadership the program has been sustained and expanded, and it saw steady growth in the past few years," he wrote. "However, in the current crisis and with the budget constraints that we are currently under, the program was viewed as not sustainable."


BUDGET CUTS LEAD TO OTHER CHANGES ON CAMPUS


The fashion studies program was not the only big change to take place within the university.


The E-T heard from several sources that Tarleton’s Child Development Center located in the Kinesiology Building was closed indefinitely.


A Tarleton professor also confirmed on Facebook that a study abroad director was fired and reassigned to full-time faculty and that many individuals in the Center for Instructional Innovation were cut or reassigned. The center will be reorganized and will be called by a different name.


"State funded universities are being forced to cut left and right. Tarleton is the second largest university in the A&M System," the Tarleton professor stated in a comment on Facebook.


Another Tarleton professor told the E-T that this is a Texas A&M systemwide action.


"We are hearing that 100 people are affected at West Texas A&M, about 200 at A&M-San Antonio and earlier Texas A&M-Commerce disbanded its journalism program," they said. "Faculty and staff have been told very little. I expect there will be more cuts in the future."


UNIVERSITY TO OFFER SUPPORT FOR THOSE AFFECTED BY CHANGES


Hurley announced in his email that Tarleton would continue financial support for those whose positions were impacted. He stated they would be paid and would maintain benefits through Aug. 31.


He also stated that the university would be offering résumé writing assistance, career placement coaching, interview preparation and all other resources provided by the Employee Assistance Program through the end of November.


"This has been a very difficult and disappointing reality for all of us," Hurley wrote in his email. "We strived to preserve and protect as many jobs as possible, and we are saddened by the loss of each valued Texan family member. To those who will leave us, I am truly sorry. We are sincerely grateful for your time with us and for everything you have given to our university during your time here.


"Looking to the future, higher education will continue to evolve. We are navigating a pandemic unlike anything we have experienced. There is no COVID-19 manual, no pandemic conclusion timetable. What we do know is that we must work more diligently to create new opportunities and diverse revenue streams. We must collectively develop a future-focused strategic plan that will serve as a guidepost for success. We cannot cut our way to prosperity — we must grow our way.


"Nothing, however, will diminish our core mission of teaching, learning, research and service. Nothing will diminish our resilience or dull our passion for the purple and white, or the students we serve. Better days are ahead and we must remain steadfast in our commitment to ensuring student success and fulfilling the mission of this great university!"