As Keene State College approaches the end of its spring semester amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the school has begun furloughing adjunct staff whose workload have taken a hit.
Keene State College President Melinda Treadwell said that the furloughing of staff is in response to a $6.5 million deficit the college is facing after refunding student bills for on-campus living expenses. President Treadwell added that the college will start notifying staff regarding furloughs the week of May 4, but the staff are expected to return to the college by August 1.
“We are furloughing employees who find themselves idled because students are not on campus,” President Treadwell said. “It’s predominantly individuals in direct support activity with students.”
According to President Treadwell, some of these staff work in the recreational center, or in areas like Academic and Career Advising and Forward Planning.
Keene State Director of Athletics and Recreation Phil Racicot said that of the 92 employees impacted by the college’s decision, approximately 40 work in athletics and recreation.
“The work that they do is important and has a positive impact on the student experience, but falls into a non-essential category when students are not on campus,” Racicot said.
These employees are mostly part-time assistant coaches and staff members who work directly with students for practices, games and other recreational services that have been discontinued with the onset of COVID-19, Racicot explained.
“These are very challenging times, but we remain focused on being committed to our students and staff while also making efforts to deal with the financial difficulties associated with this,” Racicot said.
The Keene Sentinel reported that other colleges that are part of the University System of New Hampshire like Plymouth State University and the University of New Hampshire have also taken steps to furlough their adjunct staff. According to an emergency furlough policy enacted by the University System of New Hampshire, eligible employees are placed on unpaid leave for up to 120 days. During this time employees can apply for unemployment while also continuing all benefits they had while employed including medical and dental insurance.
President Treadwell said that it’s important that the college maintain its cash resources during this unprecedented time, but she does not anticipate Keene State having to furlough any more employees before the college plans to open in the fall. “I think we will try to do it once to avoid stress among employees,” she said.
The college will begin to discuss the renewal of contracts in June for the upcoming academic year, according to Racicot. He added that the goal is to have these renewals in place by August.
“These staff members are a valuable part of our team and we look forward to bringing them back in the future,” Racicot said.
President Treadwell said it has been really hard for her to make the decisions regarding the furloughs.
“These are people I know and respect,” President Treadwell said. “There has been little else that has taken so much time for me to do than making these decisions.”
Hunter Oberst can be contacted at: