There’s been another cultural hit at the University of Akron.
The University of Akron Press was shuttered Tuesday as the university is trimming millions in expenses.
Workers at the press — the director and two staff members — were given their walking papers Tuesday.
Layoff notices for scores of workers were supposed to be completed by Tuesday, but university officials say the task of notifying 161 workers will continue into Wednesday.
The layoffs are part of the university’s effort to trim its budget by $40 million before the start of the fall semester.
Shortly after UA’s trustees signed off on the cuts on Monday, the staff at E.J. Thomas was told their jobs were eliminated as the university is getting out of the concert and event promotion business.
E.J. Thomas will still be used for academic programs and will be available to rent. The ticket office was also shut down.
Just 24 hours later the ax fell on the University of Akron Press — the nonprofit that published books and poetry.
The press was founded in 1988.
Two of the staff members were given two weeks to clean out their desks.
The editor of the Akron Series in Poetry, Mary Biddinger, will lose her job at the press, but will keep her teaching position in the English Department.
The director, Thomas Bacher, has six months remaining on his contract. The employees were told their termination was “not performance related.”
Bacher, who has been director for seven years, said this is a very sad thing.
“This is it. We can’t publish any more books or poetry and we can’t ensure the future of those books in the pipeline will be published,” Bacher said. “We’ve done some really good things academically, and people value books with the University of Akron name on it, which are available in a market worldwide.”
Bacher said he didn’t know about those books already in progress, including a biography of former Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic by Steve Love.
Bacher said he wonders about these cuts when the university’s football program is a drain on resources and lacks student support.
“We triple, no quadruple the number of hits for our books, it’s more than the football team. They don’t get that kind of coverage,” Bacher said. “From a professional standpoint this was not handled professionally at all.”
Bacher said he sent three emails over the past six weeks asking university officials about the press in light of the budget crisis and never got a response.
“We’ve never gone over budget here. There was no transparency. There were other ways to save money. Everyone could have shared the pain across the board, but when you’re on the block you’re on the block. We’re just the low-lying fruit to pick,” he said. “I don’t want to work for a university that values beans over brains.”
Jobs at the Multicultural Center and Off-Campus Student Services were also eliminated. Each of those departments had four employees.
The Multicultural Center was empty on Tuesday afternoon and the offices locked.
As soon as the layoffs started Monday, some students voiced their displeasure in chalks on campus sidewalks.
“We have no faith, the students who pay your salaries and student success = Those you fired,” said one of the protests.
Joshua Cox, a senior majoring in political science, said the chalk protests were “in response to the recent cuts to our beloved University of Akron family.”
Other writings were sentimental.
One read “Always a Zip” and another “Thank you faculty and staff, for Everything.”
Marilyn Miller can be reached at 330-996-3098 or firstname.lastname@example.org.