Laid-off SOM staff notified

As University officials struggle to close the $100 million budget gap for fiscal year 2010, they already have notified at least 20 University employees of pending layoffs, some of whom work at the Yale School of Management.

While many employees across the University are still waiting to hear whether their jobs are safe, the layoff situation at the SOM gained additional clarity Tuesday when SOM Dean Sharon Oster announced that the school has contacted all soon-to-be-displaced employees for this round of budget cuts. But Oster — calling the decision “one that we did not take lightly” — did not provide any further details on the layoffs in the e-mail, setting off confusion across the school about the locations and number of the layoffs, according to interviews with more than 20 SOM clerical workers and managers Tuesday.

Many SOM staff said they had not heard of any layoffs among colleagues in their offices. Some added that there appear to be fewer layoffs than they initially feared.

“It has not affected our department,” said Ellen Skinner SOM ’87, the executive director of the MBA for Executives program. “We’re conscious of the need to be as frugal as possible, but without compromising the program at all.”

Two workers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, said the school’s mail room office, colloquially called the Hub, has been asked to reduce hours for some of its workers, though there have not been any layoffs.

Meanwhile, more than 20 University workers visited the Career Center seeking advice on its opening Monday, despite the rainy weather, Director of Internal Placement Sheila Sautter said in an interview Tuesday afternoon. University officials created the Career Center this year to provide services to soon-to-be-displaced employees.

SOM spokeswoman Tabitha Wilde declined to comment Tuesday on the layoffs, citing “private personnel matters.” The human resources official who handles the SOM layoffs, Susan Plagenhoef ’88, did not return a request for comment Tuesday.

In a statement earlier this month, Chief Administrative Officer and Associate Dean for Finance and Administration Diane Palmeri said layoff decisions were based on the needs of the school and opportunities to consolidate or reduce paid work.

Oster warned in Tuesday’s e-mail that SOM officials may still decide to lay off more workers in the future, depending on whether the economy — and University endowment growth — improves soon.

“I wish I could say with certainty that the notifications we have just made will be the only ones we have to make,” Oster wrote, “but given that our budget structure relies heavily on endowment funds, future endowment losses may dictate additional cuts.”

As of late 2008, the SOM’s endowment stood at $625 million.

According to the University’s staff job application Web site, SOM officials are still accepting applications for one staff position, Associate Director of Major Gifts and Reunion Giving Programs. But Palmeri said the position, which would have direct responsibility over fundraising, is “on hold.”

“If the school’s budgetary position improves, it is possible that we would want to hire a position that can contribute positively to the school’s balance sheet,” Palmeri said.

Vice President for Human Resources and Administration Michael Peel said layoff details will not be finalized for a few more weeks, as the University’s $2.7 billion operating budget for the coming fiscal year has not yet been finalized.

Although University projections on staff attrition indicate that as many as 300 employees could be laid off as Yale copes with the recession, Peel said last week that the “overwhelming majority” of University jobs removed so far have been achieved through attrition.

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