Marquette University in Milwaukee has announced that they want to cut between 225-450 faculty and staff. The University claims that decreased enrollment due to the COVID-19 pandemic has put them in a tough financial situation, with projections of a $25 million budget deficit. However, the Marquette Academic Workers Union, the union of graduate workers and non-tenure-track faculty, are fighting these cuts.
The union is fighting against these cuts and for the university to maintain funding for staff and programs. In addition to fighting the cuts, the union is fighting for a safe campus in light of the pandemic and fighting for racial justice at the university.
“What we are calling for one, is, using some of the $750-roughly-million endowment to get us through the next year or two; two, we are calling for no job losses at all,” said Tom Hansberger, a member of the Marquette Academic Workers Union and a graduate student and teaching assistant at Marquette. “We are also calling for the ability for all instructors and students to be wholly online and, lastly, we are calling for administration to honor its commitments to racial justice.”
Hansberger says that the university first announced cuts closer to 450 but with the resistance from workers and the community, the administration is saying it will be more like 250 cuts. Even those cuts, though, will have a dramatic effect on the programs the university can offer.
“They are talking about cutting programs as well as cutting jobs,” said Hansberger. “They want to cut a lot of programs that are very important for the core, as it exists at Marquette. They are talking about outsourcing classes to other universities, transitioning to massive online courses of hundreds of students from across the country with only one instructor. All of these changes they are suggesting would harm the quality of education and would harm students, not only faculty and staff, obviously. But we are really fighting for the future of the university.”
Hansberger says the success of the university depends on the quality of, and funding for, instruction and academics, particularly staff.
“This year, US News and World Report ranked Marquette 18th in the country for undergraduate education. That’s coming from faculty in the classroom, that’s coming from non-tenure-track faculty, tenure-track faculty, and graduate students who are teaching, who are bringing that quality of education, offering that quality of education to undergraduates. So, for Marquette to cut that is harming what makes the university a good university.”
While the university has argued that these cuts are being forced by COVID-19, Hansberger says that administration already had them planned, but on a different timeline.
“Administrators, in a recent academic senate meeting at Marquette, straight up confirmed that they were always planning to make these cuts and that coronavirus just moved their timetable forward,” said Hansberger. “They said originally that they wanted to make these cuts in 2026 because they foresaw, according to this research that they actually misrepresented, that, basically, white 18-22-year-old young people would no longer be as big of a part of the country, they wouldn’t be as major of a demographic, and therefore demand for higher education would go down.”
Hansberger argued that this fatalist approach ignored that the report also said that universities can adapt, increasing their focus on adult-education and retraining. In addition, he called the administration’s logic and policy racist.
“They are actually saying that ‘If we’re not teaching middle-class white kids, then we’re just going to close up shop rather than admit Black and Brown students.’ Which is a pretty racist thing to say, it is actually a very racist policy that they want to implement by imposing this austerity
The union is circulating a petition in support of their position that can be signed by Marquette workers as well as community members. The Marquette Academic Workers Union can be found on Twitter at MarquetteUnion, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.