San Francisco State University is letting go of administrative, technical and support service workers as a money-saving measure during the pandemic. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

SF State laying off staff after drop in enrollment

Cuts to administrative, technical, support staff equal more than 8 percent of university work force

San Francisco State University is planning to lay off 131 employees — more than eight percent of its staff — due to a lack of funds, it told workers this week.

The university notified 131 employees in an email Tuesday that their final day would be on Nov. 9 and that there will also be voluntary work reductions to prevent more layoffs.

No SF State employees were formally laid off during the depths of the last recession, according to the California State University Employees Union.

“The current health crisis as well as enrollment and budget challenges have resulted in significant consequences,” said SF State President Lynn Mahoney. “Despite cost-cutting measures, slightly better-than-projected fall enrollments and a decision to use a more optimistic figure for expected revenue, it was still necessary this week to take the painful step of laying off staff members.”

Staff to be laid off work in administrative, technical and support services. Faculty and class offerings remain unaffected for the time being. SF State has 1,540 staff members not including faculty, according to university spokesperson Kent Bravo.

Though the university cited lack of funding as the cause for layoffs, there has been no shortage of work for staff. Kat Alvarado, one of two administrative support coordinators for the math department, said she had been working more for the same pay during the pandemic until receiving notice that she would lose her job.

The impact on students and personal loss of health insurance weighed most heavily on Alvarado, who has chronic conditions that put her at risk. Now, the SF State graduate student has a couple of months to find another job that will let her work remotely during a downturn.

“It’s just so shocking that they would take away peoples’ health care in the middle of the pandemic,” Alvarado said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen with my treatment after I lose my health care. It’s scary to think about right now.”

Alvarado is one of 120 laid-off workers represented by the CSUEU, which doesn’t include faculty. CSUEU had been trying to negotiate campus-wide furloughs or work reductions while bringing in more reserve funding, said SF State president Sandee Noda. The university was required to offer work reductions as part of the layoff process, but it’s not clear how many will take up the option.

SF State is using about $7.7 million of its reserve funding and said it’s working to prevent further cuts. But CSUEU also has its attention on the university system’s $1.5 billion rainy day fund to offset further harm.

”Layoffs should always be the last resort, and the university has not demonstrated that it explored a myriad of other viable options prior to coming to this drastic decision,” Noda said. “It is a simple fact that this unprecedented reduction of support staff will result in irreparable harm to student programs and services. The university cannot hope to recruit and lift up students through downsizing university operations.”

At the end of August, SF State saw an 8 percent drop in enrollment for the fall semester, which had 26,660 students, from fall 2019 when 28,880 students were enrolled. International students made up a large chunk of that drop, from 2,261 in fall 2019 to 1,026 this fall.

Just 364 students this semester are living in the 4,500 available housing beds, which are usually in high demand.

Adam Paganini, the sole coordinator for the master’s of science program, who received a layoff notice, also urged California State University to use its reserve funds to offset losses. He’s been part of SF State since 2001 and may need to leave the Bay Area should his fiance, an adjunct lecturer at SF State, also get laid off and lose health insurance.

He warned that cuts made during massive uncertainty from the pandemic, economic downtown, social upheaval and now wildfires, are going to make things go from bad to worse.

“These austerity decisions are not what SF State stands for and not what California stands for,” said Paganini. “This is that rainy day. It’s here, this is it.”

The SF State Worker Defense Coalition will protest the layoffs on Saturday outside the campus at 19th and Holloway avenues from noon to 1 p.m.

Note: A previous version of this article stated 12 percent of staff received layoff notices. It is more than eight percent.

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