Here’s what we know about Harvey Mudd furloughs

A Harvey Mudd College sign with directions to buildings sits in a quad.
Due to lower enrollment and the lack of room and board revenue, Harvey Mudd College furloughs an unknown number of staff in the dining services and facilities and maintenance departments. (Regan Rudman • The Student Life)

This summer, Harvey Mudd College said it would furlough workers if students did not return to campus. 

Students have stayed home, and HMC has since furloughed an unknown number of staff in the dining services and facilities and maintenance departments for the fall semester, according to an email sent by college officials that TSL obtained.

A spokesperson for the college did not respond to multiple requests asking how many workers were furloughed, nor has the school released the number publicly.

Here’s what we know — and don’t know — about HMC furloughs.

We know some workers were furloughed

In an Aug. 21 email to faculty and staff that TSL obtained, Andrew Dorantes, vice president for administration and finance, cited reduced tuition revenue from lower enrollment and the lack of room and board revenue for the fall semester as key reasons for the decision.

Unfortunately we’ve been forced to furlough staff in positions for which there will be little to no work given the absence of students on campus this fall,” the email said. These furloughs were mandatory, full-time furloughs, though non-furloughed staff could volunteer to be partially furloughed, the email said.

The workers that have been furloughed are members of the dining services staff and the facilities and maintenance staff, according to the email.

Mudd will not increase the number of mandatory furloughs or institute any mandatory salary reductions, but the college may reassess this decision if conditions change, “especially if we are not allowed to bring students to campus in spring 2021,” the email said.

The college took a number of steps to identify “expense reductions” to minimize furloughs and mandatory salary reductions, according to the email. These included obtaining federal assistance through pandemic-related legislation, reductions in fees for consortium programs and services and reductions in budgets related to residence halls and dining programs. 

The college also planned to reduced administrative and academic operating budgets by 25 percent for the 2020-21 financial year.

But we don’t know how many

Here are some of the specific questions TSL asked HMC spokespeople via email that were not answered:

  • How many employees were furloughed, and when were they notified? 
  • How many of these were partial vs. full furloughs, and what sectors did the employees work in? 
  • How many employees took volunteer furloughs?
  • Have any employee applications for awards/loans been denied and why? 
  • How many individuals have donated to the Employee Emergency Relief Fund?
  • The email announcing furloughs said, “The President’s Cabinet has committed to either taking a voluntary salary reduction or to contributing to the new fund once established.” Has the Cabinet taken a salary cut or contributed to the fund, and, if so, how much has it contributed? 

We also know there’s a relief fund for furloughed workers

The college announced the creation of the Employee Emergency Relief Fund in the email notifying staff and faculty of furloughs. Since then, the fund had raised $137,000 as of Oct. 13  for grants, health care subsidies and loans for furloughed employees, according to HMC spokesperson Judy Augsburger. 

The President’s Cabinet also committed to taking either a voluntary salary reduction or contributing to the EERF, the email said. 

“Our HR team has been in constant contact with our furloughed employees, supporting them in applying for both the EERF programs and unemployment benefits,” Augsburger said. “Furloughed employees have expressed deep appreciation for the community’s support, and we are grateful for our community’s generosity and care.”

How does HMC stack up against the other colleges?

Pomona College

Pomona College announced it was considering furloughing staff in early August and formally announced that it was furloughing 154 workers fully and 110 partially on Sept. 1. The furloughs went into effect Oct. 1 despite backlash from faculty, over half of whom signed a letter in protest of the decision. 

Nearly a month after committing to move forward with furloughs, Pomona announced the creation of its own Sagehen Employee Support Fund. The fund aims to raise at least $300,000 to support furloughed workers, with $100,000 already committed by the Board of Trustees. 

Similar to Mudd’s support fund, furloughed employees can apply for non-taxable grants of up to $1,500.

Scripps College

Scripps College announced Aug. 21 that it would partially furlough 59 employees from the dining and custodial departments, reducing those workers’ hours down to 20 per week from Aug. 30 to Dec. 20. 

Scripps continues to provide health care benefits, tuition remission, sick leave accrual and vacation day accrual to the affected staff. The college is also an employer partner for California’s Work Sharing program, which allows furloughed staff to receive wage replacement benefits based on the reduction in their hours. 

Pitzer College

While Pitzer College has not issued any mandatory furloughs for employees, some have taken voluntary furloughs. 

Pitzer did not respond to a request for the number of employees who elected to be furloughed.

In an email, Pitzer spokesperson Jim Marchant said “a handful of Pitzer employees recently voluntarily chose to be furloughed because it financially benefited them and the College.”

Marchant said the college did not encourage any employees to take this option, adding that “those that were furloughed chose to do so willingly.”

Pitzer’s Board of Trustees and Budgetary Implementation Committee decided that “protecting the most vulnerable members of our community,” including low-income students and lower-paid employees, would be “one of the highest priorities for the College” during the coronavirus pandemic.

Claremont McKenna College

Claremont McKenna College has not publicly announced whether or not any employees have been furloughed, voluntarily or otherwise. 

A CMC spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding furloughs at the time of publication.

Gabe Fisher contributed reporting.

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