University temporarily cuts salaries, furloughs staff as COVID-19 takes financial toll

25% revenue shortfall, University not in danger of insolvency according to Interim Vice President for Financial Affairs.

By Austin De Dios | August 24, 2020 8:41pm

A quiet UP campus lies heavy in the summer heat, awaiting details of paycuts and furloughs.

Media Credit: Cole Carden / The Beacon

The University of Portland is temporarily cutting the pay of faculty and staff, and has furloughed some staff effective Sept. 1. Employees who were furloughed got the news from their supervisors last week. Their work schedule and commensurate pay were cut anywhere from 10% to 100% (meaning their job was temporarily eliminated). The additional pay cuts range from 3% to 20%, depending on salary level and, in some cases, position. Adjuncts and employees with an annual salary under $35,568 are exempt from the paycut.

The pay cuts and furloughs are the result of a 25% revenue shortfall in UP’s annual budget, losses related to COVID-19, according to Interim Vice President of Financial Affairs Eric Barger. Loss in room and board revenue alone for this fiscal year is $26 million. An increase in financial aid to students due to the economic hardship sparked by COVID-19 added to the budget shortfall, according to Barger. 

Barger outlined the University’s financial situation, pay cuts and furlough plans in an email to faculty and staff Aug. 18, emphasizing that the University was not in danger of insolvency and that the cuts were temporary measures to get UP through the pandemic. However, there is no established timeline for when employees might return to normal hours and pay. 

“Given the unknowns about the pandemic, we assume that our current mode of operation will continue through the spring,” Barger said in the email. “Such an assumption is made for financial planning purposes only and I stress that no decisions have been made about spring 2021. It is our firm hope and intention to resume in-person instruction, residence life, and study abroad in the spring.” 

Pay Cut Details

Under the announced plan, most UP employees will see temporary pay cuts of either 3% or 6%, depending on how much they make. Faculty and staff with an annual salary between $35,568 and $50,000 will take a 3% pay cut, and those making over $50,000 will take a reduction of 6%.

According to Barger, “senior leadership - vice presidents and permanent deans of schools” will take a 15% paycut, while UP executives in the Budget Working Group (which devised the cost-cutting plan) will take a 20% salary reduction. This includes UP President Fr. Mark Poorman, Provost Herbert Medina and Barger.

Additionally, according to Barger’s announcement, members of the Holy Cross Community at UP offered to take a 15% pay cut, “even though their compensation would otherwise result in smaller reductions.”

Furlough Details 

According to an FAQ document from Vice President for Human Resources Sandy Chung, furloughs can range from 10% to 100%. Under a 20% furlough, an employee scheduled to work Monday through Friday will typically work one less day per week and get paid for just four days a week. A 100% furlough temporarily removes an employee from a job and salary completely. The intention of furloughs is to bring workers back to a full schedule once economic conditions improve.

It's not clear exactly how many of UP's approximately 3200 employees were furloughed, and to what degree.  The Beacon has requested the information from the administration, and is awaiting a response.

No faculty were furloughed, but furloughs were reportedly widespread among staff in many departments including Residence Life, Career Services, Student Activities, the Moreau Center, Campus Ministry and more.

The University will continue to provide medical and dental insurance to furloughed employees, at least until the end of 2020. Furloughed employees will also retain other benefits such as life insurance, tuition remission and tuition exchange, and Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) through Cascade Centers.

Although faculty and staff first got word that there would be furloughs in an email from the University President's Office on Aug. 7, some employees who were actually furloughed were still shocked that the decision came so close to the beginning of the semester. 

Samantha Trunkett, weekend and late night program coordinator, was one of the 30 employees in Student Affairs who were reportedly furloughed 100%. Trunkett and other furloughed employees spent most of the summer planning a safe on-campus reopening in the fall, up until the announcement that the University would be moving the semester online. Trunkett continued her work, trying to develop virtual events for students to attend throughout the semester. 

“Before the furlough announcement, I created a form for collaboration for Pilots After Dark,” Trunkett said. “Pilots After Dark is still going to happen in some sort of capacity during the fall. And I advise CPB (Campus Programming Board), and CPB is still going to have events in some sort of capacity in the fall. The only thing that’s missing from the fall is me.” 

Students who have close relationships with staff members should reach out to them before their University emails are deactivated on Sept. 1, Trunkett said. Staff members who have been partially furloughed will be facing a difficult task figuring out how to navigate their jobs with shortened work weeks and reduced support staff. 

“My understanding is that we all really love University of Portland students and the community,” Trunkett said. “I want students to understand that staff and faculty that can’t work with you this semester, it’s not by choice. And the staff and faculty that are legally allowed to work with you this semester, be kind to them, they’re trying their best. Everyone’s trying their best.”

Austin De Dios is the News and Managing Editor for The Beacon. He can be reached at