Breaking: Axe is Falling at Guilford (Updated)

LATER UPDATE: Wednesday afternoon (July 1) Guilford College posted a statement confirming our report of extensive job cuts. Here it is in full:

Guilford College President Jane K. Fernandes announced today that the College will reduce its personnel as part of cost-cutting measures following reduced revenues this summer.

“This is a hard step to take,” Jane says. “But the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated financial challenges for virtually all colleges and universities nationwide. We have to recognize and respond to these challenges.”

Personnel losses include 45 staff employees and 5 visiting faculty, approximately 15 percent of Guilford’s workforce. The College will continue to offer the degree programs that have attracted students from across the country for decades, along with the Guilford Edge, a reimagined educational experience focused on uncommon engagement in real-world learning.

“Our singular focus at this point is ensuring a great academic year for our students. And that begins with the safe and successful opening of campus next month. We look forward to welcoming our students, both new and returning, home to campus,” Jane says.

[End of statement. Our call to Guilford requesting details of the cuts was not returned.]

[UPDATE, Wednesday 9:45 AM-a source reports that as many as 40 names of Guilford staff are on the list of cuts.  More when we have it . . .]

Last week, Guilford College president Jane Fernandes announced  her resignation. The announcement said ,

“Over the past year and a half while dreaming about how I might create the next chapter of my career and life, I was considering stepping down, probably in 2022.

Fernandes, center.

Now with the increasing uncertainty of our altered reality that this pandemic is causing, Ithink it best to complete some of the hard decisions we need to make, assist the Board of Trustees with a transition, and allow another leader to envision and implement the structural adjustments in higher education that undoubtedly will follow this crisis.”

The “structural adjustments,” aka job cuts due to “our altered reality,” reportedly began on June 30, with email notices of job terminations. This is a developing story, and we do not yet have a confirmed list of how many job cuts have been made, but credible sources indicate they are underway.

While the specifics of the job cuts are not yet clear, in an earlier post, we cited this report from April 3, 2020, in the Greensboro News Record:

GREENSBORO — Its campus empty through the rest of the spring semester, Guilford College has furloughed 133 full-time and part-time staff employees for the next two months.
Slightly more than half of the college’s 250 non-faculty employees were notified Thursday (April 2) that they would have to take unpaid time off from work through at least June 1, President Jane Fernandes said in an interview Friday.

Furloughs were ordered in all campus areas except among professors, who are teaching classes remotely through May.

Send news leads on this developing story to our secure encrypted email address:
oldmustang (at) pm.me

 

Blow All the Slaveowning Men Down?

I give a lot of weight to voices like that of Charles Blow. So I am taking seriously what he wrote in today’s NYTimes:

“I say that we need to reconsider public monuments in public spaces. No person’s honorifics can erase the horror he or she has inflicted on others.

Slave owners should not be honored with monuments in public spaces. We have museums for that, which also provide better context. This is not an erasure of history, but rather a better appreciation of the horrible truth of it.”

— And yet, and yet, I find myself thinking. What about —??

Take Washington. Okay, no excuse for slaveowning.

Yet in the courts, there are such things as mitigating circumstances. They don’t overturn a conviction, but can affect the sentence.

And in Washington’s case,  there’s that small matter of winning our independence, so the U.S. could work through its own blood-dimmed way to end slavery.

John Brown. Does he need a memorial on the National Mall?

And then there was that other matter of him refusing to be made a king. Especially these past four years, Every day of them, many of us can see how NOT small that one was.

Even Jefferson (cf. the Bill of Rights? ) Yeah, Sally Hemings.

Still. I mean, every dam day that piece of Jefferson’s legacy mitigates our circumstances. At least what’s left of it does. Continue reading Blow All the Slaveowning Men Down?

A Slice of Pandemic Life: Making it into the GF Upper Crust

  • So I’ve been doing this gluten-free thing for some years, and overall it’s been fine. But there’s one staple of the old stuff that I missed,  sorely, namely: toast.

Most GF “bread” sorta worked, except not really. the texture was too different, the slices were small, etc.  Oh well.

But then, when I moved to the garden spot of Carolina, aka Durham, I stumbled on a local mom & pop outfit called “Imagine That Gluten Free,” which made mainly bread.

But such bread! Full-size slices! Old-fashioned texture! Regular looking sandwiches; gratifying grilled cheese. And TOAST—OMG!

At first I had to rise early on Saturday mornings & hurry down to the farmer’s market where they had a stall. No dilly-dallying allowed, because they usually sold out well before noon, and I came back bereft & empty-handed more than once.

Eventually, though, a co-op market opened near us, and ITGF bread was featured there. Their packaging was distinctively, austerely simple: clear plastic bags, bare but  for a homemade address size white label, printed with the name & variety, looking like it was spat out of the last operating dot matrix printer in the Southeast. Even, so, the bread was pricey, about $9 a full loaf. But I ponied up: YOLO, and YOLO-GF only part of the once, right?

ITGF is determinedly local; but as good as the bread was, I fully expected their loaves to soon be showing up in all the markets around. The business would grow like crazy, and then eventually be snapped up by some giant corporation, the way another Durham onetime mom & pop, Burt’s Bees, was snagged by Clorox for just under a cool billion bucks.

But no, or at least not yet. ITGF seems determinedly small, selling only a few items, bread, pizza rounds, and the occasional cookie/muffin to a dozen or so legacy hippie outlets like the coop market. Which was okay by me, as long as I was still in their range.

So far, all this is a tale of the Good Old Days; and as in so many others, when we get to February the narrator has to pause, draw a breath, and add,  “But suddenly a pandemic came, along with the new Depression.” And in their wake, the collapse of a multitude of small businesses, plus many larger ones too. Down went Penney’s; down went Pier One, Down went to Brooks Brothers, not to mention most all of the decent diners.

And one morning, the Durham Coop Market was out of ITGF bread. That had happened before: did I mention they often sold out fast? But a week, then two went by, still no new stock.

And one day when I hurried in, turned restlessly  down the bread aisle, I was confronted not only by a broad empty shelf, but an oversized flyer from Coop management. It announced grimly that “Due to unforeseen circumstances,”  ITGF was not working. They hoped ITGF would be back, but . . . The future was murky, uncertain & unforeseen — understatement of the decade, right??


So every time during the weeks since, when I’ve been back in the Coop, I checked, and was disappointed. I also wondered: clearly the ITGF folks, a couple named Gardner, were very private: they don’t even have a website for chrissake. (“Imagine That, Web-Free”; hmm, kinda has a ring to it maybe?)

Were they down with the virus? Had they gone bust and were driving Uber & studying for new careers in contact tracing? Or had they hightailed it to New Zealand, where the bug was practically gone; or possibly Vermont, almost as clean, much closer, and with Bernie Sanders at no extra charge?

Who knew? I just sighed, and once or twice when desperate  tried another brand of GF loaf — they were just as blah as before. I tried to stay positive, because so far me and mine had all tested negative. If surviving this dismal year was only going to mean was attending Quaker meeting on ZOOM & losing the best GF toast ever, well, maybe no loaf was better than no life . . . .

And then yesterday I stopped in again. Looking actually for a couple other delicacies: the fabled maple yogurt I only recently discovered, and a package of unsalted rice crackers. The crackers were a long way from savory, but fit my doctor-enforced low-salt regimen and were at least a break from the rigors of celery & (unsalted) peanut butter.

With these in the cart, I made a perfunctory swing by the bread aisle— and Lo, low on the horizon — was it really a line of those almost miniature plain white dot-matrix labels??

Yes! Yes, it was! Hallelujah, ITGF was back. And not only the toasting loaves, but one solitary baguette. Which of course I grabbed also.

Let’s hope this means the very private Gardners are well, solvent, and back in the baking game. If so, then maybe we’ll get through this ordeal.

Or at least I will. Those loaves for  me were the best thing since sliced bread.

 

 

Quaker Statues Have to Go? That’s What George Fox Said . . .

The work of bringing down Calhoun took all one night and most of the next day.

So– the City of Charleston wasted no time. After the City Council voted unanimously this week to take down its landmark monument to John C. Calhoun, a crew swung into action, starting at near midnight.

It was no small task to pluck the figure from its 100-foot pedestal. It took the workers until late the next day to bring  Calhoun floating back down to earth, and ship him off to a future of obscurity.

I was as pleased as anyone to see Calhoun disappear, at  least from that exalted place of honor; but I hope he lives on as a shameful memory, of a sadder-but-wiser nation that let him look down on all since 1896, as what one historian called “the Marx of the master class.” Continue reading Quaker Statues Have to Go? That’s What George Fox Said . . .

Cancel Cops, Cancel ALL Cop Shows, NO Exceptions. And Cancel Quakers Too?

Just read a very striking piece by E. J. Dickson in Rolling Stone. It says the “Cancel  Cops Crusade,” in order to root out systemic police racism, killings & impunity,  also has to take down the media images of the police. Even — especially– those of the “good cop.”

Why?  because the problem isn’t “bad apples” but rotten trees — in fact, a national forest of 18000 rotten orchards.

To get to the core of the rot, this media dethroning, Dickson argues, has to include even the very best of the media good cops, including the clear favorite of the author and so many progressive TV viewers.

That would be Officer Olivia Benson (played so persuasively by Mariska Hargitay) the main character in “Law & Order-SVU.”  In this role she has fought the good fight against every kind of sex offender one could think of for 21 seasons.

An anguished sidebar here: in February 2000, SVU ran an episode called “Limitations,” much of which centered on Quakers. In it they  had to confront issues of forgiveness, defying the law because of conscience, and having a Quaker rape victim pay dues for her victimizer with no remedy in sight. Continue reading Cancel Cops, Cancel ALL Cop Shows, NO Exceptions. And Cancel Quakers Too?

Sunday Funnies: Trump & The Revenge of The Tik-Tok Nerds

I know about the register-for-Free-on-the-net thing for Trump rallies. I did it myself in 2016, twice.

But not as a trick. I actually went to those rallies, in Fayetteville NC, one before and one after the election.  I’m the wrong generation for such tech maneuvers

For the first one, I printed out the ticket, and had it ready in my pocket.  But nobody at the gate asked for it; the second time, I didn’t bother.

I was about as far from being a Trumper as one could get. But I went to see if what the media was going nuts about was really happening. Intelligence gathering.

As we now know, way too well,  it was real enough. Or maybe really surreal. Continue reading Sunday Funnies: Trump & The Revenge of The Tik-Tok Nerds

Removing the Statue of John C. Calhoun will be easy. Banishing his Ghost will not.

For Juneteenth, I should be completely pleased with the news that the City Council in Charleston SC will be doing its best to dethrone a statue of John C. Calhoun.

The plan was announced in connection with the fifth anniversary of the horrible mass killing of nine black worshippers at the city’s Mother Emanuel AME Church. Its projected deconstruction is part of the swell of collective revulsion after the George Floyd killing that is felling one Confederate monument after another. The removal would also defy a state law protecting such monuments.

[Update: on June 23, The Charleston City Council voted 13-0 to remove the statue. The council said the statue will be preserved in “an appropriate site where it will be protected and preserved,” at an as yet undisclosed location. They did not set a specific date for the removal.]

Maybe here is  where my hesitation is triggered: not over civil disobedience against such a statute; but starting with the seemingly technical point that Calhoun was not a Confederate leader, or even a Civil War figure: he died in 1850, eleven years before hostilities started.

(Once the war began, the rebel government sought to enshrine his iconic status by adding Calhoun’s visage to the Confederate $100 bill {at lower left}. When that plan didn’t work out so well, the Defenders of the Lost Cause turned to more durable monuments.)

The fact that Calhoun was a pre-war actor is not a reason  to leave his monument alone. But it does raise the questions of why it’s there, and why it’s so “monumental” — 115 feet high, and officially venerated since its erection in 1896. As an ode to Calhoun by a local poet, Miss E. B. Cheesborough, crowed,

Float it above the city’s spires,
And o’er the bay’s blue tide,
Tell how he battled for the South,
And battling thus—he died. . . . Continue reading Removing the Statue of John C. Calhoun will be easy. Banishing his Ghost will not.

Gorsuch, LGBTQs, & the Rightwing Freakout

From “The Bulwark,” a Never Trump blog run by Charlie Sykes, an anti-Trump/somewhat repentant/former right wing radio talk show host.

Trigger warning: this post quotes numerous conservatives who are freaking out over the Supreme Court’s LGBTQ ruling, and who approve of homophobic bigotry.

For those who wonder why I post such stuff, here are some of my reasons:

1. Much of the writing is snappy, vivid & interesting.

2. Also much of it is self-critical. In this it sets an example some woke folks might well follow.

3. For me, reading right wingers (in measured doses) offers a chance to bone up on arguments & materials which might one day help change a few right wing minds. (Hey— it happens, and it HAS happened a lot on these issues in recent decades.)

4. Because my guru Sun Tzu said I should.

Some will remember that Sun Tzu wrote a classic pacifist book, which is required reading for all wannabe peaceniks. It’s as valuable page for page as the Bible (plus a helluva lot shorter), and called “The Art of War.”

In it Sun Tzu devotes a whole chapter to the importance of spies to success in war. His point, in sum, is that to succeed in war (& other conflicts), Know Your Freekin Enemy. Continue reading Gorsuch, LGBTQs, & the Rightwing Freakout

The Axe Falls at Earlham (Again): Virus & Depression taking Big toll

It’s even happening in Cambridge Massachusetts: 

“Harvard Offers Staff Early Retirement to Reduce Expenses,” roars a recent Bloomberg headline. “Richest U.S. school also allows voluntary cuts in work hours . . . asking employees to consider a series of voluntary measures, including early retirement, giving up vacation and reducing work hours as it faces a revenue shortfall of $1.2 billion over two academic years.”

We’ll not weep for the Crimson here; if Harvard is down a billion or so, its endowment still has a $39 billion cushion. (For that matter, Yale announced in May it was cutting next year’s budget by several hundred million, and freezing salaries and hiring.)

But when Harvard/Yale catches a cold, many a smaller private college gets swamped by, well, pandemic pneumonia panic. And sure enough, in this week’s news, the axe is falling, heavily, at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana.

Forget golf and tennis, you student athletes,  a May announcement said, they’re gone. Plus, president Anne Houtman said, there would be “$7.6 million in budget cuts made for the next fiscal year. As of July 1, 34 positions will be eliminated with 27 more ‘restructured through efficiencies across campus.’ The college employs about 400 people.”

Houtman: “I don’t have to tell you that we are facing a perfect storm of an unprecedented nature — deficit spending for several years, now exacerbated by COVID-19, which has upended our enrollment projections and significantly added to our deficit,” Houtman said.

“New student enrollment for the fall is half what we modeled for and built our budget around, and that goal was conservative before the pandemic struck. It is imperative we act now, both to reduce our current deficit and ensure Earlham’s future.”

Zimmerman said It’s too early to share exact numbers for fall enrollment. The college’s deadline for new students to confirm they’re coming is June 1, and many wait until the last minute.

“We and our peer institutions expect enrollment to be fluid well into the summer,” he said. “We are anticipating a total enrollment of 750 for the 2020-21 academic year.”

Enrollment over the past few years has been basically stagnant, but tuition revenues have steadily dropped over that period of time.

The “restructured through efficiencies across campus” jargon means that 18 facilities management jobs,  plus a number of housekeeping staffers will be moved from one outside contractor to another. With the new contractor, their salaries will technically be the same, but health insurance and other benefits will become much more costly, so the net will be a substantial loss of income. A student petition is protesting the change.

On the plus side, the college reported last week that an unexpected alumni donation would keep the golf program active.

Earlham has been in financial trouble even before the pandemic and depression engulfed the nation. It was reported here, in December  2018, that a 12 percent budget cut was required to stem runaway deficit spending, and it resulted in numerous job and other cuts.

Then just last month, Standard & Poor’s investment rating service reminded the public that Earlham has spent a couple of years on a list of colleges in persistent financial and credit trouble.

Enrollment is also expected to drop this fall, from near 1000 to 750 (or maybe less; the situation is still “fluid” in Earlham’s terms. How dangerous is this trend? Earlham spokesman Brian Zimmerman was firmly upbeat:

“Many of our peers without a strong endowment like we have are facing daunting questions about their long-term viability. We are not. Our endowment value has dipped somewhat during the pandemic but is still a strong $376.7 million.”

Yet two years ago the school had to grapple with a deficit of $47 million.  And in an email to staff and faculty last month, Houtman acknowledged:

“There is no way to trim $7.6 million from a budget without impacting lives and livelihoods, and the sad truth is that we still have a long way to go before we are out of the woods financially, especially if the COVID-19 pandemic continues for another year or two.”

Sad indeed. The woods of the 2020s are dark deep, and the pandemic’s impact is still gaining force. Earlham faces a long slog.

 

 

 

 

 

How to Change your Luck: A note to Millennials

Friends,

You already know the dismal data in this article; “The unluckiest generation in U.S. history,”   in the June 5 Washington Post. Maybe not the detailed numbers, but the reality. This one depressing chart tells the story:

As the article says,

After accounting for the present crisis, the average millennial has experienced slower economic growth since entering the workforce than any other generation in U.S. history.
Millennials will bear these economic scars the rest of their lives, in the form of lower earnings, lower wealth and delayed milestones, such as homeownership.

The losses are particularly acute on the jobs front. A few brutal months of the coronavirus set the labor market back to the turn of the millennium.
In April, the economy bottomed out with about as many jobs as in November of 1999. The economic regression to the Y2K era is a fitting symbol for a generation that — more than any other — has been shaped by recession.
Things improved in May, but the improvement just means we’re back to December 2000 levels of employment.

Many  of you aren’t interested in advice from elders, and I won’t quibble about that. But here’s some anyway. It’s the best I’ve got:

The main chance for rescuing your economic future is to show up in November and turn the election into a huge Democratic landslide.

I’m not referring here to Biden over Trump; that goes without saying.

The crucial point is for a sweep in Congress: clear out McConnell and that crowd, big time.

Then make your demands. Here are the Big Five

1. A massive federal jobs program, starting with (but not only) infrastructure & climate. I’m talking trillions.
2. Cancellation of most student debt.
3. Free (or damn near) public college.
4. A comprehensive version of Medicare for all. And
5. Organize unions, both white and blue collar.

There are some more, but these are the central changes, and you’ll need Congress on board to get any of them.

Those five will bust open the doors to generational wealth that are now barricaded against you.

Also, these five will be of special aid to Americans of color, but they are meant for and will benefit all.

And, no matter what your Fox-watching uncle says, while swilling  beer bought with Social Security and popping Medicare blood pressure pills, these changes will not make America socialist.

There will still be plenty of room for enterprise, and plenty of work required to claim your piece of family capital it will make possible.

Such landslide-fueled times of change have happened before. After the 1932 election. And in  my lifetime, 1964.

It won’t be easy, but it could happen again. You can do it.

Even with all these, you’ll still end up being a tired generation. But also one that changed its luck.

It starts in November.