Cash dwindling, CSU sending out layoff notices to all 900 employees

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This 2014 file photo shows a student walking on the campus of Chicago State University in Chicago. | AP

Days after Chicago State University cancelled spring break to shorten its semester, the South Side university told all staffers Friday morning that layoff notices are coming unless the state passes a budget that includes university funding.

But CSU President Thomas Calhoun Jr. didn’t say when the 900 employees, himself included, could actually lose their jobs.

“The actions taken today are necessary to fulfill our legal obligation and to make necessary reductions, so that we can continue running the university in the absence of state funds,” Calhoun said. “It is our sincere hope that the governor and legislative leaders will do the right thing and provide funding for public universities before these layoffs would have to be executed.”

The University Professionals of Illinois Local 4100, which represents about 330 CSU employees, said some were told they could lose their jobs April 30, others August 15th.

CSU is among many victims of an eight-month budget battle between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic legislative leaders who have yet to allocate any state funding to Illinois’ 12 public universities and countless other state programs.

So the university on 95th Street has taken several other emergency measures, including spending its reserves, to compensate for the lack of state money which accounts for about 30 percent of its budget. That’s a greater ratio than Illinois’ other public colleges. CSU officials also said they’ve covered state MAP grants over the past two semesters for students while awaiting reimbursement from the state.

But without any impending budget agreement and the governor’s recent veto of MAP money, the university’s leaders say they have been forced to take more drastic action. Without the funds, the Higher Learning Commission also said the accreditation of public state universities is at risk.

Union president John Miller blamed the governor directly, accusing him of having “no regard for our students or the future of our state.

“The potential closure of Chicago State University would devastate more than 4,000 students and their community, all while Governor Rauner refuses to ask the most wealthy to pay their fair share,” Miller said in a news release.

The school’s 4,500 students learned earlier this week that spring break in March was getting cancelled to shorten the second second semester, so the school could afford to finish it.

Students have rallied on campus, blocked the Dan Expressway to highlight the cuts and protested at the State of Illinois building downtown at the office of the governor, who had said in January that the school “was throwing money down the toilet” because of its vast differences in graduation rates between African-American and white students.

On Friday, a Rauner spokeswoman said in an email that the governor supports an emergency funding bill by State Rep. Ken Dunkin (D-Chicago) who has bucked powerful Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan to join ranks with Rauner. That’s if the Democrat-controlled General Assembly passes it, she added.

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