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Dillard University reduces payroll, plans for spring semester

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A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

Storm debris is piled in front of an entrance to Dillard University following Hurricane Katrina.
Nov. 15, 2005

A UMNS Report*
By Linda Green

Two hundred and two faculty and staff members at United Methodist-related Dillard University were to receive their final paychecks Nov. 15.

The reduction in the work force by the historically-black college comes in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which left behind nearly $400 million in damages on the campus when it roared across New Orleans and the Gulf Coast Aug. 29.

Despite the progress being made daily on the New Orleans campus since the hurricane, Dillard University officials announced Nov. 1 that it would make a 60 percent reduction in the number of employees on the payroll.

The school will retain all 43 of its tenured faculty and 99 staff members when it begins the spring semester Jan. 9, said Maureen Larkins, director of university communications. The laid-off employees will retain their medical benefits through the end of 2005.

“Our university was devastated by Hurricane Katrina,” said Dillard President Marvalene Hughes in a Nov. 1 media release. “Since this catastrophic natural disaster wreaked unparalled damage on our campus, Dillard University has done everything possible to keep all faculty and staff on its payroll — and has done so for the past two months. Dillard did not have any operating revenue during that time but was able to meet its payroll through other alternatives,” she said.

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Marvalene Hughes
The layoffs are the first such action taken by Dillard, Hughes said. “At this time, it is unclear whether the reduction in force will be temporary, as the university has been unable to identify the full effects of Hurricane Katrina on the campus. It is the university’s hope, however, that it will be able to re-employ displaced employees in the future if enrollment and other circumstances permit. Dillard is currently working with other universities to aid placement of displaced faculty.”

For two months, the school’s officials have worked in offices in Washington and Atlanta, and many of the more than 1,500 students have enrolled in other historically black institutions while retaining academic credit from Dillard.

The reduction of the work force was“an extremely difficult decision,” Hughes said. The contributions the employees made to Dillard “is deeply appreciated, and we wish them the best during this challenging period,” she said.

The university is not using its 135-year-old New Orleans campus at this time, according to Larkins. All 20 buildings on campus sustained damage from water and winds, and three campus residential buildings were burned by fire. Hundreds of people have been working daily to restore the campus, and it has been cleared of water, mold, mildew and debris, she said. “We are engaged in assessing building by building to see what needs to be done.”

Dillard signed a memorandum of understanding with Tulane University, also in New Orleans, to obtain temporary facilities while the campus undergoes extensive repairs. Classes will begin in January at satellite sites of Tulane across New Orleans.

Tenured professors will offer Dillard’s academic core programs, augmented by non-tenured faculty, and the 14-1 student-faculty ratio will be maintained to ensure the university continues to offer the finest education possible to its students, Hughes said.

The university is on a mission to return to being a “superior learning institution,” she said.

“Our efforts to secure federal and private support continue, and we will leave no stone unturned to identify the support necessary to secure Dillard’s future. This was a catastrophic event that nearly destroyed our beloved university. Despite that, we are working day and night to bring Dillard back, and we will return it to its former glory and aspire to make it even better.”

Donations for Dillard’s recovery can be made at or sent to the Dillard Hurricane Relief Fund, c/o The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, P.O. Box 340007, Nashville, TN 37203-0007.

*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or

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