Several dismissed employees received their termination notices from Mr. Thad Turnipseed, whose mother-in-law, Marjorie Kay Nix, was a member of the committee that hired Robert Witt as President of the U of A. Mr. Turnipseed assumed his current position at the University in 2003, shortly after Witt became president.
The UA Administration has fired or forced into retirement 38 employees (so far) since the beginning of the year, usually sending notice of dismissal on Fridays. The effective date of most of the dismissals is Friday, April 9th.
Several fired employees have told us that the first they knew of the dismissals came when unmarked University police cars (Crown Victorias, to be precise) showed up at their buildings on Friday, January 23 — a date that is already being called “Black Friday.”
Long-time employees tell us that the pace and number of firings is totally unprecedented, and that it has seriously undermined morale, especially since it comes on top of the administration’s proposed massive cuts to the health care system.
It is clear the firings and forced retirements are meant to achieve cost savings by balancing the books squarely on the backs of current employees. In his standard letter of termination, Mr. Thad Turnipseed (Director, University Facilities) even says so:
“Unfortunately, reorganization will result in the elimination of several positions in Facilities. Your position is one which will be eliminated effective April 9, 2004.”
More firings are said to be underway, and staff are understandably terrified. Some of those fired were near being vested in the retirement system. Others were close to retirement age itself. The effect on them and their families, we believe, must be devastating.
Here is a list of the terminations to date. We understand that the total number of terminations now exceed three dozen. Four of those listed were forced into retirement. The rest were simply fired:
Executive Director, University Facilities; Staff Engineer; Staff Architect; Office Assistant; Assoc. Director, University Facilities; Director, Facilities and Planning; Estimating Services; Staff Engineer; Manager, Landscape and Grounds; Director, Housing; Facility Analysis, Construction; Director, Construction administration; Exhibits Director, Moundville Museum; Secretary, Moundville; Head of Laboratory, OAR; Sr. Archaeological Assistant; Four Moundville cashiers; Drafting Technician; Mason.
The ASA expresses its deep sympathy to all of these employees and their families. As for the rest of us, we advise continued vigilance: if you see a bunch of Crown Victorias heading for your office building, get ready for the worst.