Letter: Clarifying concerns about Western layoffs

Dear Editor,

I am writing this letter in response to the article headlined, “WWCC leaders to select 15 to layoff” published in the January 27, 2021 edition of the Green River Star. I was misrepresented regarding my concerns about the upcoming layoffs at Western and would like to clarify what I brought up at the board meeting.

I am a former employee of more than 12 years at Western Wyoming Community College. I resigned from my position in December 2020. I had a wonderful career and loved the work we did. However, after assessing some things I realized it was time to move on.

I have a passion for Western as well as this community. My husband retired from the military after 21 years and I was delighted to move into a community with a college. I graduated with my first degree from Western in 2008, my husband followed me in 2010, and then two of our children as well as my brother also attended and graduated from Western. Currently, I have two more children attending college at Western. I believe in the mission of community colleges which is why I ultimately obtain a master’s in higher education. I would consider myself, as should all of you, to be a major stakeholder in this institution.

I was sickened when I saw the list of positions to be cut at Western. It was painfully obvious Wyoming Education Association members were targeted. At least this is my perception of the layoffs and I believe unbiased people would feel the same. In addition, many of those cut worked hard in the community and at Western to serve students and out cities through volunteering, in other words connecting with their community in bigger ways.

There are 35 members of the WEA at WWCC or there were until the layoffs were announced. The workforce at Western numbers approximately 500 when adding in all the part-time employees. Even if some of these folks were not eligible for union membership, I believe stating less than 10% of the workforce at Western are union members is a more than a fair assessment.

In all actuality, only 13 occupied positions are being cut in this round as there were two vacancies already. These vacancies were not and will not be filled. The only full-time sociology professor is the president of the WEA at Western and she was one of those cut. The only full-time geology instructor is also an officer of the board of the WEA and she too, was laid off. In all, of the 13 people laid off at Western, the union represented more than 50%. At the close of this semester, the union will have been gutted and only 28 members will be standing, if that. As I imagine, others are doing the math and will likely jump ship. There seems to be a lesson to be learned from this round of terminations, if you are a union member, you stand a greater than average chance of being let go.

It’s time to look at the top-heavy administration at Western to determine if the cuts were righteous. At the board of trustees meeting on January 28, the only dissenting voice to the good-old-boy network was the newest board member, Carla Hester-Croff. Though she suggested we possibly outsource our custodians, a stance I firmly disagree with, at least she realized the importance of the instructors. I ask you, community members, to pay close attention to what has been occurring at Western. This institution belongs to the community and we desperately need our community members to care. I ask you, are instructors more important than administrators? Especially when there are several with salaries over $100,000. Without instructors, we don’t have students! Contrary to popular belief, students want an instructor they can sit face-to-face and work through problems. Many students avoid online classes because they feel safer and more productive in a classroom. And, many want to be able to go to an instructor’s office and visit face to face.

Finally, why were so many of the cuts made to union members? This scenario certainly looks like union busting. There are questions that should be asked and addressed.

Teresa Shafe

Green River


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