The University of Maryland Board of Regents has decided to abolish more than one-third of the 230 jobs in its central administration, cuts that will affect employees from secretaries to senior administrators.
In painful, personal meetings throughout the day yesterday, layoff notices, effective tomorrow, were given to the first 30 employees, including Richard Johnson.
Johnson, a printing production supervisor, had been counting on a university fringe benefit to cover full tuition for his daughter, who hopes to enroll as a freshman this fall at Towson State University. But Johnson, 49, was summoned into his boss's office shortly before 10 a.m. and informed that the $23,000-a-year job he has held for 4 1/2 years is a casualty of a Board of Regents effort to streamline the administration.
At midday, he went into his office, telephoned his oldest child and told her he was unsure how they would afford her college education. "If the bank doesn't loan me the money, it'll be very tough," he said.
Johnson, like many of the employees dismissed yesterday, said he had been aware that the regents, under pressure from the General Assembly, had hired a consultant last winter to recommend ways to make the university system's office more efficient.
"Maybe I'll see a reason for all of this -- a good reason, but for now, I'm upset," said Jean Berry, 55, who was told that she was among three of the five secretaries in the academic affairs department whose jobs were being killed.
Berry, who earned $26,000 a year, said that she would be eligible to retire in five years under the state retirement system she joined when she was hired by the university 16 years ago. "I guess I never thought as a state employee I would have to think about losing my job," she said. Throughout the day, employees milled through the administration building, near the university's College Park campus, quietly consoling colleagues and anxiously wondering whether their own jobs would be spared.
The university will continue to pay salary and benefits for 30 days for classified workers and for 90 days for administrators and higher-level staff, unless they find a job within that time.
Ann Moultrie, a university spokeswoman, said that a job counselor would be available today to meet with the laid-off employees to try to help them find other jobs, including ones on the 11 campuses of the university system. The layoffs were a traumatic step in a gradual overhaul of the University of Maryland system that started two years ago when the Maryland General Assembly fused two groups of public colleges and universities. In ordering the merger, legislators had expected the central administration to shrink because many duties -- such as personnel and alumni relations -- would be taken over by individual campuses.
But the university, for the most part, simply combined the two administrative staffs, provoking complaints last winter from the State Senate.
"We wanted money to go to instruction and research, and to cut the fat in administration," said Sen. Francis X. Kelly (D-Baltimore County), vice-chairman of the Budget and Taxation Committee. "I feel very badly for anybody that gets laid off, but we have to have an effective, efficient system."
Budget and Taxation Committee Chairman Laurence Levitan (D-Montgomery) added, "The university, like anything else is a business, and there comes a time when you have to tighten your belt."
The streamlining has the blessing of the university's incoming chancellor, Donald N. Langenberg, who begins work Monday. In an interview yesterday, Langenberg said that he had been consulted on the cuts and that he believed they would produce an administration that is "light, strong and fast."
The cuts, originally scheduled for next week, were accelerated, Langenberg said, to end rumors and anxiety among employees and to prevent him from having to undertake a massive layoff during his first few days.