Employees at Eastern taking on more work after staffing cuts

Cassie Buchman, Associate News Editor

Employees at Eastern have had to do more work to make up for less workers all across campus ever since civil service workers were laid off from departments around campus.

Linda Barter, an administrative assistant to the dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, has had to fill in for multiple positions in the department.

She said she had to wear multiple hats after the staff clerk in Africana studies and the office manager positions in theatre and foreign language were eliminated. She also does the staff clerk’s duties as well in the dean’s office.

“It’s like I’m sitting here, but I’m sitting in theatre, foreign language and Africana studies,” Barter said. “The work’s multiplied.”

Barter said everyone, including chairs and faculty, have had to take on more as well.

She said she does not sleep well now, as she has to wake up early in the morning to get to the office at 6:30 a.m. where she stays until 4 or 4:40 p.m.­–or even later.

“Today I did not take a lunch hour, because I’m trying to catch up and get stuff done,” Barter said. “And tomorrow, I’m taking home work and will work from home.”

She said she is not the only person doing this by any means, and many are having to do this to keep up.

“My biggest fear is that I’ll let someone down,” Barter said. “I think I put a lot more pressure on myself than I probably need to. It’s part of being responsible.”

There is also pressure that comes from deadlines Barter has for work, such as summer school work, theatre performances, and other events.

To handle this pressure, Barter takes a walk, and said her husband is very supportive and lets her let off steam at home.

Many people in the department have also offered to help Barter, and she knows who to talk to if she has a question.

She said she is sure there are many little things they have had to pick up because she is not physically able to be with them in the department.

“I do admire the fact that everyone is trying to work together for the good of everyone,” Barter said. “They understand this is a bad time, and everyone is really trying to put forth an effort to keep our students happy, keep our students with us, that sort of thing.”

The English department lost an office manager, leaving one to manage the office. They were able to get some part-time help, but that employee was laid off in March.

Jean Toothman, office administrator for the English department, said she normally likes to keep the office open from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. but without as much student help as there used to be and without a second office manager there are times they may have to close during certain hours.

Much of what the former office manager, Sarah Miller, did was part of the daily routine of picking up and distributing mail, answering the telephone, taking care of walk-ins, making copies and keeping up with the English department’s website, social media and events.

Miller also helped with recruitment, which Toothman said was something the department needs help with.

“Our numbers could be a lot higher if she was here,” Toothman said. “She had a lot more time to put to a lot of different things that really put our name out there.”

Only having one person in the office makes events like vacations, meetings, doctors appointments or sick days that require Toothman to leave the office difficult to do.

The last time Toothman was sick, the first student worker was not able to come in until 9 a.m., so the office was closed until then.

“Unless I’m deathly sick, I’ll come into work,” Toothman said.

Toothman said because the turnaround time for certain actions is slower, there may be times people do not get something they need.

“There are things (Miller) did that I can’t do,” she explained. “Losing Sarah was like losing a family member. The two of us together were unstoppable. What one of us couldn’t do, the other one could.”

Not only is the turnaround time for certain actions slower, there is also less of a connection with newspapers and other media, as making these connections was something Miller was in charge of.

Toothman said faculty members have pitched in and helped her out, but it is still a challenge.

“Both of us were busy all the time,” Toothman said. “Losing (Miller) was a huge loss, not just because of the extra knowledge she brought to the job but also because (I’m) trying to make sure I manage everything.”

Many of Miller’s responsibilities, such as training and supervising student employees, have now gone to Toothman, but there are other things, such as creating posters, that she cannot do.

“The worst part is, you’re used to this person for all these years and then suddenly realizing ‘Oh, it’s just going to be you,’” Toothman said. “Some days, when I’m really overwhelmed, I think ‘Oh I could go get Sarah’ but then there’s nobody there to get.”

When Toothman heard it was just going to be her in the office, she was shocked and devastated.

“I thought every day, (when Miller is doing things) ‘how is that going to get done when you’re gone?’” Toothman said.

Before, Toothman said she was even starting to think about finding another job because of the stress, but stayed because of the rest of the English department, who had become like a family to her.

When Toothman thought there was the possibility of her getting furlough days, she took on a second job because she did not think she could handle them.

Although she did not end up having to take furlough days, she still kept the job because she does not know what is going to happen.

“If they would have really implemented that furlough, or if they had decided we’re gonna cut you down to so many hours, then I have to have a full-time income,” Toothman said. “Until the university gets a budget, I’m not convinced this isn’t going to affect me.”

The nursing department has had its share of challenges after losing staff members as well after losing their administrative aide in March, when she was bumped to the Office of Minority Affairs.

Renee Kidd-Marshall, director of the nursing department, has had to take over the clerical work and admissions and recruiting efforts with the help of two faculty members, as they take care of this themselves as opposed to the admissions office.

Sue Gosse, a nursing professor, said there has not been as much time to keep after potential students because they have had to take on office duties and take care of current students, who are now registering for classes.

She said there are many things she needs to learn, such as how to get messages off phones and forwarding messages.

Everyone in the department switches off days working in the office, along with teaching classes like they normally have.

Gosse said she was not getting paid more for doing this extra work. Instead, since she is a professor, she is getting a pay cut when the faculty voted to defer their salaries after negotiations with the administration.

“We’re getting paid less to do more, which never works,” Gosse said.

She is not angry about this, however, as because she is a nurse she is used to being in organizations that need to lay people off and move people around, though she has never seen it this bad.

“We will muddle through. Muddling is OK for a while, but we do not want to dilute the quality of the program,” Gosse said.

Gosse said while she was sitting in the office trying to keep those functions going, it took time away from working on her class.

What they have done is decrease their contact hours, and put out announcements saying their office hours are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

After 1 p.m. Gosse works on her classes.

“We try to keep a positive attitude, that this will be just a temporary situation,” Gosse said. “I think we’re handling it.”

She said students understand that this is all because of the budget crisis, and they have been supportive.

Gosse said the whole budget situation is strange.

“The money is there, why don’t we have it?” she asked.
Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]