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DeCoudreaux explains layoffs to alumnae, asks for donations

Yesterday, a week after six staff members were laid off, President Alecia DeCoudreaux explained in a Dec. 7 message to alumnae that the layoffs and the elimination of nine vacant staff positions will save Mills College more than $1 million.

DeCoudreax recognized that three of the six laid-off staff members — Kate Dey, Director of Career Services; Jess Miller, Director of Services for Students with Disabilities and Gina Rosabal, Director of Social Justice Initiatives — were “much-loved” by Mills students, who are “particularly distressed by” and “actively protesting” the loss of these women.

Others laid off include Kala Hale, Events Coordinator for the Office of Institutional Advancement (OIA) and the people who filled the positions of Director of Systems for Information Technology Services and Planned Giving Officer for OIA. Their names have not yet been made widely known or disclosed to the rest of the Mills community.

DeCoudreaux said the layoffs and other recent cuts were “painful decisions” and part of the plan to relieve Mills College’s $3.5 million deficit.

The deficit is a problem DeCoudreaux inherited from former President Janet Holmgren’s administration. The Campanil reported in March — before DeCoudreaux assumed office — that the College did not have a sustainable business model.

The College has consistently cut into its savings to fund college operations and has not had a balanced budget since 2009, Interim Vice President for Finance Jamie Nickel had told The Campanil.

“Mills has operated with a budget deficit in three of the last five years,” DeCoudreaux wrote in her Dec. 7 message, “which has adversely affected the College’s financial well-being.”

The College’s decisionmaking, DeCoudreaux reminded alumnae in her Dec. 7 message, is guided by a commitment to its top priorities: “Mills’ academic excellence and the quality of our students’ experience.”

This is consistent with DeCoudreaux’ Nov. 8 message to alumnae, in which she said the College will have to make cuts to employee compensation, the largest part of the budget, and staff would be reorganized for greater efficiency. DeCoudreaux did not, however, mention layoffs as a possibility at that time.

“Meanwhile,” she wrote, “to advance Mills’ core mission of educating students, we will protect tenure-track faculty positions and hire new professors as needed to fill them.”

In October, the College’s budget reduction strategy included faculty salary reductions, staff furloughs and reduced contributions to employee retirement plans.

All of these cuts — from October’s reduced salaries to last week’s layoffs — will save the College $3.13 million, DeCoudreaux said.

The College’s $3.5 million shortfall hasn’t been completely closed, though. DeCoudreaux asked alumnae to invest in the College in her Dec. 7 message.

“Every gift — of every size — matters,” she wrote. “An increase in participation and contributions would play a huge role in helping us provide excellent academic programs, a supportive learning environment and scholarship that attract and retain outstanding students.”