Central State University in Greene County has announced it’s getting a $1 million gift from an alum, entrepreneur and media figure Josh Smith. On the same day the gift was announced, at least 17 people were laid off from the school.
The university has been in negotiations with labor unions for a while about the need to make cuts, and Central State spokeswoman Gayle Barge says seventeen people got letters on Tuesday—secretaries, facilities workers and mail people, many of them members of the AFSCME union.
“This is not unique to Central State,” Barge said Wednesday. “Universities, just like any other organization, continually look at their expenses and their income on an ongoing basis.” Barge could not name a dollar goal for budget cuts, saying only that the university is right-sizing its budget in an ongoing way.
The total staff at the school is just over 300 people, and 110 of those are faculty.
No faculty have been laid off, and it’s not clear whether more layoffs are coming. Representatives from AFSCME and from AAUP, which represents the faculty, both declined to be quoted, saying they are still awaiting information about the cuts.
Many state schools have seen layoffs and service cuts since 2008, although the most recent Ohio budget for 2014-2015 restored some of the money removed in post-Recession state budgets.
AFSCME has asked that any staffing cuts also consider cuts at the administration level. In this case, no administrators lost their jobs, although Barge said “whenever any reductions are made in staffing, they are looked at and made all across the board.”
Meanwhile, Josh Smith made his case for giving to the historically-black university.
“People don’t give to losers, losers are people you forget their names and addresses and you’re too busy for,” he said in a speech Tuesday at the school. “We’re going to show and demonstrate by deed what we’re doing and what we’re going to do.”
It’s not apparent Smith knew anything about the layoffs, and WYSO hasn’t since been able to reach Smith for comment. Barge says the press office was also unaware of the layoffs when they announced the donation, and that the timing was unrelated.
The university hasn’t earmarked the million-dollar donation for anything in particular, but Central State President Cynthia Jackson Hammond spoke about the school's fiscal needs Tuesday.
“It’s going to allow us to do a lot of things externally to our general operating budget, that enhances the quality of academic performance for our students, gives them greater experiences, allows us to be competitive in so many different areas,” she said.
Smith’s donation is one of the largest by a single donor in recent history, although since 2004, comedian Bill Cosby has raised more than $4 million for the school.
Wayne Baker contributed reporting for this story.