David Celaya is one of about 30 staff members who learned last Thursday that his position was being eliminated due to budget cuts brought on by COVID-19. He’s worked for the university as a graphic designer for almost 5 years and he said he’s still in disbelief.
“I’m kind of in denial a little bit and especially because I’m still working on projects,” Celaya said. “What I’m doing today on this random Tuesday is not any different than what I was doing a couple weeks ago.”
Celaya said he has 90 days before he officially parts ways with the university in January. Although his layoff came as a surprise, Celaya said he knew the university wanted to cut costs.
“In my department it was a lot of figuring out where we can trim our budget, but eventually I thought it was very clear that there were going to have to be additional measures,” he said. But he assumed that meant a voluntary reduction of work hours, not layoffs.
Terry Wilson, president of the CSU Employees Union at Fresno State, said he too was aware the university was adjusting to budget cuts. But in a campus wide union meeting on October 9th, Wilson said he assured members that there was no discussion of layoffs with campus leadership.
When he received an email notice on Thursday morning notifying him of the layoffs, he said he was shocked.
“Typically they give us advance notice that they plan to lay off staff members,” Wilson said. “But this email was sent the same morning that those laid off received their notice.”
Lisa Boyles Bell, a spokesperson for the university, said that after reducing management positions by 16% earlier this year, Fresno State still had to cut staff to adjust for a $13.6 million permanent cut in state funding.
The union is now working to mitigate these layoffs, Wilson said. Nine staff members that received layoff notices have “retreat rights,” meaning they can be placed in a different position on campus, Wilson said.
“This year we have record breaking enrollment numbers,” Wilson said. “ We want to provide the best service during these times, especially with COVID-19, but it’s difficult to do that when we are also dealing with layoffs.”