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231 Smith employees slated for summer furlough

  • Smith College, photographed on Wednesday, May 20, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Smith College, photographed on Wednesday, May 20, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 5/20/2020 3:33:44 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Smith College will place 231 staff employees on full or partial furlough this summer, the college announced Wednesday.

Affected employees “are in departments throughout the college and are distributed nearly equally across administrative, administrative support and union roles,” college President Kathleen McCartney and Vice President for Finance and Administration David DeSwert wrote in a message to the campus community. Most will be placed on furlough starting June 1.

“To ensure that we are prepared to weather continued disruption and uncertainty, we must be careful stewards of the college’s financial resources,” McCartney and DeSwert wrote, referring to financial difficulties posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With the campus in remote operation and on-campus summer programs canceled, summer revenues have been erased,” the administrators wrote. Smith typically has “more robust summer programming” than many liberal arts colleges, they said, including School for Social Work programs and rentals by camps and conferences, and would usually host “hundreds of undergraduates living on campus to participate in summer research.”

The furlough is anticipated to last throughout the summer period, according to a frequently asked questions page on the Smith website, and could be extended if the college delays the fall semester or does not host students on campus in the fall. These scenarios could possibly lead to more employees being furloughed, the college added.

Furloughed employees will be eligible for unemployment benefits and $600-per-week Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation through July 31, though some employees “may elect to use accrued vacation rather than seek unemployment benefits,” McCartney and DeSwert wrote.

The college will also “continue to fund key benefits for furloughed employees,” such as health insurance and tuition assistance, they said, and will “cover the employee share of health insurance premiums for the first two pay periods of furlough.”

The college is also “allowing our endowment spending rate to temporarily increase” beginning July 1, McCartney and DeSwert wrote.

The announcement comes after the college said last month that it would place some staff members on furlough “if there is not sufficient work for them while the college remains in remote operation.” McCartney and DeSwert also announced at that time that they would each take a voluntary 20% pay cut for the first half of fiscal 2021 and that all vice presidents would take a voluntary cut ranging from 5% to 20% of their salary during this same period.

So far, all regular employees, including “those who cannot do their work remotely,” have continued to receive pay, according to the college.

A college spokeswoman declined to say how much money the college will save through the furloughs or how many employees will be fully furloughed over the summer. 

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettnet.com.

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