AKRON, Ohio-- One day after laying off employees at E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall, the University of Akron has released a statement saying it will honor and deliver on all previously contracted events, including a performance scheduled for August 8.
Employees from ticket sales to stage hands were sent home Monday as the University exercised its plan to eliminate 215 positions in an effort to reduce a $60-million budget deficit.
"The budget that was passed by the board on June 10th outlined a framework for decisions that need to be made and today we are seeing the recommendations of the president about the various abolishment of the positions that need to occur in keeping with that framework," said University spokesman, Wayne Hill.
"As President Scarborough said, we wanted to make these difficult decisions now. We fully appreciate and feel for the impact it has on individuals but make that decision at once and then move on to the new areas of focus," added Hill.
The decision leaves concerns about performances scheduled and advertised for E.J. Thomas Hall.
The University's Vice President of Advancement, Lawrence Burns, released a statement on Tuesday which reads:
“While several questions have been raised about the status of the August 8th “Dancing with the Stars” performance at The University of Akron’s EJ Thomas Hall, we intend to honor and deliver on all previously contracted events – including “Dancing with the Stars” – and are working to ensure that it continues as scheduled. The plans for academically-oriented programming will continue and we will be working in the weeks and months ahead with other community partners as it relates to additional programming that may be scheduled at EJ Thomas Hall.”
E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Center Executive Director Daniel Dahl, however, expressed concern about how they will be able to do anything.
"I have no idea how they intend on accomplishing that. The staff is all gone; the ticket office is closed. We have been told not to let anybody else in," said Dahl.
Dahl said administrators who are under contract were sent home on two weeks administrative leave, but even after they return they will not be able to do everything by themselves.
"You still need the ticket office; you still need the ushers; you still need the tech staff to help with the stage hands; you still need people. It's like you put on a dinner at a dining hall, you still need servers; you still need people to cook the food; you still need people to help them get to their seats," said Dahl.
E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Center is also home to The Akron Symphony, which is planning for its opening night on September 19.
"The president has stated that the academic programming and community rentals will continue as planned. We rent the facility so we are unaffected. My assurance from the university is that our performances will go on as planned," Symphony Executive Director Paul Jarrett told Fox 8 on Tuesday.
Jarrett said the symphony is a large organization with a wide range of volunteers who could help through the season; however, he could not comment on what might happen with stage hands.
In addition to the layoffs, the University has also already eliminated its baseball team, but told Fox 8 there has never been any discussion about making cuts to the football program.
"We think that football in and of itself along with basketball and men's soccer and hopefully women's basketball are the sports we can use to hopefully attract people to the campus and be really the front porch to the marketing effort of the institution," Vice President for Finance and Acting Athletic Director Nathan Mortimer told Fox 8 News.
Dahl said the performing arts center does that and much more.
"We have brought over 400,000 people per year on a regular basis over nine ten months; that's four hundred thousand. We are the living room," said Dahl.
It appears tickets for a Broadway series that was scheduled to begin in November and to a Manheim Steamroller concert planned for December were no longer being sold.
Students at the University on Tuesday were anxious to hear how the layoffs will impact the center, which has hosted performers, concerts, lectures, the symphony, youth symphony and University of Akron graduations.
"It's just a nice break sometimes just to go and see a show with friends and it helps the community as well; it brings Broadway here to the locals," said Deante Jones.
"This is a community venue. It's important to the students at the school of music and it just seems that music is always the first to go," said Kin Meredith.
University of Akron Vice President of Advancement Lawrence Burns released the following statement on Wednesday.
“Media reports that The University of Akron plans to close its Multicultural Center and University Press are incorrect. Neither entity will close and UA’s commitment to both diversity and the support of the humanities is resolute.
“The Multicultural Center’s operations are being consolidated with the university’s Office of Inclusion & Equity. This consolidated unit is being elevated and will report directly to the president.
“University Press operations are being transferred to UA’s Division of Libraries.
“Working in close consultation with faculty leadership – including the head of the Faculty Senate and the president of the AAUP-Akron chapter – there was an in-depth and comprehensive nine-month review of university finances that led up to the development of the University’s budget. Unfortunately, position eliminations were a necessary part of the budget-balancing work to strengthen UA’s financial health. As part of that process, it was determined that there would be no faculty layoffs to ensure the academic mission of the University was protected.”