University not very public about layoffs

Mike Klesta

The university has made a mistake bigger than its $6.5 million budget deficit.

An unconfirmed number of university employees was laid off Friday. But the university offered conflicting information, at times saying it didn’t have a name list of those affected.


Letting employees go is never a pleasant decision. But the university could have used it to its advantage. Hey, Columbus! We had to lay off employees because you keep trimming our budget.

But, no. The university decided to put up roadblocks the entire way, telling TV-2 Thursday that the layoffs were just “rumors.” Kent State intentionally hid public information, perhaps because the fat cats at the top weren’t affected. It’s bad PR to cry about budget cuts and only cut the lowest-paid employees. What about administrators making six figures? What about spouses of administrators who were given positions specifically created when the other spouse was hired? The university needs to be up front with the public in order to defeat rampant rumors.

My reporter, Rachel Abbey, spent Friday attempting to get some questions answered. Instead, she was met by vague responses and stubbornness.

I ended up going to the Executive Offices on the second floor of the library Friday. The receptionist (extremely friendly and helpful) told Carolyn Pizzuto, vice president of Human Resources, about my request for a list of employees being laid off — a public record. Pizzuto subsequently told me Scott Rainone, assistant director of Media Relations, was handling the information and could provide me with it. I told her I had already spoken to him, but she said he would take care of it.

After visiting his office across campus, Rainone said he didn’t know why she sent me to him. He did not have access to the information, but Pizzuto did. He apologized.

Pizzuto and most of the administration we dealt with were intentionally putting up roadblocks so we couldn’t access the information. It’s appalling that a public institution, where most information is public record, could be so secretive. The worst part about it is the administration lied about its having the information. Officials had it all along.

6:30 p.m. Friday

Carolyn Pizzuto calls, responding to the message I left her after leaving the executive offices at 4:45. She said she cannot give me the list of names until the Stater’s public records request is approved early this week. I ask her about the rumored 49 employees who were laid off. She said there weren’t 49 and wonders how I got such misinformation. I told her I got the information from the only sources who would talk — those hearing rumors around Kent State. The university was not cooperating.

Pizzuto said the university wants to make a formal announcement of the layoffs one time — today. And that even though the employees were notified Friday, President Carol Cartwright was out of town and would make the formal statement upon her return. The university handled the situation horrendously. By not saying anything, rumors ran rampant across campus. At one point, employees thought a police escort led seven laid-off employees out of University Health Services.

Kent State employees face an uncertain future. The lack of information makes it worse.

Mike Klesta is a senior newspaper journalism major and editor of the Daily Kent Stater. He can be contacted at [email protected].