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What started as the usual routine of attending classes Monday, Feb. 9, was temporarily interrupted by an urgent series of text messages.
Text messages buzzed around campus that an emergency town hall meeting was called by Clark Atlanta University President Carlton Brown.
Brown and his administration have held a series of meetings to discuss a plan to minimize the impact of the economic crisis on the CAU community.
This time Brown and his colleagues felt it was necessary to host a town hall meeting Monday evening with students to share the seriousness of the economic crisis and its effects on the education realm.
Kristen Reed/CAU Panther
Darah Paige Cubit, Brandon Haygood
"This economy is tanked," Brown said.
According to Brown, last fall his administration conjured up a "budget that would accommodate 4,300 students;" however, due to "issues with the economy CAU only enrolled 4,100."
Brown said the budget was revised in Oct. 2008 with the assumption that the economy would stabilize, yet this did not occur causing a major influx in the budget.
Maurice Simpson, a sophomore political science major, saw a brighter side. "Although we are suffering a recession, I do see a positive future with our new administration. We are going to have to go through a struggle but that's just something we are going to have to deal with."
Brown said careful measures will be utilized to suffice for the budget loss; yet, Simpson questioned if the administration has exhausted all of their options before considering layoffs.
Simpson said he wondered if top administrators would be willing to take salary cuts and if faculty could also agree to pay adjustments.
"Rather [than] faculty completely losing jobs, maybe they could take a week without pay or no paid vacation. It is better to have a job without a week of pay than to not have a job at all."
Brown explained how the economy has affected the school. The low enrollment for the 2008-2009 academic year occurred because students could not find co-signers for loans, or because of lost of jobs and foreclosures within some households.
As a result, Brown said "immediate action must be taken; it is our job to take care of you and to preserve this institution's future."
Brown said that "70 plus faculty and staff members will be laid off in the coming week" in order to rehabilitate some of the budget. Shrieks, gasps and even blank stares filled the faces of students in the multipurpose room as students began to whisper to their neighbors about their classroom sizes.
Brown said some classes will have to be consolidated in order to make up for the lost professors in the departments that will be hit.
Breana Wilson, a sophomore political science major, said that she is concerned about "losing good professors" to the campus wide layoff.
In addition to the budget being tightened in-house, donors and sponsors outside the institution have been at an all-time low. All of the Atlanta University Center (AUC) institutions have lost major percentages of their endowments.
"This is not just a CAU phenomenon, not an HBCU phenomenon but every institution [nationwide] has lost a percentage of their endowment," Brown said.
A version of this article was originally published in the online edition of The Panther, the Clark Atlanta University student newspaper.