Guilford College professor credits grassroots group with saving his job

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GREENSBORO, N.C. — Some Guilford College employees have their former students to thank for saving their jobs. This after budget cuts threatened to remove 19 majors and 16 tenured professors.

Now, the grassroots group “Save Guilford” and college administrators are working together to ensure the school’s livelihood is preserved.

School leaders said they have built collaborative teams which include faculty, students and alumni to create a sustainable path forward.

But for professors whose fate dangled in the rear-view mirror for months said there’s still damage that’s been done.

American History Professor Damon Akins said it’s going to take some time for the Guilford College community to heal from it.

“It felt like the 20 of us had been sent overboard and we were in the water watching them trying to figure out if they would bail us out or let us sink,” Akins said. “Now, it feels like we’re back on the boat, but not out of the woods.”

Akins was one of 16 tenured professors whose jobs were on the chopping block.

“The letter retracted the previous letter and the previous letter had said we would be terminated in May. So that’s good news,” Akins said.

For months, Save Guilford’s ongoing efforts got them to not only raise concerns, but more importantly raise money to save their school.

Merril Daniels is with Save Guilford and said they have already gotten most donors to pledge a reasonable amount.

“We’ve done great. We’ve raised $3.3 million, but it’s harder without the resources of the actual college,” Daniels said.

After months of back and forth, the board of trustees in a surprise reversal, decided on Jan. 4 to instead team up with Save Guilford, faculty members and alumni to create working teams to address the issues.

The teams include enrollment stabilization and recruitment, fundraising, a faculty and staff collaborative team and constituent engagement team.

“We just want to make sure that every single part of the Guilford College community has a voice in that,” Daniels said.

For professor Akins, the effort his former and current students put forth to keep him behind his desk was life changing.

“I’m certain that if Save Guilford had not mobilized the way they did and as intensely as they did that the terminations would have gone forward,” he said.

While the decision gave him hope, it still doesn’t reverse the anxiety and uncertainty it caused him and his colleagues regarding their job security.

“These kinds of things they cut deep. They cut deep into the moral of the place. There’s going to be a lot of work necessary just to repair the damage that has already been done — hurt feelings,” Akins said.  “We need leadership. We need someone who can step in there in a leadership position, and really take on the problem of addressing grievances and grief and trauma. Morale is really bad,” he said.

Akins and alumni said the recent fundraising progress is a short-term fix, but it’s a start.

The collaborative teams will be holding listening sessions in the following weeks via Zoom where they can discuss matters involving the college.

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