UW lays off technology workers
More than 60 employees of the University of Washington's Technology division will be laid off at the end of June.
Seattle Times higher education reporter
The University of Washington announced today that it is laying off 66 employees from its technology division — representing one of the largest cutbacks at the university in at least a decade.
UW Technology Vice President Ron Johnson said the increasing availability of free or low-cost services on the Web through companies such as Google, Microsoft and Amazon.com are rendering some UW services — such as e-mail and document sharing — obsolete. He said annual revenue has dropped by $10 million, to $40 million.
"Things really have changed in fundamental ways," Johnson said. "In our world, for a very long time, it was a world of gurus. We were masters of technology, and we would provide it to other people. Now, people are masters of their own technology, and they just need some help. We are much more facilitators of technology now, rather than providers."
The UW Technology division is set up to be largely self-funding, much like a small business. It relies on fees it charges to faculty and departments. About 100,000 people across the UW's three campuses and two hospitals use its services, including phone and e-mail systems.
Johnson said the remaining 360 or so employees should be secure in their jobs because many core functions, such as payroll and Internet services, won't be going away.
Johnson said a "perfect storm" of events meant he wasn't aware of the dire revenue situation until late February or early March, about six months after the problems began.
That perfect storm included a restructuring of the financial reporting process and some key people who were "not on top of the situation in the way we would have liked," Johnson said. A couple of people have resigned or retired as a result, he added.
"There was a lot of denial going on in this," Johnson said. "Everybody wanted to assume the rosy scenario, not the bad case."
A number of large research universities are finding themselves in a similar situation, Johnson said, and he wouldn't be surprised if layoffs followed in other parts of the country.
The UW layoffs are effective June 30 and include people who work in a range of different jobs. About a dozen of the affected workers are unionized. The UW said it would try to place people in jobs elsewhere on campus or in the region whenever possible.
An internal UW review of what went wrong in the division is expected to be completed in a month or two.
Nick Perry: 206-515-5639 or email@example.com
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