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Broward College Union Starts Petition To Bring Back 14 Counselors Laid Off Due To COVID-19

John O'Connor
State Impact Florida
Broward College laid off 14 counselors as part of a larger budget overhaul in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The union representing faculty at Broward College started a petition asking the administration to reinstate 14 counselors who were laid off in April, a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic’s economic devastation.

United Faculty of Florida’s Broward College chapter argues the firings of all of the school's faculty counselors came at the worst possible time, as students needed help in the abrupt transition to online learning. The counselors' focus was to help students succeed in classes and graduate.

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In a statement, union president Teresa Hodge said the college’s board and president should “exemplify leadership and courage during these difficult times” by rehiring the counselors and then working with the union to determine their futures.

The union also sees the move as a way to cut unionized employees and replace them with lower-paid workers without collective bargaining representation.

“The reduction in force of all 14 veteran faculty counselors without any warning, on top of the havoc the pandemic has already caused, sends the wrong kind of message to unionized educational institutions around the world,” Gladys Sanchez-Bello, one of the fired faculty counselors, said in a news release from the union. Sanchez-Bello worked at the college for 24 years.

During an interview on Sundial Monday, Broward College President Gregory Haile said the plan to phase out the faculty counselors had been underway for years to address pay inequity between the counselors and academic advisors, who have similar responsibilities.

The layoffs of the 14 counselors, in addition to other cuts, are allowing for the hiring of 30 academic advisors, and the former counselors have been given the opportunity to apply for those positions, he said.

In addition to the counselor jobs, the college is also cutting athletic programs, a preschool for students’ children and several event venues. The funding for those programs will be shifted instead to hire the academic advisors as well as embed tutoring in classes with the highest failure rates and establish on-campus food pantries.

“What the pandemic essentially does for all of us … is, if there are important financial decisions that need to be made for the health of the institution, it certainly accelerated that,” Haile said.

UPDATED: This story was updated at 5:45 p.m. to include a response from Broward College President Gregory Haile.

Jessica Bakeman is Director of Enterprise Journalism at WLRN News, and she is the former senior news editor and education reporter. Her 2021 project "Class of COVID-19" won a national Edward R. Murrow Award.
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