Blue Mountain Community College lays off 5 as union plans legal challenges

By Antonio Sierra (OPB)
June 7, 2022 7:24 p.m.

The Eastern Oregon community college backs off from plan to lay off 10 people, but faculty still feel “heartbroken”

The Blue Mountain Community College Board of Education agreed to lay off five full-time faculty members at a special meeting Monday.


The college’s faculty union had been fighting the cuts for weeks, and members didn’t learn until the meeting that the administration was backing down from its original plan of cutting 10 positions.

Blue Mountain Community College

Blue Mountain Community College

Rob Manning / OPB

BMCC President Mark Browning said the college was able to curtail the cuts through a combination of cost savings and new revenue sources, including a $600,000 gift from Morrow County. If the college is able to increase enrollment over the next few months, Browning said BMCC could reverse further layoffs.

But in the college’s current state, the president said some cuts were necessary to offset years of declining enrollment.

Board members bemoaned the position the college was in financially, but backed the administration’s layoff plan. They also encouraged the union to join forces with administration to increase enrollment.

Vice chair Jane Hill said the layoff reduction could be attributed to the union’s private negotiations with Browning rather than its public campaign.


“It wasn’t community organizing and conveying to the community that we’re in crisis,” she said. “It was all of you coming together to do the hard work.”

News that some jobs had been saved brought little solace to the union, as members remained somber during Monday’s announcement.

A June 1 rally at the college’s Pendleton campus attracted more than 100 supporters, but Monday’s meeting only saw a little more than a dozen.

Union members and their supporters reiterated how the cuts would hurt students and create more burden for the beleaguered staff who remained at the school.

After the meeting, union President Sascha McKeon said the college’s suggestion that more layoffs could be reversed with better enrollment was “lip service words to make the blow feel a little less punchy.”

She said the responsibility of growing the student body is being put on instructors.

“It’s frustrating because it seems like in order to enact any change, it has to be the faculty,” she said. “And that is really hard when you are running at half mast, half staff, and brokenhearted at this point.”

Enrollment has been declining for years at BMCC. In 2012, the college had the equivalent of 900 full-time students. Last year, that number stood at just over 370. Fewer students means less tuition and state funding for the school.

Despite the board’s decision, the fight isn’t over for the union. McKeon said the union plans to file legal challenges to the layoff plan because of alleged violations to the collective bargaining agreement.

The moves won’t prevent the layoffs from going into effect, but the union has won grievances in the past during previous rounds of budget cuts.