Saturday, December 2, 2023

The coronavirus caused layoffs, furloughs, but area universities continue to operate and pay employees

The Sir Christopher Wren Building sits at the head of the W&M campus, just before you cross into Colonial Wililamsburg. (WYDaily/Courtesy of William & Mary)
The Sir Christopher Wren Building sits at the head of the W&M campus, just before you cross into Colonial Wililamsburg. (WYDaily/Courtesy of William & Mary)

Hundreds of people have lost their jobs or been furloughed from county employees and hospital staff to Busch Gardens staff and restaurant workers.

As the coronavirus continues to spread across the Peninsula, some employers such as the College of William & Mary, Christopher Newport University and Thomas Nelson Community College will continue to pay their staff.

At William & Mary, all in-person classes have been suspended and students were sent home. While the school remains open technically, many employees are working from home, leaving the campus mostly empty.

However, employees at William & Mary are continuing to perform their regular jobs to support students, faculty and research, said Erin Zagursky, associate director of University News. The college has modified its ways of working along with its instructional approach as many faculty and staff work remotely.

Employees are also getting advanced training that will help them cultivate their skills and complete assignments such as research and special projects.

There is limited staffing physically on campus, Zagursky said, so for some employees, there is the option to use the Public Health Emergency Leave that has been authorized by Gov. Ralph Northam.

Zagursky said William & Mary has not furloughed or laid off any employees. Employees in the dining facilities or at the bookstore are contracted through vendors such as Sodexo and Barnes & Noble and do not fall under the college’s domain.

“The university values each of its employees and continues to operate during this challenging time thanks to their hard work and dedication,” Zagursky wrote in an email.

Christopher Newport University

“The bottom line point here is that the University is open and fulfilling its mission of educating students,” Jim Hanchett, spokesman for CNU, wrote in an email. “Faculty and staff are working.”

All university staff are being paid and there has not been a reduction in benefits.

“We are a state institution and Gov. Northam and the General Assembly have assured that state employees will continue to be paid,” Hanchett wrote. “There is also continuing tuition revenue because classes and instruction continue.”

Most of CNU’s staff are teleworking save for a “handful” of employees considered essential, including faculty who need to access online learning equipment for classes, Hanchett said.

“It is a very small number and changes based on changing conditions,” he added. “For example, CNU Police officers and personnel are essential, the staff that serves the few students on campus are essential and a few administrative employees and senior staff.”

Thomas Nelson Community College

Lynda Byrd-Poller, director of Human Resources at Thomas Nelson Community College, wrote in an email all of their employees are being paid and the college will not furlough its employees at this time.

“We plan to pay our employees for as long as we can,” she wrote. “We are following the guidance of the VCCS and DHRM as we work to individually address the needs of our workforce.”

While most employees are teleworking, those who cannot such as technical personnel — grounds, building maintenance and police — must report to campus each day.

Byrd-Poller said the college is determining alternative work assignments and is encouraging those employees “hybrid telework options” and continues to adjust their work with the goal of having them telework completely.

“The next option is for employees to take advantage of the various types of leave available to them both personal and sick, previously earned by the employees, and now other forms of state and federal emergency leave options,” she added.

But what about cafeteria workers and custodial staff?

“We do not have cafeteria workers or custodial staff,” she wrote. “Last spring, in a reduction of force, we had to separate our custodial workers and now those services are contracted.”


Julia Marsigliano
Julia Marsigliano
Julia Marsigliano is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She covers everything on the Peninsula from local government and law enforcement agencies to family-run businesses and weather updates. Before WYDaily, she covered Hampton and Newport News for WYDaily’s sister publication, HNNDaily before both publications merged in December 2018. Julia was born in Tokyo, Japan and moved to Long Island, New York in 2001. A true New Yorker, she loves pizza, bagels and good Chinese food. Send comments, tips and other tidbits to You can follow her on Twitter at @jmarsigliano

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