Fall in the non-profit world

This season it's not just the leaves that are dropping rapidly around Chicago; it seems that the sizes of the professional staffs at local cultural institutions are as well. Just today I got word of a special meeting called by the president of The Field Museum addressing new measures to fix the same broken budget that cost me my own job. This time there is a call for 50 positions to be vacated as soon as possible, preferably voluntarily by early retirement and general atrophy. For those facing the 'choice' of early retirement, apparently a statement was made to the effect that if they chose to stay on and refuse the 'early out,' their jobs wouldn't be guaranteed to be there in January. Lovely.

This seems to be a silent crisis going on in tandem with the much louder calamities occurring in the larger industrial sectors of the nation; non-profits freezing positions that have emptied, not renewing term positions that are about to end, and generally sucking the lifeblood out of all the work that they are trying to accomplish by depleting their staff of ground soldiers. What's left? Anyone with a PhD or a six-figure salary; how messed up is that? It will be interesting to see what kind of work gets done once these folks have to jump down from their pedestals and do all the leg work they formerly assigned to their minions. How much money will these museums be bringing in when the staff that help to physically create (not just the intellectual parts that curators come up with get it done) exhibits and events are gone and the work grinds to a halt?

Yes, I understand that times are hard and the money is short, but how about turning the gaze on some of the non-productive members of the staff at higher levels? It's not my place to name names, but there were no secrets about what curators were virtually dead weight at The Field Museum, yet they remain safe as this all goes down. Yes, this is an angry post, but this news has made me very angry. People, USEFUL people, friends who have given their lives to The Field Museum are being forced out like they're nothing - as though decades of service, and years more of viability mean nothing because it's harder to let go of someone with extra degrees and a mistaken assumption of tenure. There is no tenure track at The Field Museum, and therefore no good reason why curatorial staff couldn't be laid off as well. Plain and simple. But it's always the grunts that get cut in the end.

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