June 7, 2011

Following Student Protests, Laid-Off AAP Staffer Offered Part-Time Job

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Brian Beeners, a tech shop supervisor in the College of Architecture, Art and Planning, has been offered a one-year job in a reduced role, according to a person with knowledge of the arrangement. The offer follows student protests against Beeners’ layoff, which was announced on May 12 by Kent Kleinman, dean of AAP.

After serving as the supervisor of 10 shops for most of his career, Beeners will work “in a tech position as part of a team,” according to the person, who requested anonymity due to the confidential nature of the employment offer. The person added that Beeners’ position “hasn’t been defined yet.”

Dagmar Richter, chair of the Department of Architecture, said she did not think the offer sounded substantive, but added that she did not know much about it because faculty had been kept in the dark.

“If the offer I heard through the rumor mill is true — a one-year, 50-percent part-time position — then I must admit I would not know why such an offer is given at all, as it looks more like a move to calm the many protesting alumni than a true dignified offer to a long-time employee,” she said.

Rachel Marshall, senior administrative associate in the office of the dean, said Kleinman could not comment because ongoing University negotiations with personnel are confidential. Several AAP professors contacted for this article also declined to comment.

Beeners did not comment on the specifics of the job offer but said he had a “positive” meeting with Kleinman and that he “realize[s] the dean’s position.”

However, Beeners lamented the impact his layoff would have on both AAP students and his family.

“We are hurting right now and losing this job meant killing my soul in a way,” said Beeners, who has two young children and a mother-in-law dependent on him for financial assistance.

Beeners, 56, said he doubts he can find a replacement job.

“There’s nothing out there; it’s difficult to find work at my age and special niche job expertise,” he said.

He added that it would be particularly difficult to let go of his home of 25 years, which he does not believe he will be able to afford without the job.

Additionally, the layoff was difficult because “there was no doubt about this job being in existence for years to come,” Beeners said. “This was totally unexpected.”

Beeners said that his experience and in-depth knowledge of the shop has made him central to its “excellent” record of preventing accidents.After a student suffered a hand injury in 1993, Beeners created a shop safety program that 130 to 150 students must go through every year before they can use the shop.

“The results have been incredible,” Beeners said, noting that there have been only four minor accidents in the shop in the last fifteen years. “I would hope it would run just as well [in my absence]; however, my job has been to be at the forefront of safety.”

Beeners said that the importance of the support he tried to give to students only became clear to him after the layoff, which prompted a large protest and an outpouring of dissent.

Continuing their criticism of the administration, students called the part-time job offer to Beeners a mostly diplomatic maneuver that does little to address their concerns.

“The offer borders on the minimal decency that the University could provide for someone who has served them in the capacity that Brian Beeners has. The message Dean Kleinman is giving him translates to something along the lines of, ‘I guess we have to be a little nicer about it, but we still want you gone,’” Daniel Torres ’14 said.

Stephanie Gitto ’14 agreed, calling the decision “a way to placate the current student body, not an actual solution.”

“If that’s how things stand, I’m sure we’ll be seeing the same fight for Brian happening again next year,” Gitto said.

Others said the University was treating Beeners unfairly by offering him what amounts to a demotion.

Mercedes Cuvi ’13 said the part-time job was a “half-hearted offer” to Beeners, who has “devoted his life to the University and its students.”

“Twenty hours a week is not enough to survive on. Brian has two young children, a wife and a home to maintain,” she said.

When students first protested the decision, Kleinman said that Beeners was laid off because of “restructuring and administrative streamlining measures.”

Kleinman defended the decision as a necessary measure to cope with budgetary constraints while preserving AAP students’ education, and said he would take the student protesters’ views into consideration.

Some students, such as Melinda Zoephel ’13, acknowledged that they had been listened to.

“It appeared as though Kent Kleinman agrees with most of the points that people are bringing up about how much Brian means to the program and how important he’s been,” she said.

Still, Zoephel said that “the students as a whole find the offer unacceptable … We want [Beeners] there full-time, but we seem to be at a stalemate with the Deans.”

Beeners called the students his “guardian angels” and said that not continuing to teach them would be crushing.

“To not be able to work with these students, who are so creative, would just leave me an empty shell of a man,” Beeners said. “I would lose not only my job but the essence of my life for the last 25 years.”

Original Author: Jeff Stein