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Arts

UMSL Cuts Touhill Director Position, Citing Lost Revenue During Coronavirus Pandemic

111120_Provided_August Jennewein_Touhill.jpg
August Jennewein
/
University of Missouri-St. Louis
Citing lost revenue to the Touhill Performing Arts Center, the University of Missouri-St. Louis has eliminated the job of its director. UMSL officials say in a time of decreased state funding they're focusing more on students.

The Touhill Performing Arts Center at the University of Missouri-St. Louis is losing its director and has cut 14 jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.

University officials said they eliminated the job of Touhill Director John Cattanach because the coronavirus pandemic led to canceled shows, hurting the theater’s revenue.

“The university has been centralizing services for several years, and events venues [were] always on the list to be centralized,” UMSL spokesperson Bob Samples said. “Like everybody else, we were gauging how COVID was impacting the different facilities and when we might be able to bring people back together, and we determined that we would not bring anybody back together or allow any performances or events in the Touhill during the fall semester.”

The Touhill retained three full-time employees. The university’s event services department will now run the Touhill.

Samples said the Touhill is supported by its own revenue. But he said the changes there are part of UMSL’s efforts to limit spending.

UMSL officials don’t plan on bringing back performances during the spring semester, Samples said.

He said the Touhill could again schedule shows next year, if regional officials lift restrictions on crowds. Samples said the university is conducting an analysis of the Touhill and its assets.

Besides the coronavirus pandemic, he said, UMSL is coping with state budget cuts and must trim $21 million from its $220 million budget this fiscal year. Both have led to UMSL to reduce the salaries of 52% of staff members. The university also imposed limitations on travel and major purchases.

“We’ve had added expenses because of COVID-19,” Samples said. “So we’ve been dealing with those budget issues and the added expenses that have gone along with trying to maintain courses, so we have been trimming staff.”

Samples said UMSL will review the salary reductions quarterly. But he said they likely will remain in place until the next fiscal year, which begins in July. He said budget cuts are necessary, as the university had to draw money from its reserves. Samples said the university was on its way to balancing its budget before the impact of the pandemic and state cuts.

University officials say the changes at the Touhill also are part of a renewed effort to focus on students in a time of declining resources.

UMSL's priorities, Samples said, are teaching courses, having enough teaching personnel and recruiting, retaining and graduating students.

“Everything else is secondary, so that’s where we’ve been concentrating some of our reductions,” he said.

Follow Chad on Twitter @iamcdavis

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