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Western Illinois University layoffs raise concern for Botany Greenhouse

This is the last week for 132 Western Illinois University employees who received layoff notices earlier this month.

As they count down their final days on campus, faculty and staff said they worry about what this means for the school and students. They said, the layoffs weren’t thought through and are now impacting departments.

Jeff Hillyer spends his last days as a WIU employee in the Botany Greenhouse– where he’s spent the last 31 years.

Hillyer is one of two faculty members who know how to maintain the diverse group of plants in the greenhouse.

But with both of them laid off– he said the future of the green house in jeopardy.

“It will change, cause there’s a lot of little things that they just don’t realize that has to be done,” Hillyer said. “Not just on a daily basis, but throughout the year to keep this stuff alive.”

Hillyer said students in the department of Biological Sciences department use the green house for class and research– something he said the university failed to think about.

“They’re just looking at dollar figures,” Hillyer said. “They’re not looking at the overall value of this here and what they have invested in this.”

Students at WIU said the greenhouse plays an important part in learning skills within their major and that they would hate to see it go.

“Well I have classmates that are in classes for Botany, so I’m just wondering, like, what are you guys going to do? Are you guys going to end up canceling the class? Like there are people going to school here,” WIU Senior Natalie Castro said.

“They love it,” WIU Senior Mary Cushing said. “They love learning about all the different parts of plants and nature and everything. It’s sad to see them freak out about what they’re going to do with their future now.”

In the meantime, people on campus hope for the best.

“I’ve been trying to give them a little bit of my knowledge so that it can limp along until they develop a plan,” Hillyer said. “But really there’s no continuity of knowledge, no continuity of care that was envisioned when the layoffs were announced.”

A spokesperson with the university released a very short statement on the issue saying: “Options are being explored to ensure care and maintenance continues.”

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Kara Biernat

Kara Biernat is a MultiMedia Journalist for WGEM News.

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