SALEM — Staff at Salem State University have planned a protest on Friday to oppose the university's plan to balance its budget with as many as five weeks of furlough for all employees.

The protest, announced by leaders in Salem State's chapter of the Massachusetts State College Association, will begin at noon on Friday in front of the Sullivan Building on Central Campus, at the corner of Lafayette Street and Loring Avenue.

Salem State President John Keenan announced in early July that the university was proposing five weeks of furlough for all employees in an effort to close an $8.5 million budget gap. 

"The university started making drastic cuts before the COVID-19 pandemic," said Tiffany Chenault, president of the Salem State chapter, in a statement. "We fear that its continued austerity measures will undermine our ability to best support our diverse student population."

The protest will include echoes from the "We. Belong. Here." campaign, which the university's Massachusetts APA union chapter has been engaged in since February. According to the chapter's website, the campaign is designed to "help the Salem State Board of Trustees and state legislature understand who we are as a community and to advocate for the state funding we need."

"The economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis will require greater investment in public colleges and universities," Chenault said. "Students cannot be derailed from their education goals, and we must be prepared to assist those who will be seeking new opportunities as the state economy recovers from the effects of the pandemic."

Contact Salem reporter Dustin Luca at 978-338-2523 or DLuca@salemnews.com. Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/dustinluca or on Twitter @DustinLucaSN.

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