A quick Google search of "university faculty layoffs" (without the quotation marks) reveals many recent news stories on state universities terminating faculty and staff.
For those who want to know the typical scenario, there are standards set by the AAUP, the American Council on Education, and legal precedent ("protected classes," including those over age 40 have special consideration under the law).
The best guide I found was from the American Council on Education.
The following is a typical situation explaining who is most likely to be laid off and in what order. This layoff procedure is from Wayne State (where a previous SIUC provost went) and fairly typical of unionized colleges: http://www.aaupaft.org/contracts/art10.html
"A. Faculty Layoffs
1. Normally, part-time faculty will be laid off first followed by lecturers. In unusual circumstances when special experience is essential to the unit, a full-time or fractional-time faculty member may be laid off, while the part-time faculty member is retained. If the budgetary constraints prove it impossible to staff the range of courses with the full-time and/or fractional-time faculty, then the full-time and fractional-time faculty may be offered the opportunity to teach the courses on an overload basis without additional compensation rather than to use part-time faculty during the academic year.
2. Additional faculty layoffs shall occur in the following order: (a) non-tenure-track faculty by rank and (within rank) by length of service at the University, (b) untenured faculty on tenure track by rank and (within rank) by length of service at the University, (c) tenured faculty by rank and (within rank) by length of service at the University. For purposes of this paragraph, untenured lecturers and senior lecturers with more than seven years service shall be treated as tenured faculty."
Life is not simple when it comes to layoffs, particularly when tenure and unions are involved. The wise faculty member will consult their union representative (if they have a union), read their state education labor law, and do what I have done--consult with a lawyer.
"Hope for the best, plan for the worst" is the motto for these times.
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