Dear Faculty and Staff,
As previously indicated, I am writing to share some important decisions with you as we continue navigating the coronavirus crisis and take steps to prepare for the fall in this unprecedented and uncertain time.
Our full intent is to reopen campus in the fall for the return of new and continuing students and the continuation of their education with in-person classes. The beginning of the academic year will not look like it has in the traditional sense. There are complex issues to address. Planning and preparation have already begun in parts of the university. The health, safety and well-being of our campus community will remain the highest priority as we determine which option, or blend of options (e.g. in person or hybrid), to pursue for the fall. We know that strict social distancing and enhanced safety measures, including a robust infrastructure for testing, tracing and isolation, will need to be in place for all areas and aspects of our campus for an extended period of time.
I have appointed nine members to The President’s Task Force on Reopening Fall 2020 to lead these efforts. We will share more on the task force and its work soon and in May we will share more on our planning for fall with students, parents and all of you.
The pandemic has also presented us with difficult decisions in sustaining and fulfilling our educational mission because of the unexpected financial challenges it has created across higher education this spring and will continue to create for us into the coming academic year. The decisions we have made and share with you today are in response to the transition to remote instruction this spring, students no longer taking classes on campus and relatively few remaining in residence halls, the resulting $7 million in revenue losses and the uncertainties surrounding Fall Quarter.
In order to secure the university’s financial health and well-being now and longer-term, we have made the following decisions with the full support of the Board of Trustees:
Mandatory and voluntary pay reductions, effective May 1 to July 31: The cabinet and deans will take mandatory pay reductions of 10 percent, with a voluntary reduction up to 20 percent. Staff at the director level up to the vice president level have been asked to take a voluntary reduction of 5 to 20 percent. Full-time faculty have been invited to consider a voluntary reduction of 5 to 10 percent. In determining these temporary pay reductions, we sought to take into account a range of individual and family circumstances that people have at any given time.
Temporary furloughs, effective May 1 to July 31: Like many of our peer institutions, we are implementing temporary unpaid furloughs for staff whose work has substantially changed because of the transition to a virtual learning environment and no in-person classes or activities on campus. The decision affects 78 staff members across the university. Our intention is that they return to work at the start of August. The university will cover 100 percent of health insurance premiums for furloughed staff, covering both the employer and employee portions. Tuition remission benefits will continue for furloughed staff, and vacation time and sick leave remain intact for their return. They will be immediately eligible for unemployment benefits from the state and the additional $600 per week from the federal government through July 31. According to a recent report in the Seattle Times, the “break even” point for individuals receiving the enhanced benefits is an annual salary of $62,500. Our Human Resources staff is providing furloughed staff with additional information and assistance beginning today. All affected staff have been notified.
Merit increases for FY21 are paused: There will be no merit-based compensation increases for the fiscal year starting July 1.
Continuation of hiring freeze: The hiring freeze put in place last month will remain in effect until further notice. Any exception for critical staff positions will need the approval of the Provost, Executive Vice President or Chief Financial Officer. Faculty hires will require the approval of the Provost.
Temporary COVID-19 supplemental leave pay is ending: The university is unable to continue funding the supplemental leave pay that was previously extended through April 30. The supplemental leave pay included coverage for employees who have been unable to perform their work from home because of the nature of their duties.
FY21 budget decisions: The Board of Trustees today approved a total of 4.2 percent, or $9.1 million, in reductions to begin FY21. The reductions were part of our prior work to reposition the university academically and financially. The Board was briefed on the three financial scenarios we have in place for FY21 and will approve the FY21 budget in November, after more is known in terms of the pandemic and its impact on university finances this fall. We will be sharing additional information on FY21 and the financial scenarios soon. The expectation is that additional reductions in FY21 will be necessary. It is simply too early to know the extent of reductions that will be needed given the high level of uncertainty at this time.
These decisions were extremely difficult. In making them we sought to do what is best for our university, while minimizing to the extent possible the impacts on members of our campus community. We will remain committed to upholding this principle.
I have also decided to host this quarter’s President Forum in a virtual format on Thursday, May 14. An email invite with more details will be sent out next week. The forum will be an opportunity to discuss several important issues, including those covered in this communication.
As a mission-driven university, we are guided by a core set of values and an extraordinary commitment to serve our students with a high level of care and excellence—regardless of whether this takes place in person, remotely or in a hybrid format. You, our faculty and staff, have led the way with these values during this crisis. We must continue to recognize and attend to the very human dimension of the pandemic within our own community and the significant disruption and challenges it has brought to our personal and professional lives.
I know we all share feelings of anxiety over the pandemic and how it continues to affect our lives, personally and as a university. At the same time, as the past several weeks have shown, we are a community that is more than up to facing this challenge. More than ever, it is important that we continue to support and be present for one another as we move forward together in service of our students, university and mission.
Please know that I am praying for each of you and for our students and alumni.
Stephen V. Sundborg, S.J.