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Email from President Davidson
April 24, 2020
On Wednesday, I met with leaders from across the University to discuss preliminary budget cuts that would enable us to cover the $5.3 million General Fund shortfall we have so far incurred as a result of costs associated with COVID-19. Working together, we were able to identify cuts from each division that should help us bridge the gap for this fiscal year without needing to resort to layoffs, salary cuts or furloughs at this time.
Having so far avoided those painful cuts to personnel does not mean that this first round of Universitywide cuts will come without pain. These decisions are never easy, in particular, as they affect our ability to serve students. Based on recommendations submitted by leaders in each division, the primary areas identified for short-term cost containment were the cancellation of some travel and events, pausing certain programs and tapping into position-vacancy savings. The resulting hiring “chill” means that while we are retaining current employees in this round of cuts, we are essentially losing future employees who would help us better accomplish our educational mission.
I want to caution that this analysis is only preliminary and there are still many variables at play that could impact budget decisions in the coming weeks. Dramatic decreases in state funding, steep declines in summer and fall enrollment and any additional unforeseen costs associated with COVID-19 will be major factors as we try to balance the budget for this fiscal year and beyond. Contingency planning for returning to campus this fall includes scenarios on a continuum from best to worst cases depending on how the health crisis evolves. Based on the latest information, we will almost certainly need to implement additional cost-saving measures, especially for FY 20-21. Our Board of Trustees will consider all relevant data and options as part of a holistic approach to cost containment, including the assessment of executive compensation, furloughs, voluntary early retirements and pay cuts.
As I noted in my last email, University leadership will continue to use an inclusive, analytical and values-based process to make these difficult decisions. And we will do so with three principles in mind: putting students first; supporting and being fair to employees; and being strategic.
We will get through this together. If we manage this challenge well in the short- and medium-terms, I genuinely believe that we will come out stronger on the other side and better positioned for long-term success. Thank you to the leaders from across the University who have stepped up to work on this process. And thank you to every Roadrunner for your understanding, support for each other and patience as we navigate the road ahead together.
Janine Davidson, Ph.D.