New Financial Constraints Implemented

President | March 26, 2020

Dear Colleagues,
As we prepare to welcome back our students to the completion of the spring semester through remote and alternate delivery methods, I want to thank you all for your leadership during this time of unprecedented challenge.  I am very proud of the dedication you have shown to our students and each other as we have made difficult decisions to protect our community.  Now as the economic effect of the COVID-19 pandemic becomes more apparent, we must prepare for the reality that the events attendant to the virus will have an impact on our financial future.
I strongly believe that we are doing the right thing by changing our traditional campus life to allow students to complete their courses from the safety of their homes.  The health of our students, faculty, and staff will continue to be my highest priority.  We know that these decisions will result in a loss of already budgeted funds, and it is in this context that we also must prepare for the additional financial losses we could experience in the coming weeks and months.
We anticipate that our summer enrollment will be significantly less than in previous years, and that fall enrollment could also be negatively impacted.  It is prudent that we act now to conserve our resources for the future.  By acting quickly, we hope to be able to continue to provide the best possible educational environment for our students and to protect our employees.  
Therefore, I have asked my Cabinet to implement the following changes to our budgets. We will temporarily delay all new personnel actions including the posting of new positions and hiring to fill vacancies.  Certain exceptions will be allowed, such as the Vice President for Student Affairs, which I consider a critical position.  Requests for exceptions will be reviewed by the appropriate Cabinet member and require my approval.  

For the remainder of this fiscal year, which ends on August 31, 2020, I am restricting expenditures from operating budgets to 50 percent of the remaining balances.  The remaining 50 percent of the funds will be placed into “savings accounts” in your own budgets to provide a safety net in case these funds are needed in the next fiscal year.  
Currently, all university sponsored travel is cancelled.  This policy will remain in effect until health experts indicate it is safe to travel.  We know that many faculty members are planning to submit papers and proposals for delivery at academic conferences.  Assuming the lifting of shelter-in-place restrictions, faculty members can make submissions for conferences beginning with the next academic year.  Other travelers must receive an exception given by the appropriate Cabinet member. 
Since it is imperative for everyone to exercise tight fiscal controls on expenditures, additional cost savings measures in the area of facility construction have been identified and these include the delay of any renovations, improvement projects, or optional facility projects until the next fiscal year.  However, continued enhanced cleaning and routine facility repairs will be conducted as needed.  

I know that you will have many questions regarding how these changes will be implemented, and I have asked Provost Gene Bourgeois and Vice President for Finance and Support Services Eric Algoe to provide further details in the coming days.  
These changes will undoubtedly cause hardships and difficulty across our campuses, and I sincerely hope that many of the cost-saving measures will prove to be unnecessary in the months to come.  However, we would be remiss in our responsibilities as leaders if we do not act now.  The extraordinary challenges created by COVID-19 demand unprecedented fiscal discipline.  I will continue to keep you updated as we address this evolving situation.