The following message was shared with faculty and staff by University president Rev. Mark L. Poorman, C.S.C., on Thursday, April 2:
Dear Staff and Faculty Colleagues:
If my recent experiences are like yours, the past few weeks have been filled with challenge and concern. Nearly every person across the globe has been touched by the COVID-19 pandemic, including everyone who is part of our UP community.
When challenging times arise, I remind myself to pause and identify gifts for which I can be grateful. Over the past few weeks, I find myself constantly returning to my gratitude for you, our staff and faculty. Despite the challenges in your own lives, you’ve continued to serve our mission and our students. You’ve exhibited tremendous creativity, flexibility, and grace. You’ve helped us to retain what’s so distinct about UP, even amid unsettled times. For your extraordinary efforts, please know of my gratitude and the gratitude of those we serve.
With this message, I’ll summarize where we’ve been and share where we’ll be going. I recognize that this email is lengthy, but I thank you for reading it in its entirety. First, to recap, in the past few weeks:
- We’ve maintained our strong commitment to students. Most students have returned home, and we continue to support approximately 140 students who remain on campus.
- We’ve transitioned to online education. This required a considerable amount of adjustment. However, students and faculty are becoming increasingly familiar with the instructional technology we’re now using, and UP’s approach to personalized education will continue notwithstanding this change in how it’s delivered.
- Most staff have transitioned to teleworking, and they’ve done so with trademark expertise, adaptability, and ingenuity.
- We’ve made the exceptionally difficult decision to cancel in-person Commencement. As I write this note to you, a cross-divisional effort is underway to plan an online Commencement that makes the best use of available technology.
- We’ve donated personal protective equipment to the health care providers at Providence Health & Services. As many of you know, Providence operates some of the busiest emergency departments in the Portland area and its doctors, nurses, and other health-care professionals are on the front lines of this pandemic in our community. Providence is a longstanding partner to UP and our School of Nursing, and I’m glad that we’ve taken steps to help keep its providers and patients safe.
Having shared this summary, I’d like to provide an overview of where we intend to go. As I do so, I note that the University’s financial standing is sound. We conduct scenario planning and we practice strict budget adherence to prepare ourselves for business disruptions. Nevertheless, the economic ramifications of COVID-19 have been unprecedented. We’re still unsure as to how this pandemic will impact enrollment, endowment performance, and the overall health of the global economy. We don’t know when we’ll be able to return to normal. These variables are subject to rapid change, and many of the factors contributing to the uncertainty of present times are simply beyond our control.
What remains within our control, however, are steps we can take now to protect our faculty and staff while safeguarding our ability to advance our institutional mission. While we hope for the best, we’re preparing for difficult times ahead and we’re taking necessary action now to put UP in the best possible position. As noted, summer enrollment, first-year enrollment in the fall, student retention, endowment performance, and the overall health of the economy may impact University finances. For a smaller, tuition-dependent institution like ours, we must all work with a spirit of camaraderie and collaboration to weather the present challenges.
The goal I have established for UP is to maintain the employment of all University employees. This is our top priority. We know that livelihoods and families depend on this, and our people are critical to our success as an institution. I understand that layoffs are currently a part of the national conversation. I recognize the stress and anxiety that many are facing when it comes to this issue. Before even considering options like layoffs, UP will evaluate all other available strategies, such as a freeze on salary increases, reductions in work hours, and other budget measures.
In an effort to be as transparent as possible, the points below detail the belt-tightening strategies we’ll employ in order to achieve our goals and limit discretionary spending:
- The University will impose a freeze on hiring until at least September 30, 2020. Exceptions will be granted on a case-by-case basis by the Budget Working Group, the group that is normally tasked with position approval.
- No business travel, conference attendance, or expenditure of professional development funds will be allowed during the summer months. This includes faculty travel to academic conferences. Some rare exceptions to this rule may occur.
- New capital expenditures will be limited to those required for the safe operation of campus or subject to a legal mandate.
- No overtime will be permitted for hourly staff, with exceptions evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
- All divisions and offices across campus will maintain their ongoing strict adherence to budgets.
- UP will continue to work with higher education trade associations and elected officials to seek support for higher ed institutions and their employees.
- In the future, staff hours may vary or be reduced due to specific job needs. However, if changes in work hours occur, this will happen no sooner than May 15. Staff hours are not changing at this time.
No final determinations have been made with respect to faculty and staff salary increases for the coming year. I emphasize that these belt-tightening strategies are intended to put our University in the best-possible position moving forward.
When I reflect on the history of UP, I am struck by numerous occasions in which the institution faced threats to its continued operations. On each occasion, faculty and staff displayed creativity, unity, resilience, and devotion to our community on The Bluff. The present times call upon all of us, collectively as faculty and staff, to do the same. With collaboration, discipline, and concern for one another, UP will endeavor to succeed in the present turbulence. Together, we’ll strive to pursue the same things we’ve pursued for the past 119 years: teaching and learning, faith and formation, service and leadership.
Be assured that the Holy Cross Community and I are praying for you and your loved ones. Please also know of my deep gratitude for all that you do on behalf of our University and its mission.
For more information or questions contact the president’s office at x7101 or email@example.com.