As always, I pray that this message finds you and your loved ones healthy and well. Preparations for our Spring 2021 Semester are well underway, and I write now to provide an update on our work and preview some important communications that you will receive in the coming weeks.
Adjustments to Cost-Saving Strategies
The financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have been felt by almost every individual, family, and organization across the country, and our University of Portland community is no different. We have been forced to make difficult decisions to promote the University’s financial stability, and I recognize the toll that these decisions have had on our faculty and staff. I will be forever grateful to individuals across the University for their sacrifice and dedication throughout one of the most challenging times in our institution’s history.
Thanks to the limited re-opening of residence halls next semester and other budgetary adjustments, I am pleased to report that we will be able to relax some of our cost-saving strategies and take other steps to lessen the financial burdens being placed on UP community members.
We intend to reverse the temporary faculty and staff salary reductions on December 31, as originally planned. Members of the University’s senior leadership team, however, have voluntarily agreed to a continued reduction in their pay. As the University’s operational needs change in the Spring 2021 Semester, many employees’ furloughs will be eliminated or reduced. Additionally, as stated in the open enrollment communications you have received from our Human Resources Benefits Team, most cost increases for UP-sponsored medical and dental insurance will be absorbed by the University, and most employees receiving coverage through UP will not see an increase in their monthly medical and dental insurance costs next year. For now, other cost-saving strategies (such as University contributions to retirement accounts and suspension of professional development budgets) will continue.
On Tuesday, November 17, Interim Vice President for Financial Affairs Eric Barger will send a message to all University employees with further information on these changes and several other matters related to the University’s finances.
COVID-19 Testing Protocol and “Pilots Prevent” Dashboard
Critical to the University’s success next semester will be our COVID-19 screening and testing protocol. As I announced in my October 2 message, our comprehensive preventative strategy has four components: baseline testing for all on-campus students and employees, ongoing screening, surveillance testing, and symptomatic testing. In the weeks that have followed my announcement, the University has further developed our protocols and selected an industry-leading third-party vendor to help us refine our plans and administer tests. Additionally, we have published our Pilots Prevent Dashboard to provide ongoing information on testing and the presence of COVID-19 on campus. Very soon, members of the University’s COVID-19 Steering Committee will provide much more detailed information on these plans to all community members.
We continue to closely monitor the course of the pandemic, and our prayers continue to be with all those who have been impacted. While we welcome recent developments in COVID-19 treatments and vaccinations, headlines also illustrate that the serious impacts of this pandemic are still far from over. We must remain nimble and responsive to conditions locally, regionally, and nationally. At this time, we have confidence that the protocols we have developed for next semester will help to keep our community safe while enabling us to advance our sacred mission of teaching and learning, faith and formation, and service and leadership.
I offer once again my gratitude to all in the community who are working tirelessly in support of the University we cherish. Along with the Holy Cross Community here at UP, I am praying for you, your loved ones, the brave health care workers on the frontlines, and all members of our global community as we navigate these extraordinarily challenging times. May we continue to move forward with a spirit of resolve, compassion, and hope.