Dear USF Community:
Faculty, staff, student leaders, and members of the Board of Trustees gathered on Tuesday, June 23 for another virtual Town Hall. Thank you for those who joined and engaged in the presentation by posing questions. The video of the event is now posted and answers to many of your questions will be added in the coming days.
As a cabinet, we are committed to sharing information in a timely and transparent manner – university-wide as well as in our respective divisions. The Roadmap to Reopening and Interim Provost Cannon’s recent update earlier this week provided you with current and detailed information. Still, the uncertain nature of the pandemic hampers our ability to give you an immediately clear outlook of what exactly will happen on campus and how it will affect you. We are awaiting clarity on new city and county public health guidelines that will fully inform our return to work and classroom teaching.
We do not yet know how many of our students will ultimately opt not to enroll or return to USF for the fall semester. The financial repercussions to our community are not yet known, but we are preparing for serious revenue shortfalls — in addition to revenue losses incurred in the spring — and increased expenses. We are not alone with these difficult circumstances and decisions. Every college and university in the country is struggling with how to respond to their students and their community.
So, we are making contingency plans, taking actions based on the best information we have today, and engaging in serious conversations with our unionized colleagues and other groups about how we move forward together.
What we do know is that this is an alarming time. On its own, the COVID-19 pandemic is frightening for everyone. To add to this, you do not yet know how the university’s financial situation will personally affect you and your family. Plus, the cultural and economic events in our world today add to uncertainty and fear.
Information and facts will help counter the uncertainty. More information will be shared with you as soon as possible. For now, here’s what we know and what is guiding us.
1. Your safety and well-being are the university’s highest priorities. Working groups will share details next month about how we will return to work, campus protocols related to social distancing, cleaning and sanitizing work spaces, and more. The working groups on Public Health, Continuity of Instruction, Continuity of Operations, Employee Return to Work, and others — with representatives from across the university community — are researching and considering up-to-date information and best practices for ensuring a safe return to campus.
The return-to-campus strategy will be a gradual, phased approach for most employees. Remote work will likely continue to be an important tool during this time to help minimize the number of people on campus at any given time. Supervisors and unit managers should not plan to re-populate their respective work areas on campus until they have been notified to do so by their dean or member of the President’s Cabinet.
2. In mid-August, we will open our campus for the fall semester. We will be inviting students to return to campus or arrive on campus for the first time since the pandemic started – Welcome, class of 2024! We will offer robust in-person, hybrid, and remote learning and teaching options, as well as in-person and remote working protocols for our employees. We have taken seriously the results of surveys and evaluations from students and faculty and have used these results to strengthen our preparations for the fall semester. We have also received valuable input from staff and will evaluate the staff survey that was just distributed. This information is informing our planning. We are also making resource training materials available for instructors wishing to enhance their fall hybrid, remote, and online courses.
3. We know there is a great deal of emotion around the current negotiations with the full-time faculty and librarian union, USFFA. We are respectful of all the university’s unions and are most grateful for the time and energy our faculty and librarians are expending on negotiations. Along with the staff and administrators who mentor and support our students, faculty and librarians are central to USF’s mission, values, and operations. Faculty, librarians, and staff are all responsible for how we educate and inspire our students to change the world from here. Thank you for your dedication to our students and our shared mission.
4. We have developed a three-tiered financial plan for strategically proceeding in a sound way, depending on how events proceed in the coming weeks and months. In conversation with various groups across the university, including the Continuity of Operations Working Group, the President’s Cabinet, and others, we have continued to refine the plan for reducing expenditures to meet the shortfall in revenue that the university anticipates this year.
Different actions will be taken if the shortfall is up to $20 million, between $20 and $40 million, and in excess of $40 million.
Following are brief details, which were also outlined in this week’s Town Hall.
- If there is a revenue shortfall of up to $20 million, the university will tap into university budgeted operating reserves, delay faculty sabbaticals, realize savings from summer furloughs (which may be extended), defer salary increases, eliminate certain information technology capital budgets, and reduce study abroad budgets.
- If the shortfall is between $20 and $40 million, the university will tap additional budgeted operating reserves, and implement a salary rate reduction program. This program is one of the subjects of ongoing conversations with the USF Faculty Association. Fr. Fitzgerald’s vision for this program includes the following features:
- Employees would have at least a three-week notice before the program takes effect.
- Salary cuts are expected to be progressive based on an employee’s current salary. Our lowest compensated employees would see 0 percent cut; no employee would see more than a 15 percent cut, with most in the 6 to 8 percent range. We are developing an online calculator that will enable employees to see exactly what the impact on their paycheck would be, on both a pre-tax and after-tax basis.
- If revenues recover or are better than expected, i.e. net revenue positive, post-census in September, the university would restore salary rates to previous levels.
- If the shortfall is in excess of $40 million, USF may need to reduce the university’s contributions to the employee retirement plans. This tier of shortfall would likely be associated with more systematic layoffs and/or furloughs, and, possibly, a recommendation for the university’s board of trustees to approve a revised fiscal year 2021 budget that will allow deficit spending. These are serious considerations, as such measures will affect our financial condition now and in the future.
- Finally, if we do better than feared, we will partially or fully reverse reductions and freezes.
Again, we recognize that this news is stressful to hear during a challenging time in our nation’s history. The current pandemic may present the largest tightening of the university’s resources in its recent history. Because the crisis may evolve in fits and spurts, and present financial challenges that may cross over multiple fiscal years, we cannot specify a date by which all cost-saving measures to preserve the university will be finalized.
This crisis is testing the USF community’s resilience, flexibility, and adaptability to changed conditions. As we discern and proceed, we will remain anchored in our mission, vision, and values, as well as the health, well-being, and safety of all.
Thank you for your supportive actions and shared contributions that will protect and fortify our USF community through these very challenging times.
Paul J. Fitzgerald, S.J., President
Tyrone H. Cannon, Interim Provost and Vice President, Academic Affairs
Opinder Bawa, Vice President, Information Technology and Chief Information Officer
Michael Beseda, Vice Provost, Strategic Enrollment Management
Charlie Cross, Vice President, Business and Finance
Donna Davis, General Counsel
Jeff Hamrick, Vice Provost, Institutional Budget, Planning, and Analytics
Shirley McGuire, Senior Vice Provost, Academic Affairs
Pamela Balls Organista, Interim Vice Provost and Special Assistant to the Provost
Julie Orio, Vice President, Student Life
Ellen Ryder, Vice President, Marketing Communications
Peter Wilch, Vice President, Development