July 2020 Town Hall Q&A

Before and during Town Halls, many similar questions are submitted by members of the USF community.  Following is a summary of answers (by topic) to questions in connection with July Town Hall.

Results of the COVID-19 staff experience survey are now available on the Office of Assessment website on myUSF

The administration is working diligently to distribute accurate information to the community in a timely and accessible way. At times, final decisions about these matters are made later in the day and rather than delay distribution, we have sent critical information as soon as it is finalized and confirmed. We realize that this can present challenges for some members of the community who must answer questions directly from students, colleagues, and alumni, and we are working to make improvements in this process and provide advance notice of important updates whenever possible.
COVID-19 guidance from the city and state public health officials as well as the steps the university is taking to keep the community safe impact your personal and professional lives. So do the steps that the university is taking to keep the university financially secure. If you have questions that need to be addressed, your vice president, dean, or supervisor can assist you. Depending on the question, Human Resources or the COVID-19 resource pages will also be helpful.
In terms of informing current students about the university’s financial realities, community conversations via zoom webinars have been held with new and continuing students and their families. We are committed to sharing information about the university’s financial challenges through various platforms and conversations, including the COVID-19 resource pages

The salary reduction program will begin August 1, 2020 for employees paid monthly and August 16 for employees paid semi-monthly. More information is available on the Human Resources website.
The Continuity of Operations Working Group makes recommendations to the Cabinet and the President regarding financial matters and reductions. There is currently not a decision on how the university’s contribution to employees’ 401(a) plan will be impacted. This is under discussion by the Continuity of Operations Working Group and the President’s Cabinet. 
The administration is committed to giving employees as much notice as possible as it relates to layoffs, furloughs or other employment matters.
The voluntary retirement program is in effect as of Aug. 1, and no additional applications are being accepted at this time. 
The university’s layoff and furlough policies are available on the Human Resources website
Some student employment positions have been cut due to university classes and operations moving to remote status. Managers across the university have been instructed to prioritize students with Federal Work Study funding to fill available positions.

USF continues to closely monitor legislative developments in Washington and discussions around potential additional relief funds. The offices of both the president and the provost are engaged directly with our representatives in Congress as well as staying engaged with the lobbying efforts of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU), the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities (AICCU), and other educational associations. We will notify the community if and when new funding is made available.

There are real limitations to the university’s capacity to borrow, as well as donor-imposed limitations on how we can use the university’s 600 endowment funds.  
Currently, USF has more than $300 million in outstanding debt obligations, three tax exempt bond issues and two notes payable to banks, all issued to finance capital projects. Tax exempt bond issues can only be used for long life assets, as defined by federal tax law. The underlying credit agreements require USF to maintain a high level of financial health. USF must maintain certain financial ratios, both Balance Sheet and Income Statement ratios.
Deficit spending, and a decline in the financial markets, coupled with drawing down the endowment would lead to a deterioration of our financial position, potentially putting our debt obligations in default. This would lead to acceleration of the debt and forcing USF into a very difficult situation, possibly forced liquidation. Banks will not issue credit to fund deficit spending—they need to see a realistic repayment strategy and sources within a relatively short time period.  
We need to protect the future of the University through these incredibly difficult and uncertain times and look beyond the next few months, should conditions deteriorate even further. 

As a result of the accusations around an alleged culture of sexual assault and harassment, specifically in USF Athletics program, an external investigation is underway. The investigation will examine the reporting system and resources in the university’s Title IX office. The investigators’ report will be made public.

Staff Assembly
The inaugural group of representatives will have the support of the university (including administrative support). The members who have been identified to begin this work include individuals who have been active in the community group that has been meeting for some time, and also includes representatives from every unit on campus. Together they will determine their charge and next steps for creating a staff assembly. With the pressing work associated with the impact on campus of COVID-19 and the financial crisis, the inaugural group has not yet been notified. Fr. Fitzgerald is meeting with the community group on Aug. 11 to discuss next steps, and Interim Provost Cannon has also agreed to meet with the community group.
Faculty shared governance
In answering a question during the July 2020 Town Hall, Fr. Fitzgerald referenced the university’s growth in shared governance as exemplified by the University Budget Advisory Council (UBAC) to affirm the progress that faculty and administration will continue to make.