June 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 June Town Hall.
Questions were submitted on the subject of resources for the university’s Office of Antiracism, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (ADEI) – especially at a time when USF has committed to work toward confronting the ways white supremacy and anti-Blackness manifest in our organizations. ADEI is a critical part of the university community. However, like offices, programs, and divisions across the university, ADEI has experienced (a furlough) and cutbacks as the university faces the current financial crisis. Even amid the cutbacks, Vice Provost Mary Wardell-Ghirarduzzi and staff have conducted a number of implicit bias and informational sessions with units, and – just as will be done across the university – we will revisit resources and organizational structure when we emerge from this crisis.
One questioner asked: How are hate crimes and xenophobia toward Asians and Asian-Americans being addressed at USF? In addition to the processing space "Being Asian During Covid-19," the president’s community message on Jan. 31 – early in the developing global pandemic -- stated the USF community’s support of those who identify as Asian and Asian-American. Still, Asians and Asian-Americans are targets of hate speech and hateful incidents. We continue to stand in opposition to and decry these actions in our city and our nation. We remind any member of the USF community who sees, hears, or is the target of such actions to report to the Bias Education Resource Team (BERT).
On July 14, Fr. Fitzgerald announced the university announced that the fall semester on the Hilltop and at other campus locations will be primarily remote, with most classes conducted online and most employees continuing remote work. Exceptions for classes include some labs and clinical courses; exceptions for employees will include positions that are necessary to serve the small number of students who are in residence on campus. Our community’s health and safety continue to be the highest priority, with strict guidelines regarding the use of face coverings, hygiene, and social distancing. Students and employees who are on campus will be required to monitor their health for symptoms of COVD-19. Quarantine spaces have been identified if a student living on campus becomes ill.
Latest updates are published on the COVID-19 resource pages, which are the best source of information for university news and policies related to the pandemic. For specific questions about your work situation, please contact your vice president, dean, or immediate supervisor.
If you have questions about commuter benefits: As a general rule, the university recognizes that an employee who is working on-the-ground in FY21 presents the usual need for commuter benefits.
Because of international travel restrictions, Study Abroad at USF is not an option this year. Nonetheless, global education is a foundational part of the USF experience. The Center for Global Education is a resource for students who are considering an international experience in the future; as always, faculty and staff are highlighting and incorporating global perspectives into their courses; and CGE strongly recommends that students interested in an international experience to contact their academic advisors to determine courses on-campus that meet their academic interests and needs.
Savings efforts are being made across the university to help close an expected shortfall that could reach $80 million or more. In addition to the announced plans for furloughs, salary reduction program, and voluntary retirement program (as announced by Fr. Fitzgerald on July 20), the university is exploring possible reorganization and centralization of certain university operations in order to achieve both savings and improved efficiencies.
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.
Athletics is a critical and foundational part of USF and its identity as a national university. We also believe that a strong Athletics program benefits our students, alumni engagement, and our market position. We await notice from the West Coast Conference about the status of the fall season as well as further safety guidance from the state, county, and city. That will affect decisions regarding other reductions. Athletics staff members were included in the summer furloughs.
The University of San Francisco is in compliance with the terms and conditions of the CARES Act. 50% of the funding received by USFCA under the CARES Act went directly to students. The other 50% helped partially cover the university’s prorated refunds of spring 2020 housing bills to students who were living on campus.
Some enhanced unemployment compensation benefits, introduced under the CARES Act, end on July 31, 2020, unless there is legislative/executive action to extend (or to modify, or to enhance) those provisions. The university is monitoring legislative action in Washington and working directly with government affairs staff at our associations, including the Association of Jesuit Colleges and University (AJCU) and the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities (AICCU).
Conversations between the Assistant Vice President for Labor and Employee Relations, and the Part Time Faculty Association (PTFA), are currently in process. We do expect to see the number of sections of courses offered at USF in FY21 to decrease, which will impact full- and part-time faculty and students.
Approximately $1.3 million was saved from the summer furlough program. Detailed information about savings achieved through furloughs, layoffs, early retirement program, and other efforts will be shared with the community when these programs are assessed in the coming weeks.
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.
Other savings measures will be rolled out throughout the fiscal year, in order to maximize the impact on FY21 operating outcomes. We are committed to providing employees with at least three weeks of notice before the program begins.
The inaugural group of representatives for this new employee group will have the support of the university (including administrative support and assistance in scheduling meetings). The members who have been identified by vice presidents 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 and what employee groups it will include. 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. Interim Provost Cannon has also agreed to meet with the community group.
A core group of the Strategic Planning Working Group, led by Peter Wilch and Pamela Balls Organista, began meeting the week of July 27, and more information and updates are forthcoming.