Town Hall Q&A

At the president's virtual Town Hall Meeting on May 5, 2020, faculty and staff submitted questions on topics ranging from benefits to budgets to remote teaching to enrollment. Due to time constraints of the Town Hall, only select questions were addressed during the event. Following are the questions and answers to all questions submitted. The information below was updated on May 20, 2020.

Not at this time.

The collective bargaining process is the proper venue for this consideration.

Yes. Deans, cabinet members, and all other members of the leadership team have taken a 15 percent salary reduction. Fr. Fitzgerald, whose salary goes directly to the Jesuit Community, has taken a 20 percent salary reduction. These particular salary reductions are voluntary.

While there is not a specific timeline, as the university solidifies plans to implement savings and reduce expenses during this period of economic uncertainty, we will provide information regarding layoffs to all members of the community in a timely way and with advance notification and transparency.

Approximately 180 staff members received furlough notifications on May 14 and 15. Furloughed employees retain health and welfare benefits and continue to accrue sick and vacation time. 

(c) When is the earliest/latest that faculty/staff can expect to receive notice of being furloughed/laid off?

(a) USF may furlough employees in accordance with state and local laws. (b) Furloughs are temporary reductions in hours whereby employees are not separated from employment. At this time USF has implemented a furlough program reducing hours by 20 percent, 46.67 percent and 100 percent. This furlough program continues health and welfare benefits and employees continue to accrue sick and vacation time. (c) We will communicate in a timely way every decision and every decision point before or as we reach them. 

As of May 13, the university extended the date for employees to reduce their vacation balances to 12 days to Dec. 31, 2020. Accrued vacation hours are a liability that we must book on our balance sheet. Reducing these vacation balances benefits employees who take a break from work and benefits the university, which reports fewer obligations. 

University leadership is in conversation with USFFA leadership. We hope this will include discussion about deferral of salary increases and participation in a (hopefully temporary) salary reduction program. 

We do not yet know the total decrease in our net revenue for fiscal year 2021. As we move forward with discussions with represented employee groups, every agreement related to reduction in expenses will have an impact. Such agreements will very likely reduce the number of furloughs and permanent layoffs, but will be unlikely to eliminate them as part of the overall strategy for managing the COVID-19-related net revenue shortfall.

Yes. Employees furloughed 100 percent are eligible to file for unemployment benefits. Employees furloughed less than that may be eligible, but it is less likely they will qualify. Human Resources has been providing and will continue to provide information and assistance regarding filing for unemployment benefits.

No, we are not currently considering increased benefits to any classes of employees. 

Employees tend to take less vacation when a vacation plan is unlimited. Research shows the health benefits of taking vacation time; vacations lower stress levels and are better for mental health.

The faculty and staff members of UBAC have spent a great deal of time and effort to learn, throughout this past year, the complexity and the limitations of the university’s budget. They offered thoughtful and helpful advice to the formulation of the pre-pandemic (i.e., its placeholder) budget. Administrative representatives on UBAC will keep the group apprised of the enormity of the university’s budget challenges for the upcoming year. The members are asking good questions and will no doubt offer good advice going forward.

Every summer, the Center for Institutional Planning and Effectiveness (CIPE) produces tuition and fee comparison reports. These reports situate the current levels of, and recent growth rates in, both undergraduate and graduate tuition and fees. In typical years, the university would work with these reports, as well as preliminary aspects of the planning and budgeting process, to make recommendations regarding tuition and fees to the Board of Trustees in December. The current budget development cycle, and the next budget development cycle, will not be typical. All universities are navigating a time of great uncertainty. Our plans over the coming months will be shaped by our actual enrollment numbers, how well we are managing expenses against those outcomes, and how effective we are in implementing savings measures. No decisions have yet been made yet about the tuition increase for fiscal year 2022. We know that our students and families are experiencing economic losses and uncertainties. Our plans include clear communication with all members of the community, transparency around decision making, and as much advance notification of major decisions (like tuition and fee increases) as possible.

As we move through the summer months, we will pass a number of key milestone dates. Each will give us more certainty concerning the range of fiscal year 2021 net revenue outcomes. The Office of Planning and Budget is currently working with a large range of possible fiscal year 2021 net revenue shortfalls — $15 million to $65 million — and will update this range of possible outcomes on, or around, June 1. It is expected that this range will narrow as the summer months unfold.

For the last several years, we have been increasing compensation and reducing other expenses to enable these increases. Unit managers have been looking at their ability to become more efficient and more effective using technology and other means. This is a great moment for folks throughout USF to suggest efficiencies.

If the program, center/institute, or initiative is non-academic, then the university’s management will respect all legal requirements for timely notice. If a degree-granting program is suspended, then WSCUC requires a teach-out. In recent cases in which the university has suspended and taught out graduate programs, the university provides budgetary support for the program as the teach-out takes place. As the teach-out wraps up, the program’s expense budgets — including any related personnel — are cleared out or reallocated.

For the past six budget formation cycles, the University of San Francisco has made cuts strategically. It has not, at least in its recent history, made strictly across-the-board cuts. As recently explained in detail at the University Budget Advisory Council, cabinet has adopted allocation schemes that have disproportionately favored the professional schools and the college, on account of their possession of tenure-stream faculty lines. The president has also provided a level of dispensation to the Office of Strategic Enrollment Management, the Office of Development, and the Division of Student Life. He has also protected other key priorities of his, including the Black Achievement, Success, and Engagement program and the engineering program. Going forward, and related to the impacts of COVID-19, you should expect to see budget reallocations in every department, office, or division of the university. However, these reallocations are unlikely to be proportional (i.e., across-the-board). They will most likely be more concentrated around certain areas of the university than other areas of the university. 

The most helpful voices are those who suggest reductions in their own areas and not merely in those of others.

The Institute for Nonviolence and Social Justice will be funded through philanthropic dollars raised specifically for this purpose. The institute, based upon the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King and the transformative capacity of disciplined nonviolence, is closely aligned with our mission and values as a Jesuit, Catholic university steadfastly committed to social justice. 

As of May 1, 32 new first-year students have committed for the initial engineering cohort. This is exactly the total targeted for this new initiative. It is also encouraging that our goals for enrolling a more racially and ethnically diverse and gender-balanced engineering cohort than is typical for engineering programs is reflected in these initial commitments. It is important to note that most of the coursework of these engineering students will be in core and major classes intermingled with other USF undergraduate students. So, their presence among us will be a plus, and we look to this program to grow in a healthy way over the next few years.

We are designing and implementing a program of shared sacrifice whereby the best compensated members have the largest reductions. With our part-time employees, it is hard for us to know what other sources of income they have. 

Yes, we are designing a progressive model.

Since Don Heller’s move from provost to vice president for operations, a position that will last until the end of his current contract on May 31, 2020, he has been leading a number of strategic projects, providing expert insight and data and supporting our efforts in response to COVID-19. We have not grown the highest levels of administration because there have been prior departures. 

(compared to unionized staff, non-exempt staff, and faculty) and are concerned of not having any voice/representation/advocacy avenues to these university-wide issues.

With both faculty and staff, we need to grow into new structures of shared governance by governing together and then codifying our successes. A staff council is under consideration and is being actively discussed. More information will be forthcoming.

Many of the university’s collective bargaining agreements have automatic re-openers in case of enrollment and/or net tuition shortfalls. It is already clear that many of these re-openers will be triggered, generally around fall 2020 census, and so the university would prefer to return to the bargaining table as soon as possible. In such negotiations, the university would focus on the economic terms of these collective bargaining agreements with the aim of balancing the university’s planned revised fiscal year 2021 operating budget. We would hope that many of the revisions to these collective bargaining agreements would be short-term in nature, as we are hoping that the financial impacts of COVID-19 are ultimately transitory.

Many of the university’s collective bargaining agreements have automatic re-openers in case of enrollment and/or net tuition shortfalls. It is important to distinguish between an automatic re-opener and a formal declaration of financial exigency. The university’s management is currently discussing the option of a formal declaration of financial exigency, should the university’s net revenue situation sufficiently deteriorate in fiscal year 2021 and should the university find itself unable to meet some of its basic financial obligations. No decisions concerning such a formal declaration have been made at this time.

USF faculty and staff at all levels have been providing close accompaniment to students and all members of our community who experience hostility, harassment, and vulnerability in these times, but especially to our Asian, Asian American, South Asian, Middle Eastern and multi-race Asian students. For example, this past March and April, Vice Provost Mary Wardell-Girarduzzi (ADEI) held equity briefings for university leadership teams centered on racism against the API community during COVID-19, and “Being Asian During Covid-19” processing sessions for Asian-identified students, faculty, and staff were held on April 6 and 9. These many forms of support have been continually informed by feedback from members of our USF community as well as local and national efforts, which have been most helpful. 

The deans are working with faculty on instructional delivery options for the academic programs. Many factors are considered when determining course delivery. 

Please follow up with John Bansavich in ITS to use Respondus software, which has more advanced capabilities.


Please follow up with David Kirmse in ITS who can help you confirm which classrooms already have the equipment and software, and provide support.

Student leaders in ASUSF, at the Foghorn, student leadership and engagement, athletics, and so many more were quite engaged in conversations about the spring term, and are continuing to be engaged in planning for the fall and beyond. 

Some USF students have inquired about partial refunds of spring semester tuition. University administration has consistently replied that all faculty have made a successful pivot to emergency remote instruction. All other student services, e.g., CASA, CAPS, ISSS, etc. have maintained normally robust or higher levels of support for students. As a not-for-profit enterprise, USF budgets to balance revenues and expenses. To partially refund tuition for this spring semester would have required a severe curtailment of services. 

and communicate changes (or lack thereof) in tuition rates to our students and families?

See above.

We are following NCAA guidelines, which are thoughtful and cautious. 

No. Instead of asking faculty to sit in daily meetings that are often operational in nature, the USFFA created a Rapid Response Team. Continuity of Instruction is in the process of sending proposals to them now. 

Most changes will go through the regular curriculum review process that includes the school curriculum committees, the deans, and sometimes the provost. Emergency changes may be made with dean’s approval. 

Yes. The results will be posted on the COVID-19 resource page.



Yes. The results will be posted on the COVID-19 resource page. Deans will also receive reports for their schools.

It is currently being used for our continued response to COVID-19. The group would also be a valuable resource in the event of seasonal wildfires and other crises. 

As of Sunday, May 17, 2020, degree- and non-seeking students were registered for 9,668 undergraduate student credit hours (SCHs) against a budget target of 7,562. Both degree- and non-degree seeking students were registered for 13,967 SCHs against a budget target of 14,330. In aggregate, the University of San Francisco is currently at about 108 percent of its budgeted revenue target for summer 2020. Over the next week, we do expect some summer registrants to drop their coursework, as happens every year. And, caution is warranted. We know that the university will see a substantial shortfall in realized summer 2020 net housing revenue, and very minimal (if any) summer 2020 conference revenue. While summer enrollment outcomes are promising so far, in an ideal scenario the university will make (in an overall sense) the placeholder fiscal year 2021 revenue budget for summer 2020.

Two weeks after USF’s May 1 first-year deposit deadline, 1,338 domestic and 213 international commitments have been received. For domestic first-years, this is slightly more (2 percent) than a year ago. The international first-year commitment total is the same as a year ago.Given waiting list activity (particularly to fill the nursing cohort), expected summer admits, pending financial aid appeals, and commitment deadline extensions, an additional 50-75 domestic commitments are expected in the next two months. Likewise, an additional 15-20 international commitments will likely arrive in the coming weeks.

Yet, with more students openly considering a gap year, post-May 1 admission and bidding wars are likely to be more extreme than ever. At the same time, financial upheavals and the actual format for fall 2020 offerings are clouding student decisions. As a result of these factors, summer melt projections are challenged at best. A prudent assumption is that melt could reach 30 percent, twice the normal rate. If that is the case, the total projected domestic commitments of 1,400 would net a domestic class of 980, which is 16 percent less than the budget target of 1,165. Likewise, projected total international deposits of 235 would net a fall class of 165, which is 19 percent less than the 190 budget target. Importantly, the previous international projection assumes that students are able to obtain visas, something that is quite uncertain at this time.

result in more layoffs?

No. Multiple instructional delivery plans are being considered now by the working groups and leadership. No plan will protect the university from all risks, including moving all courses online. 

Yes, USF is considering different ways to allow for more social distancing and reducing density on campus. 

be eligible to file for FAFSA, leaving undocumented students unable to receive this aid. If USF applies for this aid how will the university ensure that other forms of financial aid will be available for our undocumented students?

Please see the May 11 announcement about USF’s distribution of CARES Act funding. USF has received $3.6 million through CARES earmarked exclusively for direct financial assistance to students. This emergency funding will be provided directly to more than 3,000 USF undergraduate and graduate students in the coming weeks based on financial need. Grant amounts range from $500 to $1,500 depending on a student’s level of financial need as defined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Students who do not meet FAFSA eligibility requirements will be able to apply for USF-funded grants through the university’s COVID-19 Response Fund, which includes significant contributions by members of the USF Board of Trustees. In addition, through the Magis Fund, USF is also supporting our DACA-identified and undocumented students who are excluded from CARES Act eligibility according to guidelines developed by the U.S. Department of Education.

No. Half of the $7.2 million that USF shall receive from CARES will go directly to students; the other half will partially cover the $5.5 million USF refunded to students for pro-rated residence hall fees this past spring. 

Yes. USF will draw from the Board of Trustees’ recently established COVID-19 Response Fund and the Jesuit Community endowment-funded Magis Scholarships to support our DACA and undocumented students. 

Please see above related to support of our DACA and undocumented students. 

Donors designate gifts to endowments for a specific purpose (scholarship, faculty research, and academic programs) with the intent of supporting an area of the university in perpetuity. By design, the principal of the fund is not expended, but is invested to provide an annual distribution based upon an annual percentage (4.5 percent) of the three-year average value of the fund. This methodology is a best practice and provides budget predictability for specific areas of USF annually. Therefore, invading the principal of the endowment might provide short-term relief, but would cost the university in perpetuity by lessening the amount available for investment and distribution. At this time, we do not think this approach is prudent. 

Like every university, USF is facing serious headwinds. We are not in an existentially precarious position now, and if we are smart and nimble and self-sacrificing in a spirit of solidarity and dedication to the common good, we will survive. 

We are fortunate that Zoom software was donated to USF by its founder for the university’s use.

Recently Zoom made changes to its security and privacy mechanisms. One of the features allows each organization (such as USF) to determine which global data centers can be used. We will be evaluating these new options, however, limiting the usage to USF data centers only will impact the quality of service for our global users.

The ITS team will review two to three options to Slack including Zoom before adopting a tool for enterprise real time communications.

Please discuss with your manager, or follow up with Srini Navaneethan who can provide recommendations. 

not only themselves but the community as a whole?

The USF Public Health Working Group is working closely with the San Francisco Department of Public Health to advise the USF campus on public health policies and practices to ensure the health and wellbeing of the USF campus community in the 2020-21 academic year. Faculty, staff, and students will be educated on all community expectations when there is a return to campus. The Public Health Working Group is also looking at designing a canvas course.

keep people from becoming infected but rather how to assist them through the realities of becoming infected and recovering? What additional medical care networks will become available to assist the USF community in this?

As of May 16, 2020 the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) has not released specific guidance. The following has been gathered from actions that other public health departments have provided. The Public Health Working Group is planning for all of the following scenarios:

  • Testing procedures for students, faculty, and staff to be done in conjunction and following the lead of SFDPH
  • Effective contact tracing capacity of all potential close contacts of positive cases.
    • To be done in conjunction and following the lead of the SFDPH
  • Enforced isolation and quarantine of positives and close contacts, with daily telehealth monitoring of symptoms.
  • Possible individual symptom-reporting systems for the USF community to be further defined per guidance from the City and County of San Francisco. 
  • Consistent implementation of social distancing and universal masking at all times except when alone in a room.
  • Intense and frequent cleaning/sanitation of facilities.
  • Availability of sufficiently trained staff equipped with proper PPE for their job function. As USF does not have a healthcare facility onsite, all health care would take place off-campus.
  • Extensive education of students, faculty, and staff of policies and expectations we have of each other.

We all are experiencing remote work in this new environment. We are learning what works well and what doesn’t work well over Zoom and Canvas and many other platforms. On the other side of this crisis, we will be a different university. Not at all a fully online institution, but much more hybrid than we were before.

The Lone Mountain residence halls will open in the summer of 2021.

The slides are included in the town hall video posted on myUSF.

Yes, the video is captioned as required according to our accessibility standards, as are all videos posted on the USF websites.

Yes, we are planning the next virtual town hall in June. We will share the date as soon as possible.