May 1, 2020
To Faculty and Staff Colleagues:
I hope everyone is doing well during these difficult times. I’m glad so many of you were able to join me and other senior administrators for last week’s online Town Hall. One of the most frequently asked questions during that event had to do with timing around the continuation of remote work and the ultimate return of all employees to campus. While many longer-term questions remain, I am glad to be able to provide some additional clarity in the short-term.
maintain our current remote work arrangement
for non-essential employees
through at least May 15
, when I will communicate with you again. We will also
begin our summer work schedule
Monday, June 1
, as previously communicated. Whenever we do all return to campus, it is too soon now to tell exactly what our schedules will look like with regard to the previously discussed Orange/Black rotation. Much will depend on the specifics of whatever social distancing guidelines the State has in place at that time. I hope to have more information for you on this and other topics in my May 15 update.
As I’m sure many of you are aware, Governor Murphy this week laid out a six-point road map for reopening the economy, though it didn’t provide a timeframe or specifically address New Jersey’s colleges and universities. We will continue to closely monitor the State’s parameters, including a consistent reduction in new COVID-19 cases and more extensive testing, as well as its guidance for higher education.
In the meantime, I am working with the Cabinet to plan for a variety of scenarios for both the return to campus of all employees and, importantly, for the Fall semester. As Provost Powers recently announced, Summer Session II is being moved online, but it remains my hope that we can open as planned in August for on-campus classes and to welcome the Class of 2024 in person. Like all colleges and universities, however, we need to be prepared for a variety of possibilities given the uncertainty of the pandemic and social distancing requirements that might remain in place. These possible options include a delayed start to in-person classes, moving to alternate course models that reduce the number of people on campus at any one time, and the least preferred, the continuation of online classes for some additional period of time. These options also include discussions on residence life, campus activities, and athletics. Accordingly, faculty should plan for the
of remote teaching for the entire Fall semester. While many of you are anxious to know our fall plans, it is too soon to determine them. I hope to be able to communicate a decision about the Fall semester to you by Monday, June 29.
As the economic impact of the pandemic has grown more severe, concern about the fiscal health of the State in the next budget cycle has deepened. Due to the shutdown, much of the revenue the State relies on through sales tax has dried up, resulting in a growing budget gap. As a result, we should plan for a very tight fiscal year in terms of our appropriation. Currently, we are running 6.1% behind in continuing enrollment, which produces a budget shortfall of approximately $6 million. While there is talk of another federal stimulus bill with direct aid to states, we do not know at this time if it will provide any relief for higher education.
I have been meeting with State and national legislators to articulate the need for more funds for higher education, especially in the harder hit states like New Jersey. Trenton is also looking at all options as the legislature and the Murphy administration discuss the next fiscal cycle. The outlook, frankly, is bleak, and it is likely we will face some hard choices together. I remain committed to no layoffs or furloughs through June 30, which is the end of our current fiscal year, and I have pledged to work with our unions on any proposed reductions before I make any decisions.
I appreciate the hard work, dedication, generosity, and Will. Power. of all our faculty and staff. I know that it is through your good work and commitment that we will get through this challenging time. As an institution of higher learning, let us reflect on what we can learn from this in the spirit of how we might better serve our students and each other. Thank you, and take care.