Welcome to the 2019-20 Occidental College Annual Report.
Long before I first took office as Occidental’s 16th president on July 1, the global COVID-19 pandemic proved inescapable, as it dominated the agenda. Following the guidance of public health officials and in line with Oxy’s own top priority of protecting the health and safety of the College community, we made the difficult decision to pivot to remote teaching and learning in March, and then again, in July, to continue functioning remotely in the fall.
Predictably, this decision had a significant financial impact on the College, producing an estimated $33 million deficit for the 2020-21 academic year. After imposing hiring and salary freezes, cutting departmental budgets and other measures, we made the painful decision to furlough more than 120 non-academic employees for whom there was no work with only a handful of students on campus.
But while COVID-19 has brought challenges, it has also brought out the best in our community. With ingenuity and initiative, the Oxy faculty pivoted quickly and creatively to online learning, creating new courses designed to take advantage of our virtual environment. Faculty and students collaborated to put on live theatrical and musical events and keep signature programs like Campaign Semester and the Kahane U.N. program up and running. Oxy staff worked long hours, including nights and weekends, to replicate the Oxy academic experience remotely.
Despite the pandemic’s disruption, we now have raised more than two-thirds of our $225 million goal for The Oxy Campaign For Good, including new student scholarships and endowed professorships. The resilience, dedication and creativity I have witnessed on and off campus, and the continuing support of alumni, parents and friends over these first months of my presidency, have convinced me of Occidental’s potential and herald the College’s future as a national leader in liberal arts education.
Harry J. Elam, Jr.