In January, the spring semester will begin remotely. Learn more about what this means from a staffing perspective—both for employees who have been on furlough for extended periods this semester and those that have not. Leer en español
Earlier today, the College announced that due to the rising incidence of COVID-19 in Los Angeles County, county health officials have not granted permission for Occidental or other local colleges and universities to resume in-person instruction or to return students to our residence halls (with limited exceptions). This means that in January, the spring semester will begin remotely, just as we have been operating this semester. As a result, we will not have the level of on-campus work that we had hoped to have at the start of the spring semester.
We write today to share what this means from a staffing perspective—both for employees who have been on furlough for extended periods this semester and those that have not.
Operational & Financial Implications For Spring
Given the remote start to the semester, with no in-person classes and a small number of students in residence, our budgetary situation remains the same as in the fall with a projected full-year deficit of $33 million. We expect a limited number of additional students as permitted by the county (international students and those with housing hardship) to come to campus in spring, but the revenue impact will be minimal, and incremental costs for health and safety measures will offset the revenue gains.
There are additional factors that will become better defined in mid- to late January. Student enrollment is a key measure impacting our financial outlook. By the end of January we will have a clearer picture of how many students have returned from fall semester leaves of absence, as well as our spring retention numbers. From an operational perspective, we also are assuming that Los Angeles will be past the worst of the current COVID surge and that the county can provide better guidance as to whether any significant increase in in-person activity can resume later in spring. Consequently, we will have limited on-campus student services in place at the beginning of the spring term.
Taken together, these factors will provide us the opportunity in late January to determine a more accurate financial outlook and a clearer picture of our operational needs for the spring semester.
IMPACTS FOR STAFFING
For employees who have not been on furlough for the fall semester: At this point, we do not expect any additional furloughs. However, we will have a better sense of staffing needs in mid- to late January.
For employees who have been on furlough: As you might recall, in August extended furloughs were implemented as one of the ways to address the pandemic's significant financial impact on Occidental. At that time, we set an end date of 12/27 or 12/30/2020, depending on the employee’s classification, for the furlough term, subject to what the operational outlook and needs would be for spring. Given the continuing restrictions on College operations, we are making the difficult but necessary decision to extend the furlough period until at least February 28, 2021. This date allows us to reassess the operations of the College in late January when we will have a better idea of needs for the spring semester.
Additional information regarding furloughed employees
For employees who have been on furlough, supervisors and/or department heads will be in touch with those employees this week to communicate their furlough status for spring.
Depending on the number of students in residence on campus, each division will review their operational plan for the Spring Semester and determine if there are any operational needs that will require bringing back furloughed employees prior to February 28. If so, these employees will be contacted by their supervisors.
The College will continue to pay the employer contribution to health, dental and vision benefits through February 28.
Furloughed employees are still eligible to participate in tuition benefits and exchange programs.
This is an announcement we very much hoped would not be necessary. The unavoidable financial impact of the virus has presented us with no easy choices. Our hope is that these are temporary measures that can be reversed once we turn the corner on the pandemic and county health officials lift the current restrictions under which we are operating.
We will be holding an all-employee meeting from 1-2 p.m. this Thursday, December 3 to talk about spring plans and answer any questions you have.
Harry J. Elam, Jr.
Vice President and Chief Operating Officer