As the Oxy community wonders how the pandemic will affect the future of the College generally and each of us specifically, the president addresses a few key questions.
Each day as senior staff and I have met to address a campus and a world turned upside down, I have been both impressed and thankful for the resiliency, commitment and skill you have demonstrated in meeting the constantly shifting challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic. Everyone has been willing to embrace the unfamiliar, whether reworking your curricular plans, working remotely, or continuing to report to work on an uncharacteristically empty campus, even as you balance an understandable concern for your own well-being and that of your families and friends. I’m deeply grateful to all of you.
As we work together to meet the challenges we now face, I know many of you are wondering how the pandemic will affect the future of the College generally and each of us specifically. I want to briefly address a few key questions you may have, focusing on what we know and acknowledging what we don’t.
Over the past two weeks, we have taken appropriate steps to provide financial support for students who have had to return home as a result of the pandemic. That support included a credit for room and board, as well as assistance to alleviate expenses associated with returning home on short notice. At the same time, we have allocated additional resources to technology so that we could take on the herculean task of mounting a curriculum on a digital platform; we have to continue our investments in admission to ensure that we will enroll a class of the quality and size we would ordinarily expect. All of this, of course, has had a substantial impact on the budget. We also anticipate a need for increased support as families reckon with the impact of recent events on their finances.
The situation we face is precarious, but not insurmountable. Meeting the challenges ahead will require flexibility, imagination, fortitude, and some tough choices. For now, however, the best course of action requires a set of prudent steps this fiscal year in order to ensure that we enter the Fall semester in the strongest position possible. They include the following:
- A college-wide hiring freeze, including searches that are currently underway.
- No overtime
- No travel or conferences
- No new construction or renovations, except for those projects currently underway
- New restrictions on all expenditures that do not directly support online learning, student success and admissions. I’ve asked the vice presidents to review their budgets and work with CFO Amos Himmelstein to approve revised operational budgets through the end of the fiscal year.
- Redeployment of staff to support essential services. During this time of uncertainty, we may ask staff to temporarily support key initiatives in other departments.
Because we still don’t know the duration and severity of this pandemic, we will need to continually reevaluate our operations. By early June we will have a better sense of where we are with regard to deposits for the incoming class of 2024, not to mention with the coronavirus itself. I will return to this subject when we have more information. The welfare of our community will be paramount as we consider what lies ahead.
Just as Oxy has weathered multiple depressions, recessions, wars and pandemics over its 133-year history, we will move past this. As we do, I hope you will draw strength from the Oxy community and those gathered around you.
Let me close by reiterating my thanks and that of the Board for your extraordinary efforts in these extraordinary times. You should be proud of all that you have been able to accomplish. We hope that you and your families remain safe and healthy.
President Jonathan Veitch