October 08, 2020
Dear Faculty and Staff of Catholic University,
It’s been seven months since we began this journey together through the Covid-19 pandemic. In that time I have seen our community do great things.
Our faculty have been on the front lines from day one. Some had never heard of Zoom; now they are experts in green screens, LED lighting kits, and virtual break-out groups. Teaching online is not the same as teaching in person. It requires more preparation, particularly since we are learning how to do it on the fly. Our faculty deserve great thanks for all they do for the University, and in particular for our students.
While faculty are on the front lines, our staff have made sure that everyone in the community can teach, learn, and flourish in a clean, safe environment. Facilities personnel have installed acrylic shields and re-envisioned cleaning and sanitizing procedures. Technology Services transformed classrooms for hybrid instruction. Enrollment Services and Student Affairs have answered countless student and parent calls and emails. Advancement has found funds to help students experiencing financial difficulties. Every employee in every corner of the campus has contributed to this effort. I want to thank each and every one of you.
As I mentioned in my September newsletter, we began 2020 on a solid financial footing. While it has been difficult to see so many gains erased by the pandemic, it is because of those gains that we have been able to preserve jobs and maintain salaries for so long. Last spring and summer we experienced a $26 million budget shortfall. To deal with that we spent $10 million of operational surplus, reduced dining services, and cut 3% from our operating budgets. In June we announced a hold on planned raises, and paused our 10% match to the 403(b) retirement program. In combination with other cuts, we were able to cover the gap.
In August we decided to invite only freshmen to live on campus for the fall, and teach other classes virtually. That decision was the right one, but it opened another $20 million budget gap. In consultation with various stakeholders across campus, including the Council of Deans, the Employee Benefits Council, the Academic Senate, the Senate’s Budget and Planning Committee, the Committee on Faculty Economic Welfare, and the Executive Committee of the Administrative Council, the University Budget Committee has reviewed every available avenue to balance the budget.
To help cover the $20M budget gap for fiscal year 2021, we have decided to take the following measures:
  • A 4% pay cut for a period of 18 months, beginning November 1, for all staff and administrators who earn more than $50,000 per year.
  • A 4% pay cut for a period of 18 months for all faculty, beginning at their option either on November 1 or on the first day of next year’s contract.
  • A 5% budget cut across departments, an action that will result in eliminating some positions, most of which are already vacant.
After discussions with stakeholders we decided against deeper pay cuts. There was a strong consensus that reductions deep enough to fill the budget gap would ask too much from our community. I thank everyone for their parts in these conversations, which I think have guided us in the right direction. This has, unfortunately, meant further tightening of budgets. The 5% cut across departments is an important step. Some of these reductions are necessarily temporary. We will give more thought to trimming recurring costs over the course of the academic year.
The financial challenge we are addressing has resulted in important part from limitations on our ability to bring students back to campus, and teach more of our classes in person or in a hybrid fashion. The solutions we have devised assume that we will be able to house more students (though not all) on campus in the spring, and to offer a greater share of instruction in person. We are working now on the decisions necessary to make these steps possible – things like surveillance testing and the organization of residence halls. The smaller freshman class that matriculated this fall will be with us for four years. This will also reduce revenue over that time. 
I know that after such an extended period of intense work, it can be difficult to accept news of budget cuts. But this pandemic will come to an end, and Catholic University will once again see strong, vibrant years of growth and prosperity.
John Garvey