Dear CU Boulder Faculty and Staff:
As Chancellor DiStefano mentioned in his Friday, April 17, message, CU Boulder—like many universities and businesses around the world—is facing significant budgetary challenges due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. These challenges will extend in the future and will require creativity, resilience and shared solutions for us to effectively address them. Now more than ever, we ask for understanding, patience and support for each other to continue serving our students and meeting our public mission. We will be asking everyone across the campus to help us in meeting these challenges, for it is only through our combined efforts that we will be able to make the most progress as we move forward.
Through the end of this fiscal year, we estimate the financial impact to our campus will be at least $67 million—mainly due to housing and dining reimbursements, paid administrative leave and reduced revenues in our auxiliaries. We have taken several steps to minimize these financial impacts, including a temporary pause on new hiring, withdrawing merit increases, canceling events, restricting university-sponsored travel and re-evaluating our planned and potential capital construction projects.
We are now preparing for a range of budgetary scenarios for fiscal year 2020–21, depending on state and federal funding availability and our enrollment projections for the coming academic year. Our decisions are based upon the core set of guiding principles Chancellor DiStefano shared last week. As Colorado’s leading public research university, we must help our state and country weather the COVID-19 crisis.
While it is too soon to fully predict our fiscal year 2020-21 budget, we do anticipate ongoing COVID-19-related expenses and reductions in revenues. In order to assist in preparing for these fiscal impacts, effective immediately, we are directing our schools, colleges, departments and administrative units to:
Reduce Discretionary Spending: Immediately implement reductions in discretionary spending that are not critical to the mission and operation of the university. This may include outside services, travel, consulting, conferences, meetings, office supplies, equipment and any other discretionary cost or activity.
Prioritize Use of Gift Funds: Units should ensure that they use operating gifts and spendable endowment balances in advance of unrestricted funds, consistent with gift terms, to provide the greatest degree of flexibility in responding to our economic circumstances.
Begin Budget Reduction Planning Scenarios: Every unit should prepare for a university-wide budget reduction in 2020-21, considering scenarios that include eliminating low-priority activities, deferring new initiatives and avoiding new commitments. Each unit should prioritize its activities and focus on the highest strategic priorities. Further guidance from the office of Budget and Fiscal Planning will be provided in the coming days to support units’ planning.
Senior leadership pay reductions, additional measures and support
As President Kennedy noted earlier today, he, our campus chancellors and system executives are taking 10 percent reductions in pay through furloughs. As your Provost and Chief Operating Officer, we are taking 10 percent reductions through furloughs as well.
We are engaged in continuing leadership discussions, in coordination with our campus and system colleagues, about additional measures we may take to alleviate financial pressures.
Additional measures may include temporary pay reductions for executive administration, furloughs and other actions designed to reduce our costs while minimizing the individual impact on employees. In making these decisions, we are striving to protect employees’ jobs as much as possible, and we know that our employees are our most vital resource.
All these measures are an effort to minimize the impacts on our employees while still upholding our mission to educate the next generation and foster the spirit of discovery through research. We will be providing additional information in the coming days.
Stay-at-home transition plans
We know many of you are anxiously waiting for Governor Polis to relax the current stay-at-home order. While the order is presently scheduled to expire on April 26, and Governor Polis announced that some businesses will be able to reopen as early as next week, it is important to note that we expect to need continued social distancing measures until increased testing capacity is available and a robust COVID-19 identification and containment strategy is in place.
With the campus engaging in remote learning through the summer, we do not anticipate that employees, including researchers, will need to immediately return to campus as soon as the stay-at-home orders are modified. Many of our employees have been working effectively from home and can continue to do so for the immediate future. It’s important that we continue to minimize the number of people who are coming to campus and research facilities, and that we take actions to prevent opportunities for infection. As employees return to campus, we’ll be looking at modifications to work schedules, changes in the work environment and other measures to keep our community safe.
We also expect employers will be required to implement additional controls to ensure the safety of employees and the community. It is important to understand that our campus will continue to ask employees and researchers who are not already designated as critical to continue remote work until instructed otherwise. Individuals who have been working remotely will receive guidance from their supervisors about when and how they should plan to return to campus workplaces.
As Chancellor DiStefano communicated on April 17, the campus is working on scenario planning to enable our transition—COVID-19 circumstances allowing—to modified campus operations this fall. We are also working with CU Boulder Health and Wellness and the Boulder County Department of Public Health to ensure that any return by employees is safe. Likewise, our Emergency Management team is working with campus units to identify foundational services that are needed before employees are asked to return to campus.
We don’t know exactly what the future holds, and we may have to take additional measures in response to the pandemic.
Please know that we share your desire to return to in-person operations, but we want our return to working on campus to be safely and thoughtfully coordinated across the campus, which will take time. In the meantime, please take care of yourselves, your loved ones and your fellow Buffs during this time.
Provost Russell Moore and Chief Operating Officer Patrick O’Rourke