June 24, 2020
We are writing to share a notice that will be sent to students and parents this afternoon. The email announces that the Board of Trustees has endorsed a plan to invite all students who are able to return to campus this fall. We will be instituting a variety of health and safety measures in order to comply with public health guidelines. All students, faculty and staff on campus will receive training on the protocols and be required to abide by them.
Given travel restrictions, personal health and safety concerns and family considerations, we do not know how many students will choose to return to campus for the fall. We expect that courses will be offered in a variety of formats: online, hybrid and in-person based on faculty preferences. We are committed to ensuring that students will be able to advance their academic program remotely and to ensuring equity in the academic experience for students learning on campus and remotely.
We want to reiterate the following commitments:
All faculty members will be permitted to choose the format for their course (online, in-person, or hybrid) that best serves their goals for the course and the needs of their students. Given health considerations, we expect that a significant portion of fall courses will be offered all or partly online, regardless of how many students may be on campus.
For Fall 2020, the College will neither compel a faculty member to teach in-person, nor will the College penalize a faculty member for choosing to teach fully online. For the remainder of the academic year, this policy will continue to apply for as long as the Commonwealth of Massachusetts remains in Phase 2 or Phase 3.
The course of the virus is unpredictable. How best to protect the wellbeing of our community shifts as a result. Individuals face different circumstances. The choices that you make about your mode of teaching now must be guided by those circumstances. Those choices may later need to change for health, safety, pedagogical, or personal reasons. Should that happen, department chairs, deans of the faculty, and the registrar’s office will work with you to make the necessary changes.
The College is working hard and consulting outside experts to systematically evaluate spaces, to arrange for testing and tracing protocols, to establish protocols and training for anyone returning to work, and to provide the resources faculty might need to continue to offer excellent courses.
The pandemic presents, and will continue to present, significant consequences for the work of faculty and staff, the experience of students and the College’s budget, regardless of whether or not we are ultimately able to implement our plan to bring students back to campus this fall. At its meeting last week, the Board also endorsed a financial plan for the coming year. This financial plan was built not only to offset expected revenue losses due to COVID-19 and the required modifications to the College’s operations, but also to account for, among other things, the significant costs for additional cleaning, additional student housing capacity to accommodate de-densification and isolation and quarantine needs, space modifications to our classrooms and offices, and COVID-19 monitoring, testing, and tracing; and, importantly, to support our students and families, many of whose financial needs have increased due to the pandemic. The College will draw an additional $5 million from the endowment to support the operating budget, cut operating expenses, and use a recent bequest to cover an additional $3 million of need-based financial aid for students. The College will also reset tuition to the 2019-2020 level.
Like the financial plans for most other colleges and universities, our financial plan includes measures that will require sacrifices on the part of all who work at the College. In particular, the College will be re-setting tenured faculty salaries to their 2019-2020 levels to align with the administrator and staff salary freeze we announced in April. There will be no change to the salaries that have been offered to pre-tenure, visiting or continuing non-tenure track faculty. Faculty members who received tenure or promotion to full professor will retain their promotion bumps. The College will suspend its contribution to the 403(b) plan for administrative staff and faculty effective August 1 for the remainder of the 2021 fiscal year. Funding of the defined benefit pension plan for non-exempt employees will remain unchanged. There will be summer, and possibly fall, furloughs for some administrators and staff. Human Resources will be following up with supervisors and employees who will be impacted by summer furloughs by July 2. We have extended the College’s commitment of base pay to regularly scheduled employees, without regard to actual hours of work performed, through July 4, 2020.
We are sorry that what is required of us at this time will negatively impact our employees and their families. We worked hard to try to minimize these impacts. The realities of the pandemic and our desire to fulfill our mission to educate our students in the best way possible presented difficult choices that we tried to make thoughtfully and compassionately. Please know that the Board and the Executive Team understand how painful these measures will be for employees, their families and the College community as a whole. These decisions were not made lightly. Both the president and the provost will be taking significant reductions in pay, and we will use the savings to establish an employee hardship fund. Human Resources will provide more information about this fund shortly. We encourage you to avail yourself of the variety of support resources available to you through Human Resources as well as the College’s Employee Assistance Program if you have questions or need assistance over the coming months.
There are still many details to be worked out as we plan for the fall. We are grateful for all you have done to begin to prepare your classes, to support our online engagement efforts with students over the summer, and to help us welcome the class of 2024. All of this work is critical as we seek to retain our students and continue their education under very challenging circumstances. The Deans of the Faculty will contact you with information about the resources we will be providing to assist you as you prepare your classes, whether they are online, hybrid or in-person. The Deans will continue to work with department chairs and with you to develop the schedule for the fall, solicit your preferred modes of teaching, and create guidelines for online and hybrid courses. And we will continue to provide updates as the College develops its health and safety protocols.
The Provost’s Office will schedule a number of open meetings over the next several weeks to hear and respond to your questions and to provide updated information.
Phil Boroughs, S.J. and Margaret Freije
Letter to Students and Families
Dear Students and Families,
Last week we held webinars for students and parents and for faculty and staff during which we reiterated that we were on track to announce our intentions for the Fall semester in early July. Our Board of Trustees met on June 18th and endorsed our plan for the Fall semester, so I am able to announce it today, earlier than planned. While we still have many details to work out and communicate to you in the coming weeks, our plan for Fall 2020 is as follows:
The College will open in the fall and will invite all students who are able to return to campus.
All persons on campus will be required to adhere to a number of measures to comply with public health guidelines. These include, but are not limited to, wearing masks in public, maintaining six feet of distance, following all directives regarding use of elevators and other spaces on campus, and limiting the size of gatherings. In addition all persons on campus will be required to submit to the COVID-19 testing, tracing and quarantine protocols that will be established by the College.
We recognize that some students will not be able or not wish to return to campus in the fall. We will offer those students the opportunity to advance their academic program remotely. Courses will be offered in a variety of formats: in-person, hybrid or fully online. Due to physical distancing guidelines, we are limited to larger classrooms and other large spaces on campus for in-person classes. Space considerations alone will necessitate limiting the number of in-person courses that can be offered. We will communicate the format for each Fall 2020 course and any necessary revisions to the course schedule by Friday, July 10.
In order to de-densify the residence halls the College will limit occupancy to two persons per room. We will also establish isolation and quarantine spaces for students. Together, these measures will likely require that we secure additional housing off campus. Students will receive a notice to complete the next steps in the housing selection process from the Office of Residence Life and Housing within the week.
Many faculty and staff members will continue to work remotely in the fall for a variety of reasons. Human Resources will work with faculty and staff by department, or individually when needed, to determine if, when and how they will return to campus. Information about returning to work can be found on the Faculty and Staff section of the COVID-19 Response and Reopening website.
I want to be very clear that our plan for the fall is still subject to the course of the virus itself as well as by the restrictions that may be imposed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the city of Worcester or CDC guidelines, and our ability to secure necessary testing, contact tracing resources, and housing capacity. We are starting to hear reports of resurgence of the virus in some states forcing a slowdown or reversal of some reopening plans. So while we are working intently toward the plans above, we will all need to remain flexible as we progress through the summer, and throughout the fall semester.
In addition, the Patriot League Council of Presidents recently announced the principles on which the League will develop a Fall 2020 plan. While we are working on our plans as they relate to non-league competition, Holy Cross Athletics will follow these principles as they consider their plan for returning to Patriot League competition:
Student-athletes will return to campus at the same time as other students;
Patriot League competition will begin at the end of September, with the expectation that League play will be completed prior to Thanksgiving;
Non-League competition will not begin prior to Friday, Sept. 4;
Patriot League member institutions will confirm that non-League competitors are following comparable health and safety protocols in advance of any contest; and,
No Patriot League teams will fly to competitions and, with rare exceptions, regular-season competition will exclude overnight travel.
There are still many details to be worked out regarding reopening the campus. This is a complex process as some decisions are contingent upon information that we do not yet know. For example, we cannot complete housing assignments until we know how many students plan to return to campus. We will have new procedures for almost every aspect of campus life – from how and where courses are offered to move-in to dining to access to the library and wellness facilities to elevator usage. There will be significant restrictions on the services and opportunities we can provide and on our freedom of movement. Our return to campus will not be successful unless all members of the community comply with the public health guidelines that will be in place. Working groups have been established to plan and execute the details in each of the distinct areas of our Fall 2020 Reopening Plan. The groups and their membership will be posted on the COVID-19 Response and Reopening website by the end of this week.
The return of the majority of our students to campus in this new environment and the need to be prepared for contingencies will have significant financial and operational implications for the College. These realities will require sacrifices on the part of administrators, staff, faculty, students and their families. Indeed we have already imposed a salary freeze and mandatory vacation draw down on administrators and staff while many continue their regular work in addition to planning for the new realities this fall; and faculty have committed to working this summer to redesign their courses to continue to effectively engage students in a hybrid, on-line or socially-distanced in-person experience.
In approving the plan to invite all students who are able back to campus for the fall semester, the Board of Trustees endorsed a corresponding budget plan. This financial plan was built not only to offset expected revenue losses and increased costs due to COVID-19 and the required modifications to the College’s operations, but also, importantly, to support our students and families, many of whose financial needs have increased due to the pandemic. The plan includes the following:
The College expects to spend an estimated $10-$12 million for additional cleaning, student housing, space modifications including classroom technology to facilitate hybrid and online learning, and to cover the costs of the required COVID-19 monitoring, testing, tracing and providing quarantine/isolation spaces and caring for students who may need to use those spaces
The College will increase the draw from the endowment adding an additional $5 million to our operating budget.
Summer operations remain limited and we anticipate further modifications to our typical operations in the fall. This has resulted in changes to resource needs in different areas of the College. As a result, there will be a number of furloughs of administrators and staff issued for the summer and fall.
The College will be re-setting tenured faculty salaries to their 2019-2020 levels to align with the administrator and staff salary freeze we announced in April.
Both Provost Freije and I will take a significant reduction in pay for the coming year. This savings will be used to establish an employee hardship fund.
The College will suspend its contribution to the 403(b) plan for administrators and faculty effective August 1 for the remainder of the 2021 fiscal year. Employees will still be able to contribute voluntarily to this plan, but will not be required to do so. Funding of the defined benefit pension plan for non-exempt employees will remain unchanged.
In recognition of the fact that COVID-19 has had a significant impact on all of our students’ families, the College will eliminate the previously announced tuition increase and freeze tuition for the 2020-2021 academic year at the 2019-2020 rate. The College will also adjust its financial aid packaging model by eliminating the $2400 expected student contribution. We typically plan for this amount to come from student summer earnings, and we recognize that many students are unable to secure summer employment this year.
The College will use a recent bequest to cover the estimated $3 million increase in need-based financial aid the College will be awarding.
I know that you have many questions, and many details are yet forthcoming. We will update the COVID-19 Response and Reopening website as we have more information. In addition, we will alert you to major updates by email each Wednesday through the summer, and we will host additional opportunities to keep you informed through webinars and town hall meetings with College leadership.
The fall semester will certainly feel very different from what we are used to on Mount St. James. But while we live, learn and engage in new ways, we will also continue to build an ever stronger community through this unprecedented shared experience. Together we will achieve something that has never been attempted before, and I look forward to this journey with you and the many opportunities, ideas and learning that we will gain along the way.
Philip L. Boroughs, S.J.