Message From the Chancellor (COVID-19 May 18, 2020 8:53 p.m.)

Building tomorrow together

Dear Colleagues,

I hope this message finds you well. I always enjoy the weekend after a board meeting, and I hope you found time to relax as well.

As I said in my email on Friday, financial realities are taking shape, but the devil is in the details. When it comes to the details, as Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University said—four (4) times—in last week’s Freakonomics podcast (What Will College Look Like in the Fall (and Beyond)?): “We don’t know.” What we do all know is that we are in the middle of a pandemic and an economic crisis, each bad on its own but truly formidable in tandem.

Still, we cannot just wait around to see what happens, and I want to continue to communicate with transparency as we go along, listening to your feedback. I am in almost daily conversations with the provost and CFO. As we wrangle with the variables, we are guided by the following:

  • Prioritize academic offerings,
  • Protect people as much as possible,
  • Gather as much input as possible,
  • Target cuts (rather than across the board), and
  • Invest in the future.

The immediate problem

On Friday with the regents, we agreed to plan for a hypothetical 10% decrease in state appropriations and 3% decrease in enrollment while facing our committed cost increases.

Revenue assumptions for the coming fiscal year

  • State appropriations decrease of 10% ($7M)
  • Enrollment decrease of 3%, affecting tuition and fees ($4M)

Commitment to the following cost increases

  • Promotion and tenure raises ($400K)
  • Student scholarships ($6.5M)
  • Fixed costs (e.g., utilities, insurance premiums) ($1.4M)

The solution

Part of our solution to address the immediate problem will include the following expense-cutting and cost-containment measures.

  • Saving unused travel money (exceptions reviewed by the provost and CFO)
  • Budget review by unit
  • No new budget requests
  • Suspend merit raises (~$1.9 million); performance reviews will continue
  • Natural attrition (retirements and vacancies)
  • Continue with process efficiencies initiative (e.g., managed printing, contract sourcing to increase rebates to the institution)

We will need to do more. With targets and parameters, we will seek your input for further solutions from each division (e.g., summer compensation, administrative cuts).

The long term

While we address the immediate problem, we also need to invest in growth and other revenue-generating activity for the longer term.

  • Commit to innovative academic programs
  • Efforts that focus on student recruitment and retention
  • Renewed focus on the growth of Dallas and Houston campuses

Just as we saw with the successful alternative grading plan that was developed for the spring semester, I want to take the time to make a robust and nuanced plan when it comes to not only securing our financial future but also our transition back to campus.

At the risk of an even longer message, I want to acknowledge the challenges of returning to campuses. It is like reverse culture shock as my chief of staff, who is back in his office today, can attest. We had to take turns in the little break area and talked to each other from awkward distances. If it is tricky for two people on one floor, we have our work cut out in devising teaching environments that are safe.

Risk Management is still working on signage for entrances, stairwells, and foot traffic; Environmental Health and Safety is developing self-screening protocols; HR is producing other guidance for supervisors about various employee scenarios; and the provost is setting up a committee to look at scheduling, classroom protocol, and course delivery. Though still not easy, it was much easier to close buildings than to re-open them. With your patience and care, we can do it slowly and carefully, optimizing our health and safety while advancing the mission of the university.

A screenshot of Wesley Crusher from Star Trek The Next Generation asking Captain Picard why there aren't handles on doors anymore, and Picard answers, Wesley, it's time I tell you about the year 2020.

In closing, there are many unknowns. I want to be real and honest about that. For all that we do not know, one thing we do is that we go farther together. With patience, careful thought, and perseverance, we will come through stronger, wiser, and more agile. We will carry the Texas Woman’s mantle, playing our part in building a better tomorrow.

With a pioneering spirit,

Carine M. Feyten, Ph.D.
Chancellor and President

P.S. For the latest information, check out the TWU COVID-19 webpage.

Page last updated 8:37 AM, May 19, 2020