Message from the President

By Maria Tanner | April 13, 2020

A personal video message from President Nair to staff and faculty, recorded April 10. 

Dear Staff and Faculty,

I write to you today with great hope and optimism about our future despite the unprecedented challenges we are facing as a community and society. I hope you are all finding productive ways to cope with this crisis. Without the intense travel schedule I have become accustomed to, I feel blessed to have more time to spend with my family, especially as my oldest child prepares to leave for college in the fall. Of course, I miss spending time with all of you; I’ve enjoyed connecting with many of you through video conferencing, but I’m sure you agree that our in-person contact is irreplaceable. (In the meantime, I’ll keep producing videos for social media so you can have a good laugh at my expense!)  
Clearly, COVID-19 has produced many challenges for us, but in many ways, the challenges are only beginning. Colleges and universities across the country are facing a stark reality. It remains unclear how coronavirus will affect enrollments, and whether federal, state, or local guidelines will necessitate schools to suspend operations or continue to provide courses online beyond summer. On our Glenside campus and at our centers around the world, we’ve implemented several cost-cutting measures, including implementing a hold on hiring nonessential personnel, reviewing our contracts to see where costs can be cut, and setting University buildings on power-saving modes.  

Striving to secure a more sustainable future in the midst of a pandemic, many organizations are making difficult decisions regarding hiring freezes, furloughs, layoffs, and other cost-cutting measures. Although Arcadia is facing similar pressures, we are committed to moving forward thoughtfully, aligning decision making with our priorities as outlined in our Arcadia 2025 Adaptive Strategy, including support for the most vulnerable members of our community. The President’s Cabinet has developed draft financial principles for your consideration that we will apply to our decision-making for recovery from this crisis. I ask that you review the principles, which are grounded in and guided by our JEDI framework, and submit your feedback using this form. 

Also, the President’s Cabinet has identified a three-stage process to help us close our immediate budget gap and to help create a sustainable path forward. Although our full financial picture will become clearer in the fall once our enrollment numbers are known, it is imperative that we take swift action now to prepare for potential financial realities for the next academic year. Any savings beyond what is needed to close the fiscal year 2020 budget gap will be reinvested into our endowment, which serves as an important tool to help fund our priorities.  

Stage One – Closing this Fiscal Year (April 2020-May 31, 2020):
In the short-term, we will close the FY2020 budget gap in accordance with our approved budget through the following strategies: 

Open, nonessential positions are on hold.
The President and his Cabinet will take a 20% temporary salary reduction beginning in April and continuing through May.
Human Resources, working with the Vice Presidents and supervisors, will review each unit’s operational needs to determine if a reduction in worked hours over the summer aligns with the needs of the department. If any departmental employees are considered for a reduction in hours or furlough, their benefits will continue, and wage support should be available through federal and state COVID-19 relief programs.
Vice Presidents are working directly with purchasing to limit credit card usage and determine essential FY20 purchases for individual units. 
The President’s Cabinet will continue to explore with the Board other opportunities to close the budget gap as we continue to study this evolving situation.   
All employee benefits, including retirement matching program, will remain in force. 
We recognize these strategies will impact not just the University, but also students, employees, vendors and our Glenside and global communities.  

In addition to the measures described above, additional relief is anticipated from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Stimulus (CARES) Act. This funding from the federal government designates 50% to students impacted by the coronavirus, and 50% to an institution’s efforts to respond to COVID-19. The University is also investigating whether business interruption insurance is available to help offset any losses and/or increased costs associated with the pandemic. 

Stage Two (June 2020-August 2020):
Over the past academic year, Arcadia University finalized an adaptive strategy that was the culmination of nearly two years of community work. Our innovative adaptive strategy uniquely positions us for success during this unprecedented crisis. Many of our strategic initiatives were created to strengthen our ability to respond to disruption. However, like the entire higher education sector, we have experienced a significant decline in our net operating revenue as a result of COVID-19. I have asked Provost Rutenbeck to convene a university-wide leadership team to conduct scenario planning to help us prepare for the challenges we may face during the next academic year.  

More immediately, Academic Affairs has worked to shift Summer 2020 sessions to a fully online academic term to ensure academic continuity and to generate revenue for FY21. Summer research programs will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. This shift in academic offerings does not necessarily mean that University offices will discontinue remote work throughout the summer. We will continue to follow the guidance of local, state, and national authorities regarding our ability to restore on-site operations.

Stage Three (September 2020 – May 2021): 
As we enter FY21, we will align a business plan, further develop risk profiles, solidify KPIs (key performance indicators), develop a collaborative and routine system to monitor and respond to uncertainties, and also align college, departmental, and divisional structures with the University’s strategic direction. By fall census (late September), we will have a clearer idea of our enrollments and revenue projections for  FY 2021. We will then consider whether or not we are in a position to proceed with compensation increases as we present a budget for approval to the Board in October. Please know that administration is committed to this plan and will implement fully when we are financially able to do so. 

COVID-19 has pushed us to form a new lens through which we should examine our strategy in key areas.  Moreover, this crisis should  push us to expedite our work and focus on several key interrelated areas that are deeply woven into our adaptive strategy: 

Technology: Implementing technology that is aligned fully with our institutional priorities gives us a degree of agility, efficiency, and effectiveness needed to thrive in an environment of constant change and disruption. How do we organize our IT infrastructure to deliver the best resources possible? 
Finance and Infrastructure: The financial impact of COVID-19 coupled with our adaptive strategy creates urgency around financial decisions to create a sustainable future for Arcadia. How will we deploy our resources to positively impact our present and future?  
University Advancement: A reorganization is currently underway in both development and alumni engagement to create infrastructure, refine protocols, and enhance outcomes when aligned around mission-critical objectives. In the aftermath of the pandemic and the accompanying economic disruption, donors and donor relations will have a heightened priority. 
Global Strategy:  The experience of this pandemic will inform how we imagine our global strategy, as well as the tactical aspects of our global enterprise. How can we better align TCGS with a university-wide international strategy and operation to help us leapfrog our competitors, and to be an agile organization?
Human Resources and the Employee Experience: The way in which we work and live has certainly been altered. How do we learn from this experience to cultivate a world-class experience for our staff and faculty?  
Student Success: How our students live and learn has also been altered. The need and urgency to embrace educational technologies and to strengthen our online learning and teaching capacity have never been made more clear. What are the opportunities to enhance our global teaching and learning? How does COVID-19 inform the Enrollment strategy under development? What is the right academic program mix? 
Marketing and Communications: How does COVID-19 inform our branding and marketing strategy currently under development? How do we leverage data from new online platforms, such as hosting Career Ed Fair and Scarlet and Grey Day, to continue an engaging user experience? 
Shared Governance: What new models of shared governance can we develop to help us respond effectively to disruption?  How can shared governance help us balance efficiency and effectiveness with equity and fairness? How do we strengthen our ability to seek inputs and outputs as part of a decision-making process that strengthens confidence among our stakeholders to benefit the university? 
President’s Commission of Justice, Equity Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI): The misfortune of COVID-19 won’t be shared equally among our stakeholders. How can we substantively and concretely contribute toward helping achieve a future Arcadia that is just, equitable, diverse, and inclusive, a place that will reflect the world in which we want to live? 
As we look ahead at a future shaped by this pandemic, I am eager for your perspective on the alternatives described above, ideas for cost-sharing/revenue generation, and your feedback on our financial principles.  Please reach out to your Faculty Senate/Staff Council representative, Human Resources, or send your thoughts and ideas directly using this feedback form.

This week’s Friday Forum will provide guidance to frequently asked questions; you will receive an invitation shortly. As always, we will remain resilient, strong, and innovative. We are #ArcadiaStrong.

Warm Regards,

Ajay Nair, Ph.D.