President Iuliano sent the following message to employees on April 27. It outlines the effects on employees of measures the College is taking in response to the financial challenges of the pandemic.
Dear Members of the Gettysburg Community,
When we extended the students’ spring break a little more than six weeks ago, the College took the first steps toward what has been a dramatic adjustment to our most foundational structures. Since then, we have moved to remote learning and the campus has been physically closed, requiring most of our employees to work from home, to the extent that they have been able to work at all. We are not alone, of course, in experiencing these seismic shifts, nor have we been alone in experiencing the significant financial implications they have imposed and will inevitably continue to impose into the next academic year. The question before us is how we, as a community, should best respond to these unprecedented circumstances.
This letter sets forth the next steps in the College’s response. There may well be more difficult decisions ahead. But what I know of this place, and what I have witnessed repeatedly over the past several months, is that we face challenges head on—doing what is necessary to ensure the continued strength and vitality of this institution for which we have such deep affection. And it is that spirit, and that commitment, that leaves me with no doubt that we will emerge from this moment a stronger institution that continues to make a profound difference in society by the talented students we graduate and the knowledge and creative works we generate.
Let me begin by outlining what I see as the central principles that should continue to guide our response.
- First, our responsibility is twofold: we must both support our community today and nurture this special institution for generations to come. These dual responsibilities require us to confront difficult decisions with candor, confidence, and an eye to what will strengthen the College over the long term. They require us to steward our existing resources as wisely and as carefully as possible, which we have long done as a College and which takes on special importance given current economic circumstances, both globally and for higher education.
- Second, given the many unknowns associated with the pandemic, we have been inclined to act incrementally and to respond to facts and circumstances as they evolve, with the health and safety of our community as our touchstone. This approach permits us to make more informed judgments, but it also necessarily—and unfortunately—means extending the time over which we make and implement decisions.
- Third, as always, we will remain committed to providing our students with the rigorous, ambitious, and forward-looking education which is a hallmark of this College.
Consistent with these principles, we have already taken a number of important steps. We mobilized institutional resources to ensure that our remote education, both curricular and co-curricular, was effectively structured and delivered. Last week, we announced the establishment of several working groups to focus intensively on how we might best prepare for the next academic year. And, in my April 2 letter, I outlined some first steps to respond to the challenging financial context before us and other colleges and universities.
Since my April 2 letter, the College has continued its efforts to learn more about the pandemic and its impact. Here’s where we stand:
Together with all of higher education, we will face a period of financial strain. We expect to lose most of our projected revenues from summer programs, on top of the $7 million impact associated with the refund of room and board. We understand better the welcome—though limited—resources available to us through the federal stimulus program. We are beginning to engage students and their families on changes to their personal financial situations and their associated implications for our financial aid budget. And, perhaps most importantly, we remain in this regrettable position of being a residential college that has been forced to teach and work remotely.
With the benefit of this somewhat clearer understanding about our existing circumstances, we are taking several additional measures outlined below. We take none of these steps lightly but, together, they will help ensure that the College remains a vital and dynamic place to study, to teach, to research, and to work, both now and when our students return to campus.
Administrative and support staff experiencing reduced workloads
The first step relates to those staff and administrative employees who, by virtue of our remote teaching and working environment, have seen their ability to perform their job responsibilities meaningfully compromised. As a reminder, we have committed to the full pay and benefits of our benefited employees for a six-week period through April 30, regardless of their ability to perform the full range of their responsibilities.
As we look ahead into May, it is necessary for us to acknowledge the financial and operational consequences we are experiencing as we remain in this extended period of remote working and teaching. Therefore, as of Saturday, May 2, we will be more closely aligning the pay with the actual working hours for those staff and administrative employees whose capacity to work effectively in this environment has been most profoundly affected. Hourly employees will continue to work at least one day a week (and many hourly employees more than that), while a small number of administrative employees will be furloughed. The affected employees have already been notified.
Our understanding of unemployment compensation insurance indicates that, at least through July 2020, most of the affected employees may be eligible to receive unemployment compensation payments and federal stimulus dollars that, when combined with their continuing College pay, should at least equal their current take-home pay.
We have assured the affected employees that they will continue to be eligible for most benefits, including health, dental insurance, and tuition. The College will pay the employee-share of health insurance premiums for the first two pay periods of any reduced hours or furlough to reduce the possibility of any potential disruption as employees begin making the necessary transitions. After the first month, the College will continue with the employer contribution toward the employees’ health care.
In anticipation of a return to campus in the fall, we have planned these steps, and schedules, through the end of July. But it is only fair to acknowledge that we are in a period of considerable uncertainty and that limits our ability to make confident predictions. We will continue to evaluate the evolution of the virus and its impact on the College and higher education, with an eye to making the best possible judgments for our College, students, and employees as the facts come into clearer focus.
We recognize that these actions will be disorienting and will create some understandable anxiety. Our hope is that our conversations with the affected employees, together with considerable ongoing engagement over the coming months, will leave them with no question about their importance as members of our community.
Employees with TIAA contribution retirement (403(b)) plans
As a means of responding to the economic consequences of the pandemic, effective in July we will be temporarily reducing the College’s contribution to all employees’ 403(b) plans from 10% to 5% of eligible compensation. Again, we are evaluating the overall economic environment for the College and higher education on a regular basis, with an eye to restoring some or all of the reduced contribution as soon as we responsibly may do so.
Finally, and in the spirit of doing what is right and to help ensure that we are as well positioned as possible to return to a residential learning environment, the Vice Presidents, Provost, and I have voluntarily reduced our compensation. In my case, I will reduce my compensation by 15% through at least the first six months of the 2020-21 fiscal year.
We’ve developed an FAQ aimed at providing more specific information regarding these measures.
This is an extraordinarily difficult time and these are all difficult decisions. The continued questions surrounding the path of the pandemic suggests that we may well have additional difficult decisions ahead. We must respond to these circumstances with foresight, a commitment to our mission, and the long-term health of the College in mind. The measures we are taking today seek to advance those objectives, but we nonetheless take them reluctantly and cognizant of the real-life impact to people who are integral members of our community.
Let me conclude by repeating a point I have made in prior communications to the campus. This College has seen periods like this, where broader societal issues have presented challenges to our ability to advance our mission. When I am asked, as I often am, what makes Gettysburg College special, I come back to the people. There is nothing I am looking forward to more than returning to our normal residential environment as soon as we can safely do so, when we will all be together again doing what we do best– working together to support our students and to prepare the next generation of society’s leaders. That spirit has guided us in the past and, as I said at the outset of this letter, it will ensure we emerge from this moment’s challenges a stronger and yet more determined institution.