Progress Report on the Impact of the Economy on the University
November 24, 2008
Read additional statements from President Seligman regarding the University and the current economic crisis
Since I last wrote to the University community on October 31, financial markets and our economy have continued to deteriorate. While it is not possible to predict how long the current recession will last or how significant its impact will be on such areas as employment, retail sales, and business failures, it is not premature to recognize that this is the most serious economic challenge this nation has experienced since World War II. The University's Board of Trustees and the University's senior leadership recognize that the economy is likely to have a significant impact on the University for several already known reasons:
- Since this academic year began on July 1, 2008, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has declined by approximately 30 percent; the University of Rochester's endowment investments are estimated to have declined by approximately 25 percent during the same period. No one can predict where stock prices will be in the future, but if these levels continue, this will reduce the resources we have available to support our programs. The extent of this reduction, however, will be cushioned by the fact that we calculate endowment payout on a 20-quarter rolling average.
- After three extraordinary years of growth in support from our alumni and friends, a decline in giving seems likely to occur. Philanthropy tends to decline during the initial year of a recession, but is typically ultimately resilient.
- In times of rising unemployment, we will work to find and distribute more financial aid for our students.
- In the current circumstances, tuition increases are likely to be smaller than in past years.
We are not in crisis. Universities are among this nation's most enduring social institutions because they adjust to challenging economic times and because they provide vital education, research, and often health care which are essential to our democracy and economic success.
We will pursue our strategic plans, which we believe are essential to making this strong university "ever better" in the future. The economy will impact the pace of implementation of these plans. Our objectives, however, have not changed and will be pursued.
In these challenging times, I have informed our Board of Trustees that I do not wish to receive a pay increase next academic year. Several senior administrators and deans have also voluntarily indicated that they do not wish to receive a pay increase next year. I will continue to contribute 10 percent of my base salary to the University.
Let me describe several other approaches that we are now taking to address the current economic challenge:
First, we will preserve and, where possible, strengthen the core of our University. This means continuing to provide outstanding education to our undergraduate and graduate students as well as outstanding support for our faculty and staff. Their experiences are at the heart of what it means to be a part of a great research university. We are deeply grateful that our students, faculty and staff have chosen to study, teach, research, engage in clinical practice and work here. Above all else, we will endeavor to support those who are the essence of what makes our University outstanding.
Second, we will proceed cautiously with major capital projects. Projects where construction has begun, such as the Eastman Theatre renovation and expansion, will continue without interruption. Construction of major new projects, such as the Clinical and Translational Sciences Building (CTSB) and the Pediatric Replacement and Imaging Sciences Modernization (PRISM) hospital expansion, will begin only when financing through government or philanthropic support and debt markets is more certain. We are proceeding with planning and design work for both CTSB and PRISM to ensure that they remain as close to their schedules as is feasible. Both of these projects are of critical importance to the Rochester community and the University. The Board of Trustees Facilities and Executive Committees recently approved the planning and design work for a new building for the Warner School. This design work, too, will continue. We are reviewing several other facilities and information technology projects and may delay or downsize specific facilities and projects when it is necessary.
Third, working with Ron Paprocki, Senior Vice President for Administration and Finance, and Ralph Kuncl, Provost and Executive Vice President, I have begun to review both central and divisional budgets. This review process largely focuses on the next academic year which will begin in July 2009, but already a number of decisions have been made, including:
- Our central General Administrative and Institutional (GA & I) budget originally had been modeled to increase significantly next academic year in order to implement several aspects of our recently approved divisional strategic plans. I have asked Ron Paprocki to develop a revised GA & I budget for next academic year that anticipates 0 percent growth in areas where we are not locked into fixed rising costs. I have also asked for the development of a GA & I budget model based upon a 3 percent decrease in such costs. Separately, the budget for the Office of the President for this academic year already has been reduced by approximately 5 percent and will be lower next academic year than the budget was this year.
- I anticipate that there will be more modest salary and wage increases for our faculty and staff next year than there have been in recent years. I do not anticipate a University-wide mandate to reduce the number of jobs, although some divisions of the University will review staffing levels and assignments as part of the budgetary process. The filling of job vacancies in the central administration, for example, will now require a higher burden of persuasion than before.
- Our vendor purchasing policies and practices are being carefully reviewed to achieve potential savings. I do anticipate that in some instances we will reduce costs by using in-house services such as those for printing and food service.
- We will intensify our efforts to work with all in our University community to find ways to economize with respect to energy and other costs. We soon will communicate with faculty, students, and staff about how each person within our community can help. We will similarly tighten our belts in areas such as travel, communication, and similar costs.
We are a decentralized university. Each division is currently engaged in a comprehensive budgetary review. For example, on November 6 Brad Berk, the Chief Executive Officer of the Medical Center circulated a memorandum to his leadership team outlining initial steps to address a cost reduction/process improvement program that will begin on January 1, 2009. This week Senior Vice President and Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Sciences and Engineering Peter Lennie will meet with his faculty and staff to begin a discussion of the challenging budgetary forecast for the College in the next academic year.
As I have spoken to student, faculty, and alumni groups in recent weeks, I have been asked, how can we help in these challenging times? First, let me encourage all in our community to keep sending in your suggestions and ideas. We learn from you. You are a key part of our University- wide conversation, which is all the more important when times are tough. Second, for our alumni and friends, your philanthropic support, particularly for our students, makes a significant difference. You have been remarkably generous in your financial contributions and we are deeply grateful to you for your support. You can also help our students when you see job opportunities and internship opportunities for our students. Please contact us so we can help make these positions known to our students. Third, for our faculty, students, and staff, small steps can have large cumulative effects. For example, adjusting the thermostat to reduce energy use or turning off your computers during holidays.
In this week of Thanksgiving, it is worth closing by reflecting on how much each of us has for which to be thankful. In the past few years the University has developed an accelerating momentum, suggested by a remarkable 54 percent growth in University external research funding during the past five years to $389 million; outstanding new programs in several schools such as the addition in Arts and Sciences of those in new international relations and in economics and business strategies; the opening of the Riverview Apartments, which now house 400 students just across the Genesee River; great research such as that of physicist Alice Quillen, who successfully predicted the existence of a new planet; exceptional contributions to the humanities such as the exciting combination of the new undergraduate and graduate programs in literary translation and the University's new, and already critically acclaimed, Open Letter Press. Our new Board Chair Ed Hajim's $30 million commitment to the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences was an extraordinarily inspiring vote of confidence in our future, particularly occurring this past October, in this period of unprecedented economic challenge.
Each school, each faculty member, each student, each member of our staff, each of our alumni and friends can be proud of what together we are accomplishing together. We are all part of a University that will continue to progress.