VIDEO: Current actions to secure the future

UND’s presidents talk about budgetary actions undertaken during the current fiscal year as well as plans to reopen in fall

Editor’s Note: On Monday, May 4, University of North Dakota Interim President Josh Wynne and Incoming President Andy Armacost shared a video outlining the actions implemented due to the coronavirus’ strain on the University’s budget as well as the high-level plans to reopen campus in the fall. 

Josh Wynne: Hello, everyone. I’m Josh Wynne, interim president of your University of North Dakota.

Andy Armacost: I’m Incoming President Andy Armacost, joining you from Colorado Springs, Colorado, and in desperate need of a post-quarantine haircut.

JW: Well, I resemble that remark as well, Andy. What Andy and I thought we would do today is just to bring you up to date as to the impact of COVID-19 on the campus and where we see where we are going from here.

First of all, we want to thank all of you in the campus community, our faculty, staff, students, and our people in the local community and throughout North Dakota, for your support, hard work and perseverance during these extremely challenging times. The good news is thanks to your efforts, UND remains open and remains committed to its missions of education, discovery and service to the community. UND is all of you and together we are one. We are one UND. We couldn’t do it without you. And we thank you for that.

Now, the impact that COVID-19 has had on us is not just on the disruption of our activities, but it’s also had important financial impacts. You’re obviously well aware of that. What Andy and I would like to do is to do two things in our brief chat with you today. One is to go over how we are responding to those financial challenges. But just as important, we’re also going to outline some thoughts about how we move forward through this challenge and toward the future.

So let me just start in the current academic year, and then Andy will follow with some comments about the future.

In the current academic year, we look like we’re going to be short something like $11 million. Part of this is due to the fact that we’ve had to appropriately refund certain fees to students such as for dormitory expenses, when they weren’t there, and for meal plans that they didn’t consume. Additionally, there have been other losses of revenue: flight operations haven’t been going on, medical clinic operations have been seeing fewer patients. The end result of that is about an $11 million shortfall for the University. We need to address that.

We’ve been doing a number of things. Number One is that we’ve put a hiring chill. That doesn’t mean that we won’t hire anyone. But it does mean that we’re going to try to defer or delay hires that are not absolutely mission critical. Two, we are looking at proposed expenditures, particularly through the so called request for proposal projects, where we are going to try to limit those or delay them into the future. Number Three, we are instituting what we call a reduction in effort or a reduction in hours program for employees on the staff level. For those whose work either no longer exists because there aren’t students on campus or for work that could be deferred, we have temporarily reduce their hours, in many cases to zero.

But the good news is for the vast majority of those employees, thanks to unemployment and the CARES Act, their actual reimbursement will remain the same and critical benefits such as health insurance will continue to be paid by the University.

This first phase will end July 31. And we’ll see where we go after that, but at least this addresses some of their short-term problems.

And then finally, we’ve asked all units, whether they are academic or support units, to really look at their budgeting for the remainder of this academic year to see where any cuts could be made that don’t jeopardize carrying out our mission but yet will help us make up that roughly $11 million shortfall. Those are mainly things we’re doing this academic year.

Let me turn it over now to Andy. He can talk about the next academic year and, importantly, the future beyond that.

AA: Thanks, Josh. It’s been a busy couple of months responding to COVID. And it’s put me in the position of working closely with President Wynne and also all the VPs and the deans to really execute and develop plans for how we’re going to move forward into the next academic year.

There’s a lot of uncertainty out there, of course, but what I wanted to assure you is that we will be bringing life back to the campus this fall, and we have to do so deliberately and patiently.

The new normal is not going to look like the old normal. We’re going to take every precaution to make sure that we offer our courses and our activities in a safe fashion for students, faculty, and staff. That new approach will look a little different. So, be patient with us as we breathe life back into the campus.

But the cost challenges that we have as we move into the fall semester are real. In addition to the costs of responding directly to COVID, we also anticipate a reduction in enrollment. And this is not unique to UND. This is a national trend. And if you read the reports, you’ll see that this is what most universities across the nation are going to expect for the fall semester. So those challenges force us to do a lot of planning.

On the academic side in particular, the deans are working closely with the provost and also with their department chairs to determine how we deliver the academic mission of UND in a way that recognizes these reductions in revenues coming in. They’re being very deliberate, and they’ll be engaging faculty members about what life will look like in the classroom come this fall. And of course, our staff is working hard to plan about the physical campus and what the physical campus looks like as well. We will keep you posted on all the changes that we see forthcoming to make sure that you’re aware of what to expect when you arrive on campus this fall and beyond.

With that, I think this is probably a good time to call it quits for today’s conversation. I know that coming up on Tuesday, we have a University Council meeting. Faculty and staff are encouraged to dial into that to get even more information beyond what we talked about today. So Josh, over to you.

JW: Thanks very much, Andy. One of the things that Andy and I have worked hard on is to have this transition period be effective and efficient. Little did we know when we planned this in January, how critical it would turn out to be for us to work together very efficiently. Andy thought he would spend a little time getting to know constituents and so forth. Well, he’s been at this essentially full time since the COVID situation erupted. This has been fortuitously a really good overlap, where Andy and I, with different backgrounds and different skills, have been able to work together, I think, quite effectively in preparing UND not only for the present but also for the future.

The thought that both of us want to leave you with is that as we go through these adjustments that we have to do in the short term, this is really to position UND for success in the longer term. So let’s hang in there together. Together, we can make sure that UND will be even more impactful and more important going forward as we work our way through this COVID situation.

So on behalf of both of us: thank you for your hard work, your perseverance, and let’s continue the hard work that remains as we move forward. We are One UND thanks to you.