To the TC Community:
Every Friday morning, I sit down to prepare a weekly message composed of news, updates, and personal reflections about our community in these most challenging of times. This week’s message is more difficult to write because I need to address both the pandemic’s financial impacts on the College and the financial implications going forward.
Let me start by reassuring you that, while we will all feel the effects of this pandemic for years to come, we will always strive to support our students, our staff, and our faculty in important and meaningful ways. Moreover, I am optimistic in many ways about what the future holds for TC. Our mission is more relevant than ever, and the work we do is critical to ensuring that those individuals, communities and organizations we serve will emerge from this crisis strong. Indeed, I am confident that TC will become a stronger and more effective teaching and research institution as well. For that to happen, we must prepare and plan responsibly for all eventualities, based on the best information and most reliable projections we have at any given time.
TC’s revenues come primarily from tuition, associated auxiliary sources (such as event rental and housing fees), grants and contracts, philanthropic donations, and interest from our endowment. Every one of these sources is likely to see negative effects from the pandemic, whether directly or indirectly. In several important aspects, thanks to months and years of contingency planning, TC was better prepared than so many of our peers to weather a crisis of this magnitude. Our investments in digital technology, tools, and learning positioned the College to adapt quickly to operating remotely and to be more competitive in the online market in all conditions. As important, good financial management that included a focus on eliminating unnecessary expenses and controlling costs allowed us to accumulate reserves that will partially cushion the blow and help us get through the next several months. We enter this period with some financial reserves which will help us move into the future, but we expect to experience some significant losses of revenue.
At the same time, we are operating in an extremely uncertain environment. We do not know when we can safely return to “normal” operations. Will we be on campus or online in the fall? If so, what will that look like? Will international students be able to join the rest of us on campus or even enroll remotely? So, like virtually every other college and university, TC must make contingency plans.
Given the long and tough road ahead filled with so many financial challenges and uncertainties, we are taking the following steps in order to stabilize our finances:
- Beginning with me, the leadership team will be taking significant pay cuts.
- We will only be hiring in the most necessary situations for the time being. We will hire only for essential operations, and will set a very high bar for what that means.
- We will do everything we can to support our people and to avoid workforce reductions, starting with redoubling our efforts to identify efficiencies and cost savings in benefits and compensation packages.
- We are examining all of our budgets in order to eliminate all unnecessary expenditures and defer essential expenditures where possible.
- We will postpone any capital projects while continuing essential maintenance activities.
Taking these steps will allow us to continue pursuing our long-term plans for Teachers College. Despite the current crisis, our priorities for TC that we’ve been working over the past year remain as vital and timely as ever. Over the past two years, we have moved forward on these five overall priorities:
- Strengthen academic excellence and promote and grow research support and research funding;
- Support student pathways through improved staffing, policies, and financial aid strategies;
- Leverage our work in digital innovation and pedagogy;
- Continue and enhance our emphasis on diversity, inclusion, and equity for all members of our community; and
- Ensure the fiscal sustainability of the College for years to come.
While we will continue to focus on these priorities, our current strategy for addressing the current crisis has four elements. We are committed to:
- Caring for our people by continuing to promote the health, welfare, and safety of every member of our community;
- Maintaining program excellence while optimizing our digital capabilities for flexibility and market competitiveness;
- Increasing our efforts in enrollment recruitment and retention by demonstrating to students that they will receive an academic experience second to none – with all of the supports and services they need to succeed; and
- Reducing expenses while minimizing disruptions and adverse impacts on our community members’ lives.
Working together, we can and will continue to maintain and strengthen the quality of all of our programs, and provide all of our students with pathways to a rewarding TC experience and career success. We can and must continue to identify efficiencies and cost savings in our respective budgets. And we can and will continue to make the strongest case to our alumni and donor base for supporting TC.
I recognize that this message, while hardly a surprise to anyone, is still a lot to process. But we will get through this, because we can count on each other to keep coming together to keep our collective spirits high, and TC strong.
Fighting the virus of hate
This past week began with the observance of Yom HaShoah, a day of global mourning and remembrance of the six million Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust. The day is a grim reminder of what often happens when bigotry goes unchallenged during a crisis: Hate spreads like a virus, fear and panic escalate, and scapegoating turns to discrimination and violence.
Unfortunately, that pattern has resurfaced during the current global health crisis. We’ve seen an alarming number of reported cases of threats, bias, and physical assaults against Asian Americans. And well-organized extremist hate groups are peddling anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.
Ultimately, the most effective weapon we have against the virus of fear, panic, and hate, which endangers everyone’s lives and safety, is education. It’s on us to call out bias and hate whenever we spot it. It’s on each of us to make sure we aren’t showing early signs of prejudice or intolerance. And it’s up to all of us to honor the memories of the six million Jews who perished by pledging eternal vigilance against the virus of hate against any people.
The universal message of Ramadan
I want to conclude this week’s message by wishing our Muslim friends and colleagues a Ramadan Mubarak. During Islam’s holy month of fasting, prayer, and reflection, there is an intense focus on affirming community and helping those in need.
During a global crisis of this magnitude, human beings at their best come together out of a sense of common humanity. I’m inspired that TCers of different religious faiths (and no religious faith) have come together in the spirit of community solidarity, mutual respect, and charity.
I particularly want to thank all of you who responded so quickly, generously – and in large numbers! – to my appeal to support the Wendy M. Dressel Student Emergency Fund. Seeing gifts come in from every segment of our community – faculty, professional staff, union employees, and part-timers – brought tears to my eyes. More important, you brought comfort and hope to students who needed it most.
I wish you all a restful weekend.
President, Teachers College