My fellow TCers,
As we close out the week and begin the home stretch toward the end of the academic year, I first want to once again convey the depth of my appreciation to all of you, particularly to our colleagues who continue to come to campus. These include our colleagues in the payroll department and the mailroom as well as those in facilities and public safety. We have demonstrated the collective strength of our community and our collective commitment to caring for one another.
Planning for the Fall Term
In last week’s COVID-19 update, I reported the preliminary steps that we were taking to stabilize the College’s finances while continuing to focus on our priorities. Over the past week, many of you have sought more definitive information and answers to a range of questions about job security, employee benefits, and our plans for returning to campus.
Let me start with our plans for the fall semester. At this moment, we just do not know what fall semester will look like. We would like to return to campus, but we do not know when and how it will be safe and feasible to do so. The spectrum of possibilities runs the gamut. We could see a full return to normal operations in September. We could see a phased-in return to normal operations, with extended provisions for social distancing in offices and classrooms, and crowd restrictions for events. Or we might have to continue operating remotely through the fall.
Each of those scenarios will have a bearing on enrollment, on housing, and therefore on our finances. For example, while I am guardedly optimistic about our fall enrollment, many of our admitted students and returning students live outside the United States. Whether they will be subject to travel restrictions if we resume in-person classes, or whether they will be allowed to receive credit if we are online, will have a financial impact. Likewise, if we are online through the fall, we face a loss in revenue from housing fees.
In short, there are numerous factors and unknowns beyond our control at the moment. As we get more information and therefore can make more informed decisions, we will continue to update our community.
But let me reaffirm again: We are focused on fulfilling our mission to serve our students and the public good, and caring for our people is a core piece of our strategy to keep TC strong. Or to put it more succinctly: I want to keep our dedicated workforce motivated, well supported, and as intact as possible.
At the same time, we have to be smart and strategic in taking bold action on a number of fronts in order to get through this crisis and position the College to lead in what undoubtedly will be a very different and more challenging environment.
To that end, I have formed eight working groups, each charged with clarifying the issues and challenges on their assigned topic; investigating possible solutions; and bringing to the College’s senior leadership team proposals for taking TC forward.
The eight working groups are:
- Exploring Availability of Funds CARES Act, Insurance & Related Issues
- Moving from Emergency Online Teaching to Excellence in Digital Learning
- Understanding the Implications of COVID-19 for Grants & Contracts
- Focusing on Enrollment Marketing in the COVID-19 Environment
- Program Development in the COVID-19 Environment
- Personnel & Non-Personnel Expense Reduction
- Helping Members of Our Community & Increasing Morale
- Planning for the Fall (Ongoing Social Distancing & Related Measures)
I want to thank the chairs and members of the working groups in advance for their dedication to this effort. I look forward to receiving their proposals, and to reporting on their progress in the coming weeks.
At this time of the year under more “normal” circumstances, all of us would be hard at work winding up the semester and preparing for Convocation. Many of us perhaps would be running on adrenaline, but with the Memorial Day weekend and summer arriving soon, we could look forward to shorter Fridays and vacations for much needed restoration.
Today, not only have many among us been working harder and longer without much of a break, but the fatigue that has set in is compounded by the intense stress and uncertainly that has become an inescapable feature of our lives. I am feeling it and seeing it, and now I am hearing colleagues wondering aloud not just whether they can continue working at this pace and under these circumstances, but when they will even be able to take a break, let alone a vacation.
Let me say this again: My top priority is the health, safety, and well-being of our people. We can maintain the excellence of our academic programs, sustain our operations, and fulfill our mission to serve our students and the public good – as long our community remains healthy and strong. The College needs you at your best. So please: Give yourselves the breaks you need, and take the vacation time you’ve earned.
President, Teachers College