COVID-19 Fiscal Impact

April 23, 2020
Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D., President, Professor of Physics, Applied Physics, and Astronomy, Professor of Engineering Sciences

Six weeks ago we made the decision to move instruction completely online, and instituted remote working, except for critical on-campus functions, in the face of the global COVID-19 pandemic. I recognize that these are unprecedented times for our faculty, staff, and students — both personally and professionally. As a community, we have adapted and transformed our academic and administrative practices. Everyone has been collaborative, forward-thinking, and responsive. 

Rensselaer, along with other universities across the country, has faced revenue shortfalls, and continues to face extreme financial pressures. As a direct result, we have undertaken a number of difficult decisions to preserve our ability to carry out our teaching and research mission. Effective immediately, my leadership team and I will voluntarily take a 5% pay cut.  

While continuing to offer the best education to our students, over the past several weeks, we have implemented the following measures to preserve the ability for the Institute to weather this crisis:

  1. Reduction of discretionary expenses to the greatest extent possible, including travel, outside services, consulting, and purchases

  2. Suspension of Faculty and Staff Hiring

  3. Suspension of Faculty and Staff Annual Merit Increases

  4. Suspension of Staff Reclassification Promotions

  5. Suspension of Faculty and Staff Promotional Increases

  6. Suspension of Faculty and Staff Equity Pay Adjustments

  7. Suspension of Faculty Sabbatical Leaves

  8. Suspension of Research Sponsored Positions and Stipends from Grants after May 16, 2020, unless Fully Funded by Grant/Contract

  9. Reduction of fixed-term employees

  10. Staff furloughs

Each of these steps, and the additional leadership action that we are announcing today, will address the FY 2020 financial impact of COVID-19, and will help to position the Institute to weather the expected financial challenges of FY 2021 and beyond. However, additional difficult steps may be necessary to ensure the availability of resources to cover anticipated revenue loss and anticipated extraordinary expenses. 

The Arch and Summer Enrollment
As previously announced, we will offer the full Arch summer curriculum for our rising juniors, as well as other planned summer courses. Work continues in developing robust Arch away opportunities for our rising juniors.

Start-Up Task Force
As we look forward to Fall 2020 and beyond, much remains unknown, including the severity and duration of the health emergency and the attendant economic disruption, as well as the response and guidance of our state and federal governments. 

Nonetheless, we will ensure that the high quality teaching and research that Rensselaer is renowned for will continue – through this pandemic and far beyond.

In this vein, we are moving forward with planning for renewed campus operations at the appropriate time, and in-person teaching and learning. In all that we do, the health and safety of our students and our complete Rensselaer community, remain paramount. 

The leadership team has been actively preparing, across multiple scenarios, to safely return to the right balance of in-person operations, as we adapt those operations to deliver the best possible education, perform world-class research, and ensure financial stability. 

To help determine the best path forward, I have established a Start-Up Task Force, chaired by Prabhat Hajela, Provost, and Curtis Powell, Vice President of Human Resources. This task force will develop recommendations for fully reactivating the university, with a particular focus on health and safety, pedagogical innovation, and operational effectiveness. 

The Start-Up Task Force is comprised of five workgroups: 

  1. Protocol Development and T3SQ (Testing, Tracking, Tracing, Surveillance, and Quarantine). 

  2. Teaching and Learning

  3. Campus Life

  4. Research and Graduate Education

  5. Financial Modeling and Guidance

As we develop and refine the planning, and the resultant recommendations and decisions, we will share our path forward with the full Rensselaer community.

Maintaining Our Mission
As we do this work, we are also focused on more fundamental transformation of the university to ensure it remains the vital institution it has always been, well beyond today.

As we move forward, our fundamental academic and research mission remains paramount. We intend, with your support, to ensure that Rensselaer remains a place where students are excited to learn, where faculty and staff find fulfilling work, and where our community outreach makes a difference every day in the Capital Region, in our nation, and around the globe.

Thank you for your continued commitment. Stay safe and be well. 



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