Community update from President Glotzbach
Dear Members of the Skidmore Community:
People may well be tired of hearing me and others say that we are living through extraordinary times. Therefore, I will start by simply repeating my sincere thanks to everyone for stepping up to deal with the challenges we presently are confronting. The response across our community has been inspiring. At the same time, I also know it has been exhausting for those working long hours to continue to fulfill our educational mission.
In lieu of an in-person Community Meeting during a time of social distancing and remote working, I would like to share the following updates that were delivered at last Friday’s Institutional Policy and Planning Committee (IPPC) meeting and at the Faculty Meeting that occurred then as well.
As the national COVID-19 crisis has presented the College with many external challenges, the pandemic and the steps it has forced us to take have also created internal challenges. We are all adjusting to radical changes in the way we work, but that is just the beginning. The pandemic has only exacerbated the significant budgetary challenges that we were already facing and that I have reported to you on many previous occasions.
The College has sufficient cash reserves to help us weather this crisis for a while, but the longer it extends and the more those reserves are depleted and our financial outlook affected, the less we will be able to carry on without making significant changes in how we operate. Some schools in more precarious situations than ours might not survive this crisis. I am confident that Skidmore will survive and return to an even financial footing by making the necessary changes. But we cannot underestimate the gravity of the challenge we are facing.
Over the coming weeks and months, the President’s Cabinet will be planning for multiple possible scenarios for the end of this term, for the summer, and for the fall. We will consult with the IPPC and the Board of Trustees and keep our community informed. As we look toward the coming presidential transition, we will be engaging President-elect Marc Conner in these conversations as well, so he is fully informed when he assumes his leadership role on July 1. If we embrace this process together as a community, we can bring to bear our collective wisdom about the choices we will need to make.
Remote learning update
Michael Orr, dean of the faculty and vice president for academic affairs, reports that our faculty members have demonstrated remarkable creativity and flexibility in adapting their courses to the new remote learning environment, and the overall transition has gone well.
Faculty are continuing to fine-tune their courses as they receive feedback from students, parents, and colleagues about their experiences with remote learning. In many cases, the feedback has been very positive, with students and parents expressing great appreciation for the way in which the transition has been handled. Some feedback suggests that further adjustments may be called for, and faculty are asked to continue to be flexible in their approaches and to continue to seek student input.
Student support services, including the Office of Academic Advising, Student Academic Services, the Opportunity Program, and the Boshoff Writing Center, continue to offer their full range of services to students remotely, and Scribner Library and Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery are also continuing to support the curriculum and contribute to remote learning.
On-campus student update
Cerri Banks, dean of students and vice president for student affairs, reports there are 155 students currently living on campus and approximately 233 students living off campus. Those who have lived off campus since the fall were given $500 to help with food costs. Meals for students on campus, as well as faculty and staff, are available at The Spa from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. A weekly newsletter is now being electronically circulated among students on campus to inform them about services, programs, and other items.
Students on the Skidmore student health insurance plan can access telemedicine, teletherapy, and virtual ER visits. Health Services is limiting in-person visits, but staff are providing remote services and following up with patients as needed. On-call providers continue to be available whenever Health Services is closed and can be accessed by calling Campus Safety. Health Services is also working closely with Facilities, Dining Services, and Campus Safety to plan for the needs of students potentially living in an isolation or quarantine situation.
All Counseling Center staff are working remotely, and students who are looking for support are asked to call the main office number or email a staff member directly for assistance. All students have access to on-call services for acute distress requiring more immediate assistance, as well as any emergency situations, 24/7. Information about self-care and support is being added to the website regularly.
Offices such as Residential Life, the Career Development Center, Religious and Spiritual Life, Leadership Activities, Student Diversity Programs, and Community Service Programs also continue to offer remote resources and appointments and are helping students stay connected.
FY 2020 and FY 2021 budget and construction update
Donna Ng, vice president for finance and administration and treasurer, reports that the amount Skidmore will refund in room and board fees this fiscal year is estimated to be over $4 million. Work study students who are able to work remotely can continue to do so and get paid for hours worked, and work study students who are unable to work remotely will receive $25 per week or $175 total. The College has provided cash assistance to students in the Saratoga Springs area; will provide students who participated in spring semester study abroad programs with pro-rated room and board refunds for leaving the program early; and is losing revenue generated by Greenberg Child Care Center. The College is also complying with the Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order that only “essential” staff can be on campus, but we continue to pay staff who are unable to work remotely.
A process has been implemented to achieve savings in the current fiscal year supplies and services budget, and the College forecasts that the projected surplus for this fiscal year will be able to offset net lost revenues.
The FY 2021 budget is nearly complete, but planning will be needed to prepare for potential scenarios and uncertainties that could impact operations – and further reduce revenue – in the summer and fall.
Due to the governor’s executive order to allow only “essential” construction, the completion date of the first phase of the Center for Integrated Sciences will be delayed. The new goal is to have the North Wing ready for occupancy for the fall semester. The opening of the Annex, which had been planned for Aug. 1, will also be delayed, and the construction schedule for the next phase of CIS will need to be reviewed. I remain hopeful, however, that we will be able to accelerate the construction schedule of the final phases of the CIS to achieve our original target for completion in 2024. Planning for the relocation of Greenberg Child Care Center is proceeding with construction documents and permitting.
Mary Lou Bates, vice president and dean of admissions and financial aid, reports that the College has received 10,400 applications for a Class of 2024 target of 710, including 36 to 40 students in London, slightly down from last year’s record of 11,100. The enrollment deadline is May 1.
Early Decision applications were up 5% and, for the first time, Skidmore was able to admit and enroll over half of the class through Early Decision.
Admissions has been working closely with Communications and Marketing to provide virtual programming and contact information from the Accepted Candidate Day and Discovery programs that are traditionally hosted on campus. Faculty members who are interested in creating a short video and/or scheduling a weekly Zoom hour for accepted candidates are encouraged to reach out to Communications and Marketing.
Dean Bates thanks everyone, from academics to Athletics, who has already been corresponding with accepted candidates as they make their choice.
Sean Campbell, Collyer Vice President for Advancement, reports that the College’s solicitation strategy and plans have been recalibrated in response to the COVID-19 crisis. While direct mail and digital mass appeals are paused for now, the College remains in contact with individual donors and is continuing personalized outreach.
In consultation with student leaders, a Student Emergency Fund was created and raised $31,000 in two weeks from more than 200 donors. Donations are still welcome.
General outreach to alumni and parents has pivoted to align with the communications needs resulting from the COVID-19 crisis. Examples include webinars for current parents featuring a panel discussion with college leaders; special resources for alumni to connect with and support the College and one another; and community updates from College leadership and FAQs about Skidmore’s response to the crisis.
Creating our Future: The Campaign for Skidmore exceeded its $200 million goal in January and stands at $208 million. The “Campus Campaign” stands at 57% participation by the College’s faculty and staff, who have given nearly $980,000.
The way our community has responded to the COVID-19 challenge has been inspiring. We need to continue our efforts and bring our most creative thinking to this situation. If we do so, we will be able to return to more normal operations, as soon as governmental restrictions are lifted. With your help, we will get through this and emerge stronger on the other side.
Thank you for your attention and for all you are doing to help our community weather this crisis.
Philip A. Glotzbach