President, Cabinet address the Skidmore community
President Philip A. Glotzbach and members of the President’s Cabinet updated Skidmore
employees about challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, including budget
shortfalls, employee furloughs, planning for the 2020-2021 academic year, and other
Speaking to the gathering of more than 530 community members by Zoom on April 30, Glotzbach noted there have been some signs of progress in tackling the pandemic, including no new cases of COVID-19 to report at Skidmore. But the President also likened the College’s current situation to the Apollo 13 mission 50 years ago, whose objective suddenly shifted from landing on the moon to safely bringing the crew back to Earth.
“We have been scrambling and improvising solutions to try to bring the College back to where we want it to be,” Glotzbach said. “A major difference is that our mission continues.”
“This pandemic has blown a hole in our budget as well, and we’re still working to fill that hole,” he said.
Glotzbach noted that longer-term financial trends, including projected trends in admissions,
growing demand for financial aid and increasing health care costs, are now being exacerbated
by uncertainty associated with the COVID-19 crisis. College leadership has been finalizing
work on next year’s budget for approval by the Board of Trustees in May.
In addition to a total of about $4.5 million in refunds of room and board fees in the current fiscal year, the College faces an additional $2 million in lost revenue due to the cancellation of summer programs. The President said the challenges made it necessary to take a range of cost-saving measures, as a result of which only critical construction projects, such as the Center for Integrated Sciences, would continue for now.
The President emphasized that the decision to furlough workers was a difficult one, and the College will continue to work out details and provide as much advance notice to employees as possible so they could prepare.
“This is not going to be easy, but I’m confident we can prevail,” Glotzbach said.
Vice President for Finance and Administration Donna Ng, who oversees Human Resources, said Human Resources staff will be meeting with division heads and supervisors to discuss furlough details, which are expected to begin no earlier than May 18. The College is considering both regular and workshare furloughs based on the operations of individual offices or areas of work. Sarah Delaney Vero, a labor and employment attorney with a background in higher education and experience at Skidmore, will serve as a consultant during the process and apply her expertise in furloughs and workshare programs at higher education institutions. Vero has worked at Skidmore in interim capacities as chief human resources officer, Title IX coordinator, and Title IX coordinator for student affairs.
“A furloughed employee is still an employee of the College,” said Ng, who added that those affected would continue to receive benefits, such as health insurance. Human Resources would also assist employees as they file for unemployment benefits.
Dean of the Faculty and Vice President for Academic Affairs Michael Orr spoke about the 2020-2021 academic planning working group, which is considering options for the next academic year amid the uncertainty associated with COVID-19.
“There’s a host of different possible scenarios that we need to be thinking about
and planning for, from imagining what a strong, in-person residential component might
look like all the way to a fully online mode,” Orr said. “We have to recognize that
the situation could change.”
No decisions have been made, but the group is considering a variety of scenarios, such as starting the academic year earlier or later to account for the pandemic or condensing a semester into more intense modules.
Dean of Students and Vice President for Student Affairs Cerri Banks said the 136 students who remained on campus had access to a variety of services, including health services, dining and other online programming.
“We’ve tried to keep up some form of community, communication and support for students,” she said.
With operations closed for the summer, her staff was meeting with students to discuss
options for that time, and she anticipated only about 40 students would remain on
Mary Lou Bates, vice president and dean of admissions and financial aid, spoke briefly about admissions numbers for Skidmore’s next incoming class, the Class of 2024.
“We’ve been tracking pretty much on target, but we’ll need to end with a strong finish to be where we want to be,” she said.
Members of the cabinet also answered questions from faculty and staff on a variety of topics.
- Vice President Ng said Greenberg Child Care Center operations would depend on safety and interest in the service over the summer.
- Asked about other cost-saving measures, such as early retirement or salary reductions, Ng and President Glotzbach both emphasized that a variety of measures remain on the table.
- Dean Banks also said the Skidmore College Outdoor Orientation Program (SCOOP) could not be held this summer due to concerns about the coronavirus, but the College has been looking at other ways of offering a pre-orientation experience to students.
President Glotzbach said he would provide weekly updates to the community through the Skidmore Weekly Bulletin.