As we complete the first month of Governor Pritzker’s “stay-at-home” order, I am writing with a brief University update, along with my hopes that you are facing this ongoing circumstance in good health and in good spirits.
The governor’s order has been extended through May. There have been some modifications to the order, but for the most part, ISU operations for May will be very much like April. Human Resources will provide additional information to supervisors and unit leaders yet this week regarding the impact of these modifications on faculty and staff members.
Several University working groups are looking beyond May, planning “back-to-campus” scenarios that begin as early as June 1. Undoubtedly, there will be new procedures and precautions focused on the health and safety of our work environments. You will receive a communication targeted to your specific situation in the near future.
You may have also seen in my communications to students and their families that ISU fully intends to welcome students back to campus for the 2020-2021 academic year. Our careful planning in the coming weeks will ensure that we are prepared for a healthy and safe return to our new normal. That return will arrive with numerous precautions and guidelines to protect our campus community’s health and safety, while complying with all national, state, and local health and safety directions.
Meanwhile, another aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic is budgetary, and that piece reminds me of the 2015-2017 state budget impasse, another period which left higher education in financial limbo. Like all public universities, Illinois State relies upon a combination of state appropriations and student enrollment funds. As of today, both are unknown, just two months away from the beginning of fiscal year 2021, and less than four months away from a new academic year.
Because of our strength and stability, Illinois State was able to weather the budget impasse years without layoffs or furlough days. Some public universities are already implementing such measures due to financial uncertainties and anticipated enrollment declines due to the coronavirus pandemic. At this juncture, Illinois State has not reached that critical position.
While the University will continue to plan for all budget scenarios, we remain strong and stable at this date. If we must make more austere financial decisions, I will communicate them to you as quickly as possible.
In the meantime, I urge all University fiscal agents to continue to be conservative in spending approaches. As we enter an uncertain fiscal and academic year, it is important that we invest our limited resources in areas most aligned with maintaining a quality education and ensuring that University facilities are clean, healthy, and secure.
As always, I appreciate your support, feedback, and counsel. We will continue to meet our challenges as a community and respond to them with shared determination.