June 2, 2020
Re: Addressing the Financial Impacts of COVID-19
To: All students, faculty and staff
June 2, 2020
Dear Campus Community,
We are experiencing the impact of a pandemic the like of which has not been seen for generations. Not only are we facing serious health impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, but financial losses to individuals, families, businesses and the public sector, including higher education, are staggering.
In the past eight weeks, more than 40 million Americans have lost their job, and unemployment has been particularly severe in California, where one in four people have lost jobs — numbers not seen since the Great Depression. In April, University of California President Janet Napolitano called the COVID-19 pandemic “an evolving, unprecedented global crisis of a scale we have never seen,” and noted the “significant, unanticipated costs to UC.” The state projects a budget deficit of over $54 billion for the current and upcoming fiscal years, and the University of California has realized losses approaching $2 billion since the start of the pandemic.
And we have yet to see the worst.
In an attempt to address the economic crisis of the pandemic, I joined all my colleagues across the system earlier this year in announcing we would not lay off any employees through the end of this fiscal year. We have held to that and hope that it is a promise we can extend. We have also expanded leave provisions for those impacted by the pandemic.
We have also invested in necessary new and enhanced technology to pivot our teaching and, to some extent, research to remote modalities. These costs may continue to rise as we explore options for fall. As we evaluate the reopening of campus and how we may safely return as an in-person campus community, we will have to do so with a COVID-19 testing and tracing regime, physical distancing regulations and provisions for potential quarantine, all of which carry either actual or opportunity costs.
In the days and weeks to come we will be announcing essential austerity measures to address the challenges. We will do so with two guideposts: mitigating risk to members of our community and to the institution; and maintaining our mission of teaching, research and public service.
Together, UC Merced has rallied from tough times before. One might say the campus was born in hardship and has fought to grow and thrive every year of our existence, doing far more with far less than other campuses, building ourselves and the future here in the heart of California. It has not been easy, and it will not be easy to get through the storm ahead. But we can and will – indeed, we must — pull together.