April 14, 2020
As we continue remote learning and limited campus operations this week, the two of us regularly marvel at the stories of community members who are leading UT, the state and nation through the COVID-19 crisis.
We see the tireless health care workers at UT Health Austin and Dell Medical School working on the front lines alongside their students; scientists and engineers 3D-printing personal protective equipment, solving drug delivery problems, and building new types of ventilators; educators driving the transition to online learning; and researchers tracking the spread of disease and the economic impact.
The University of Texas will have a vital role in helping our state and the broader society move past the COVID-19 crisis, and we are proud of all you are doing already for one another and the greater good.
For now, unfortunately, the spread of COVID-19 persists, and we are beginning to understand the economic ramifications. University leaders – with input from faculty members, students and staff members – are developing mitigation plans that will be needed because we anticipate both reduced revenue for the university and increased emergency needs for students.
Today we are announcing a series of actions. Deans, vice presidents and their designees will follow up with individual colleges, schools and units with more specific guidance.
We recognize that you are balancing these announcements at the university with stress and uncertainty at home, and that these latest developments may add to your unease. We are making these decisions with the well-being of our community in mind. We will keep you updated as we navigate the financial impacts of COVID-19 and work to maintain our standards of excellence in teaching and research, and advance the university.
Recruitment and Hiring
Faculty recruitments that are currently underway will continue, and the Provost’s Office will issue guidance in the coming days for future faculty searches.
Recruitment and hiring of staff members will be subject to an additional level of review, effective immediately. New staff hires must meet the following minimum criteria to be considered for approval:
no qualified current staff member is available to assume the additional duties on an interim basis, and,
the position is critical to the university’s core operations, or
not filling the position would incur significant health, safety or compliance risk.
For both faculty and staff members, all new hires must receive final approval from either the Provost or Senior Vice President. This process applies to new postings and current postings unless an offer already had been extended by April 13. Promotions and reclassifications also are subject to this additional review.
Student employee positions will be filled so long as they contribute to the core mission of the university and work can be conducted remotely.
Salary Merit Policy
There will be no centrally funded pool for recurring merit raises, and colleges, schools and units have been directed not to fund recurring merit increases for 2020-21. There will be a very limited number of exceptions for faculty promotions, equity increases, retention offers and counteroffers that were previously approved.
We recognize this news is difficult and unexpected and that many of you had been anticipating a merit raise next year, as we had budgeted for a centrally funded pool prior to the pandemic. However, staying at current salary levels is a financially prudent step at this time as we seek to maintain employee positions.
Colleges, schools and units that have available resources will be permitted to propose modest, one-time merit payments for faculty or staff members, subject to final approval from either the Provost or Senior Vice President.
Effective immediately, non-salary expenditures that exceed $100,000 will require prior approval from either the Provost or Senior Vice President. These include those related to currently approved contracts, new procurements, or any new contracted commitments.
Only expenditures that are essential to the core functions of the university will be considered for approval. CSUs have also been directed to eliminate non-essential expenditures below the $100,000 threshold.
Summer Instruction and Programing
As previously announced, all summer courses have been moved online. As part of our collective efforts to ensure student success, the university is adding 25 additional summer courses that will include 2,000 seats beyond our usual capacity. Registration will begin April 27.
To encourage undergraduate students to continue learning even during the COVID-19 crisis and to remain on track to earn their degrees, the university will reduce tuition for 2020 undergraduate summer courses to 50 percent of the tuition rate for fall and spring semester courses. The summer rates had typically been 85 percent of those long-semester rates.
Graduate and professional student summer tuition will remain unchanged at 85 percent of fall and spring rates. The university will be supporting these students through tuition assistance in targeted graduate areas where a department may have limited resources. This will happen in coordination with ongoing efforts to increase financial support and address issues that affect graduate students, as identified by the Graduate Education Task Force.
We will return to regular university grading for the summer 2020 term. The pass/fail and credit/no credit exceptions for spring 2020 were designed to accommodate the abrupt, unforeseen transition that the crisis required and will not be in place for the summer sessions.
Summer orientation sessions for new students also have been moved online, and the university is reviewing the viability of other summer programming on campus. We are also beginning to look ahead to the fall semester to assess whether any changes will be needed. Any decisions for the fall will be made later in the spring.
Thank you for maintaining social distancing and for following local and state guidelines to stay at home and remain safe. Please remember that students can receive support through the Counseling and Mental Health Center, and staff and faculty members through the Employee Assistance Program. And, most of all, thank you for all you have done to support the university’s core missions and help our students in these unprecedented times. Your efforts make us a great university.
Gregory L. Fenves
Interim President Designate