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Faculty & Staff Update: Coronavirus - March 23, 2020

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Jeremy Haefner

News  •

Dear DU Community,

For most of us, the University of Denver is our home away from home. In this sense, we are interdependent and we yearn for a sense of belonging. We share social responsibilities and values. We applaud one another’s successes and mourn each other’s losses. When our campus and labs and playing fields are full and our students, staff and faculty are thriving, the University of Denver is a physical beacon of intellectual and social well-being - it’s easy to feel safe and secure. On the other hand, the absence of that vitality now brings with it great uncertainty and many questions.

I’m writing today to begin the conversation about how we will adapt to the new economic realities being brought on by the coronavirus. I have learned that, at DU, our people are strong and creative and capable. While certain decisions have to be made quickly and deliberately, input from a variety of voices is vital when it comes to how we operationalize our next steps, especially right now.

We already know that our current-year budget, as well as the FY2020–2021 budget will be significantly altered by the virus. Yesterday I shared the letter we sent to families and friends of our DU students, indicating our commitment to appropriately refund room and board, student activity and health fees. These revenue losses, when coupled with significant unanticipated additional operating costs resulting from our response to COVID-19, require that we now take a very thorough and careful examination of our financial outlook. Moreover, we do not yet know what enrollment will look like for the spring quarter or for next year. So, it is imperative that we thoroughly reevaluate both this year’s budget and what will be possible next year. In so doing we can carefully consider the best way to move forward together.

Guiding Principles: As we begin this careful examination, I want to assure you that we are holding firm to a few guiding principles:

  • We will do everything in our power to continue to deliver the world-class education our students expect and for which our faculty are renowned;
  • We will be mindful of our strategic advancement of the University as guided by DU Impact 2025 and the five strategic imperatives;
  • We will make every effort to retain personnel, even if this means repositioning some people from departments that are relatively slow while we work remotely, to others where the workload has become more intense;
  • We will be flexible, respectful and humane in our approaches always; and
  • We will provide frequent updates and be as proactive and transparent as we can be, given the inherent need for discretion around financial matters.

Expenditure Guidelines: From today forward and through the end of this fiscal year on June 30, 2020, the following guidelines will inform all of our decisions. While in each case there may be exceptions, we will follow these guidelines until senior leadership and the Board of Trustees can evaluate the broader financial picture for the next fiscal year:

Slow down our hiring—In an effort to prioritize the financial security of our current employees, we will postpone new hires, at least until after June 30. For positions previously set to start in FY21, I have asked units to postpone wherever possible, especially those that are non-essential.

Reduce spending—In order to ensure that we can continue to fully support the academic enterprise, recruit future students, and continue our response to the COVID-19 crisis, we will have to reduce or limit spending in all areas. Therefore, I’m asking each unit to review their spending and to reduce all non-essential areas such as, but not limited to, travel, food and replacement equipment.

Postpone non-essential capital projects—We will continue to prioritize our most essential strategic capital projects, such as Denver Advantage; however, we must suspend or postpone spending in all other capital areas until further notice. As a result, I have also asked units to withhold and postpone such capital projects. 

To assist with the specific details of these actions, I am asking every budget officer to work closely with senior leadership.

These measures are absolutely necessary for the financial health and well-being of the University. Of course, we understand that all employees will be affected in some way by these new guidelines, and that uncertainty causes stress. Please know that many conversations will take place at the unit and department level, and that employees will be consulted regarding the day-to-day impact on their work. 

In the meantime, we ask, respectfully, for your patience. If you have questions, please consult your managers, deans, vice chancellors, or your HR Partner.

I very much appreciate your commitment to the University of Denver. I will do my very best, along with our leadership team, to steward us wisely through these difficult times.


Jeremy Haefner