Comprehensive Community Update
Dear LMU Community,
As we reach the end of an unprecedented academic year, each of us continues to struggle to do our part to advance our mission amidst the losses, the sacrifices, and the ongoing uncertainty of this moment. We all have as many questions as answers. Many decisions continue to rely on data not yet available to us, periodic changes in guidance from public health authorities, and unknown factors that will affect our ability to safeguard members of our community. We must consider impactful decisions amid uncertainty without the benefit of clear precedent or sufficient evidence to predict likely outcomes. We have sought to communicate decisions promptly, but we recognize our community’s desire to have a fuller sense of the problems with which we are struggling and the questions to which we do not yet have answers. In this message, we outline many of these issues, including:
- Guiding Principles
- Consultation and Collaboration
- Planning Efforts
- Continuity and Contingency Plans
- Financial Impact, Outlook, and Actions
- Upcoming Decisions
- Summer Considerations for Faculty
- Other Related Updates
- Staying Informed and Engaged
LMU is not immune to the COVID-19 virus or the societal and economic pressures playing out globally. While we plan to return to campus, provided doing so is safe and aligns with guidance from public health authorities, we acknowledge that, upon our return, in-person teaching, campus living, and co-curricular activities will not be the same as they were in pre-pandemic times. Physical distancing, personal protective equipment, routine and frequent testing, contact tracing, and other safety measures will be part of our new reality. Our community will continue to adapt to a range of teaching and learning and co-curricular modalities. Our faculty’s teaching prowess, scholarship, expertise, and creativity set us apart—and we will continue supporting and standing by the academic excellence our faculty deliver, regardless of modality. The same holds for our student development professionals. We note that many recent news reports about various modes of learning have failed to recognize that the main ingredient of how one learns and develops rests with the quality of the professional working with the student.
As we continue to address these issues, with care, our guiding principles continue to anchor our approach.
- LMU’s Catholic, Jesuit, and Marymount mission and values charge us to educate with purpose. We benefit from the diversity of perspectives that drive our creativity and ambitions. Our students depend upon us to remain strong through this crisis.
- The health and wellness of our community is priority one. We will continue to align our evidence-based decisions with recommendations of public health authorities.
- Our students, faculty, and staff will require flexibility to determine their individual interests concerning their health and safety in the fall. We must adapt to evolving circumstances and support community members by offering options for how we teach, learn, work, and live. A one-size-fits-all approach will not suffice, and we must be flexible while ensuring that our students retain access to the personalized educational excellence on which we pride ourselves, and for which they choose LMU.
- Consultation and collaboration are essential to our success. We will expand our efforts to seek faculty and staff input, and we will provide additional opportunities for sharing insights. We will rely on continued partnership and support as we move forward. We will continue to communicate regularly and broadly, acknowledging that fostering dialogue is a shared effort and a collective responsibility.
- We will be responsible stewards of our resources as we navigate the financial impacts of the pandemic and economic downturn. We will preserve our strength through interim budget measures and other efforts that prioritize academic excellence and sound fiscal management. As we attempt to maximize revenue and control costs, we will balance short-term needs with long-term sustenance. This will not be easy and will require creativity and sacrifice.
CONSULTATION AND COLLABORATION
We are optimistic about what we will accomplish, but doing so requires effective consultation and collaboration throughout our community. We intend to communicate transparently to promote thoughtful dialogue resulting in careful, ethical discernment toward the common good. To this end, we will share information about the processes, criteria, and considerations associated with our planning efforts. Our decision-making environment is complex and fluid, but it is always guided by our mission and values and care for our entire community’s well-being.The consultation we have engaged in to date has been fundamental in guiding our choices and community engagement.
- We recently convened a faculty advisory group, selected by the Faculty Senate Executive Committee and approved by the provost, to counsel the provost on academic and instructional matters. The deans and associate deans have also been instrumental with engaging their faculty members in discussions of scenarios and providing that feedback to the Provost’s Office.
- Our Continuity of Instruction group includes the Faculty Senate president. After meeting with the outgoing Faculty Senate president, Professor Marne Campbell, and the incoming Faculty Senate president, Professor Dorothea Herreiner, we agreed on a plan to solicit feedback from faculty, which resulted in the Senate leaders’ May 8 communication. This consultation is yielding insights that will inform our decision-making process and help us understand faculty preferences and concern related to teaching in the fall.
- The University Comprehensive Benefits Committee will be meeting to explore potential implications for our benefits plan.
- Provost Poon will host a live town hall for faculty and staff on May 14 from noon to 1:15 p.m. to provide opportunities to learn and ask questions. Please click here for more information.
Community input and consultative shared governance will be even more critical as we face difficult decisions in the coming months.
Our Emergency Operations Center recovery working groups, made up of academic and administrative leaders, are pursuing a spectrum of continuity by working tirelessly to address recovery policies, operations, and contingencies. Should you have suggestions, please contact the group lead.
The Continuity of Instruction group is led by Associate Provost for Research, Professional Development, and Online Learning Kat Weaver; the Continuity of Student Engagement and Student Support group is led by Dean of Students Terri Mangione; the Continuity of Enrollment group is led by Vice Provost for Enrollment Management Maureen Weatherall; the Economic Recovery group is led by Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Thomas Fleming; the Continuity of Work group is led by Vice President for Human Resources Rebecca Chandler; the Continuity of Operations group is led by Director for Emergency Management Heather Hoffman; the Continuity of Conferences, Events, and Athletics group is led by Associate Vice President for Administration Trevor Wiseman; the Continuity of Community group is led by Vice President for Intercultural Affairs Jennifer Abe; and the Communications group is led by Associate Vice President for Communications John Axtell.
In addition to ongoing dialogue with leaders from the Faculty Senate, Staff Senate, and university standing committees, we are engaging our students through ASLMU, GSLMU, and other student groups. We have confidence in the bright minds that constitute our recovery working groups and trust that with their leadership and safety precautions in place, we will be best positioned to address any eventuality. University leaders are also maintaining constant contact with university counsel concerning legal issues associated with the pandemic.
CONTINUITY AND CONTINGENCY PLANS
We will be prepared to deliver our world-class educational experience in various scenarios that could include: (1) resuming some in-person instruction, operations, and housing with new social distancing restrictions and protocols and appropriate flexibility for community members who choose remote options; or (2) a fall semester in which a resurgence of COVID-19 requires us to resume fully-remote instruction. We must be able to activate plans in response to changed circumstances with little or no notice. We will undertake model health and safety protections that will affect all facets of campus life and mirror those being considered for our state, county, and city.
- We will adopt infection and behavioral control measures in classrooms, housing, dining halls, libraries, recreational facilities, offices, event spaces, and athletics.
- We will enhance our testing capacity with mechanisms for prevention, outbreak management, and contact tracing. We are currently working to secure sufficient testing supplies and streamlined relationships with testing labs to assure prompt turnaround time.
- We will develop the capacity for quarantine, isolation, and related support protocols with the goal of minimizing virus spread, improving notification procedures, and protecting impacted individuals and the community.
- We ask that our entire community—faculty, staff, student affairs professionals, student leadership, alumni, and parents—assist with helping students understand the value of compliance with new protocols and requirements that mitigate disease transmission. We must work together to assure that those policies are followed and that each of us exemplifies compliance.
FINANCIAL IMPACTS, OUTLOOK, AND ACTIONS
When the pandemic crisis began, LMU’s financial position was strong, and we are confident we can maintain our financial health if we prepare for contingencies and remain nimble to address what comes next. As described in Preserving Our Strength, we adopted and will continue adhering to interim cost-saving measures to conserve resources and prioritize the educational needs of our students. We must be mindful of the persistent revenue challenges we face.
- In spring 2020, the loss of auxiliary revenues from student housing, meal plans, parking, and other fees totaled about $12.5 million.
- To provide support to our students and families, we are significantly increasing financial aid to first-year and returning students to ensure we remain accessible amid unemployment uncertainty and an exceedingly competitive higher education marketplace where other institutions are newly-enabled to step up their recruitment and retention efforts. New enrollment pressures and uncertainties in yields include allowing the “poaching” of students following May 1 student commitments, along with other potential for attrition due to the pandemic and the hard choices facing families and students.
- We are estimating significant losses of revenues from the cancellation of summer events, conferences, camps, housing, parking, child care center, and the recreation center in excess of $7 million. In addition, the cancellation of summer study abroad will cost an estimated $1.5 million.
- Lower residential density requirements, which will impact our future auxiliary revenues, could result in losses of $20 million or more in the coming year. If we shorten or compact our academic calendars, we will see additional shortfalls.
- We will incur significant unplanned expenses to address ongoing health and safety requirements (e.g., personal protective equipment, tests), investments in resources that support remote instruction, and other areas that allow us to operate during a pre-vaccine pandemic.
- International enrollments face headwinds because of unstable employment conditions, travel restrictions, and pandemic conditions domestically and internationally.
- We anticipate severe downturns in annual giving, fundraising, and endowment payouts, all of which provide essential support to our operational budgets and our future reserves.
In the long run, we have reasons for optimism about our future. Our spring enrollment was stable and our projected summer and fall enrollments appear promising. The demand for an LMU education remains high. That noted, our tuition and auxiliaries comprise nearly all of our revenues and budgets, and the months ahead are redolent with uncertainty and are subject to change at a moment’s notice.
We will face difficult decisions ahead and we will be compelled to reduce budgets further to address shrinking revenues and changing financial realities. In conversations with colleagues and counterparts, we note that all higher educational institutions are facing similar challenges. We will reconcile our actions using the aforementioned Guiding Principles.
We appreciate your understanding and engagement amidst the complexities, unfolding at a rapid, disruptive, and often unpredictable pace. Several consequential decisions are currently being considered.
- Academic Calendar: We seek to minimize disruptions to the academic calendar to avoid unnecessary burdens and to position our faculty and students for academic success. We will remain mindful of the significant workloads and changes that faculty and student development professionals are already managing. Based on epidemiological forecasts, we are considering options that could conclude the fall semester prior to Thanksgiving. Please note that the Provost’s Office has been consulting with the aforementioned faculty advisory committee and our deans since April 22. We must make these decisions soon to facilitate first-year registration on June 8. Please also note that a “block” plan, which was considered favorable by some, was not selected by the provost, given concerns expressed by the faculty advisory committee and others.
- Community Safety: Physical distancing guidelines will require us to reduce classroom and residential density. Our baseline expectations will include testing, tracking, contact tracing, quarantines, self-isolation, frequent sanitization, and community adherence to new protocols. While we expect these requirements to change over summer and into the fall, we anticipate providing initial guidance for them by June 6.
- Leadership Pay Reductions: We will soon implement 10% reductions in compensation for senior leadership, including the president, provost, President’s Cabinet, deans, and vice presidents/vice provosts. This pay cut is in addition to the cancellation of this year's annual merit increases for faculty, staff, and administrators. These savings will help address the aforementioned shortfalls and provide financial aid to support our students and their families.
- Furloughs: Our financial strength has thus far enabled us to extend COVID-19 leave to our staff while postponing furloughs and layoffs that have become commonplace at other universities. However, given our finite resources, continuing our current arrangement is unsustainable. L.A. County recently announced an extension of the Stay-at-Home order through July, which will add to the lost revenue and unplanned budget shortfalls we are currently managing. While we will continue to embody our care for each other, we must also recognize our limits. Therefore, we are currently planning to address this regrettable but inevitable action. We will soon share further information about this and other potential steps we are pursuing.
SUMMER CONSIDERATIONS FOR FACULTY
Planning for a smooth transition to any scenario requires our faculty’s continued ingenuity, flexibility, and imagination. Faculty cooperation, patience, and astute efforts and preparedness will allow us to continue thriving. We recommend the following to faculty:
- Please monitor your email during summer and review/respond to institutional communications as appropriate (LMU This Week, community advisories, and messages from your dean, provost, or university leadership);
- Please plan how you will adjust your fall courses so that they are ready for remote instruction, should circumstances warrant, or should students or faculty require accommodation;
- Please contact the appropriate committee leads, listed above, should you have suggestions or concerns;
- Please consider attending additional faculty workshops on remote instruction during summer, as needed. Excellent online and hybrid instruction involves distinct pedagogical principles that faculty may consider incorporating into their course design and teaching practices. Further information about training opportunities is forthcoming.
OTHER RELATED UPDATES
We also share the following updates:
- CARES Relief Update: LMU Financial Aid is working with the U.S. Department of Education to secure and begin disbursement of funds to our students by May 29 (further information);
- Student Emergency Funds: We are grateful to our generous board members, alumni, parents, faculty, staff, founding religious communities, and friends, who have committed nearly $200,000 to support our students in need;
- L.A. County’s Roadmap to Recovery: The county has determined a phased approach to reopening safely. Colleges and universities fall under Stage Three and are not yet permitted to reopen. Please see our May 8 community advisory for more information;
- Nourishing Our Bodies and Souls: As we navigate the challenges ahead, our Mission and Ministry colleagues offer resources that support our spiritual health. And Student Affairs’ Virtual Wellness Wednesdays provides tips for health and wellness while we stay at home.
STAYING INFORMED AND ENGAGED
We welcome your questions and comments related to pandemic response and recovery. We will continue communicating regularly through our website, social channels, email, LMU This Week, and university leaders. Please note the following resources:
- We will communicate another update by May 31 and are likely to share additional information sooner;
- LMU’s Coronavirus Website continues to be the hub for latest updates;
- We have shared a summary snapshot of our response efforts, decisions, and communications for your reference and awareness;
- The #LMUTogether campaign showcases stories that inspire our community with creativity and resilience.
The current pandemic has turned our lives upside down, but it has not prevented us from forming compassionate individuals prepared to lead lives of meaning and purpose—graduates who change, shape, and create the world we want to live in. We are proud and grateful to work shoulder to shoulder with each of you, who make it possible for us to deliver on the LMU promise. Generations of Lions have overcome world wars, prior pandemics, and other character-defining moments. Together, we will rise from this moment more connected and stronger than ever. LMU will always be a community of impact, creating with joy and purpose—driving us forward.
We continue to pray for the health of you, your loved-ones, our health care workers, and all those in our LMU family.
With admiration and profound appreciation,
Timothy Law Snyder, Ph.D.
Thomas Poon, Ph.D.
Executive Vice President and Provost