Marching Forward: Faculty & Staff
I share good news, made possible because of your love for LMU, your commitment to our students, and your dedication to delivering on the LMU promise. While our path to reopening provides more hope and clarity, we must also recognize that improving conditions will continue to depend on our enrollment forecasts and our ability to return to our campuses in fall for in-person instruction, co-curricular experiences, and residential living. Of course, all of our plans are also premised upon a continued downward trajectory of COVID-19 cases in L.A. County and continuing vaccination successes in the coming months.
Restoring Our Budget, Rebuilding Our Community
LMU’s Board of Trustees has approved the FY 2021-22 budget. Amidst the challenges of the past year, LMU’s financial outlook is strong. After overcoming more than $50 million in revenue shortfalls, we approach the next fiscal and academic years with confidence because the demand for an LMU education is stronger than ever. Our $560 million FY 2021-22 operating budget prioritizes: financial aid for our students, minimizing tuition increases, welcoming back furloughed employees, and restoring annual merit increases and retirement contributions. Our budget will also enable campus upgrades that will make our return safer and healthier while investing in diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. We will continue reviewing these decisions to ensure that our enrollments, budget forecasts, and anticipated revenues remain on track.
- Our staff and faculty sacrificed and innovated in support of our students. We anticipate recalling furloughed employees as soon as is feasible, depending on the university’s academic and operational needs.
- On June 1, we will also restore our 9.5 percent matching retirement contributions. Faculty will be eligible for faculty merit awards for the 2021-22 academic year and staff will be eligible for annual merit increases in October 2021.
- Though the hard costs associated with delivering our student-centered education have continued to rise, our ambitious cost-containment efforts over the past year will result in a historically low tuition increase of 0.94 percent for undergraduates. We will post additional information about next year’s tuition and fees to our Student Financial Services website by March 31, 2021. Please note that these numbers do not reflect the net price of tuition, which is often lower after accounting for student financial aid packages that are determined for each student on a case-by-case basis.
- We have been and are considering community requests for budget transparency with care. Under the direction of and in concert with our trustees, later this semester we will announce protocols and measures that respond to these concerns.
Returning to Work: Safety Foremost
We expect to begin a gradual return to our campuses for in-person work after June 1. We are planning specific measures that will allow our return to be as safe and responsible as possible. I know that many community members have concerns about protecting our health and safety, facilitating widespread vaccination among our students, faculty, and staff, and balancing issues such as childcare and attending to loved ones in need. We are developing plans to address these and other issues.
While many positions will require a return to campus because they are essential to our operation, we are exploring other models for working remotely or in a hybrid mode, with a goal of providing a safe work environment for all. Some of the precautions already in place include on-site COVID-19 surveillance testing, appropriately distanced workspaces, frequent cleaning of common areas, abundant hand sanitizer dispensers, comprehensive training, and the use of approved face coverings at all times. We have ensured that all buildings on campus are compliant with state and county reopening requirements, including HVAC upgrades. I am aware of recent inquiries about indoor air quality; we are reviewing systems in all learning spaces to determine additional steps and are enhancing our systems by upgrading MERV filters that exceed required ratings, installing supplemental HEPA units, and increasing outside air exchange capabilities.
Phased Reopenings Progress
As we prepare to reopen our campuses safely and responsibly in the fall semester, we continue to advocate for the sensible easing of campus restrictions with our elected officials and public health authorities. Our efforts are bearing fruit: much of the recent progress and easing resulted from LMU and higher education working with L.A. County Public Health to modify guidelines. In our February 25 community advisory, we shared how these modifications impact LMU and campus access.
Our students may now register for designated time blocks to enjoy outdoor recreation space on the bluff in a limited capacity, by appointment. On March 15, the William H. Hannon Library will also be available by appointment—students may reserve their spots here. Please note that we are not extending these offers to faculty and staff at this time but are providing this information because students often seek advice from faculty and staff.
You may learn more about LMU’s phased campus reopening here.
Honoring Our Class of 2021
Last month Provost Poon shared that we will host the 109th Commencement exercises virtually at their scheduled dates: Saturday, May 8, 2021, for undergraduates; Sunday, May 9, 2021, for graduate students; and Sunday, May 16, for LMU Loyola Law School. Regrettably, current and expected public health restrictions will not allow us to host large gatherings by May. However, we have convened focus groups of student representatives from the Class of 2021 to hear their preferences concerning a variety of commencement scenarios, based on what L.A. County public health officials are allowing. We look forward to working together to honor the Class of 2021’s landmark achievements.
As families prepare for this auspicious occasion, we are planning to invite graduates to campus this spring before commencement for photo opportunities. We will share more details in the coming weeks.
Vaccinations: For and With Others
LMU is scheduled to receive its first 100 vaccine doses this week. Because of the limited number of vaccines, we are prioritizing our essential workers such as custodians, food services employees, public safety officers, faculty who teach in person, and LMU LLS faculty who run clinics. Eligible community members have been notified.
In collaboration with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, LMU has also been approved to offer COVID-19 vaccines to underserved K-12 Catholic school teachers. We are pleased to provide this service to archdiocesan teachers and educational personnel throughout the region to facilitate their return to the classroom. Please note, these vaccine doses are provided to the Archdiocese and are earmarked specifically for K-12 school educators; they are not available for distribution to our wider community.
Meanwhile, the county is still experiencing vaccine shortages and allocating limited doses to the most undervaccinated ZIP codes that are still experiencing COVID-19 surges. We are continuing to advocate on a daily basis with county and public health leaders for allocation of more vaccines to our university. When the county confirms that more vaccines are en route, we will immediately notify faculty and staff and open the LMU Vaccination Clinic to these individuals. This noted, I encourage all who are eligible to get vaccinated as soon as possible by making arrangements through the county’s other vaccination centers or through individuals’ health care providers. In L.A. County, anyone employed by LMU qualifies under Phase 1B to be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine at this time. Please register for an appointment here. Please be mindful of our family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors: getting vaccinated is how we protect our community and demonstrate we are people for and with others.
Commitment to Transparency
We know you have questions aplenty, and my updates will generate more. Our town halls are an opportunity for the community to share thoughts, questions, and concerns. Provost Poon will host a virtual town hall for faculty and staff this Thursday, March 11, from noon to 1:15 p.m., and one for students on Friday, March 19, from noon to 1:15 p.m. Please visit our town hall website for the latest updates, schedule, and viewing of Thursday’s town hall. The Faculty and Staff Senates are soliciting questions in advance from their respective constituencies via firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. During the town hall, the Faculty and Staff Senate presidents will ask those questions live. For questions and comments that may arise after the town hall, a form will be available at the provost’s website.
Also, my presidential video briefings provide opportunities to share updates. You may submit comments, questions, and feedback for topics we may cover in my updates, LMU This Week, or in future town halls.
Colleagues, you have fortified LMU with passion and purpose. We are a better university because of your strength and sacrifices. With pride, wonder, and bountiful gratitude, I thank you for exemplifying our mission in everything you do. Please continue taking best care.
For and with you, I remain eternally grateful,
Timothy Law Snyder, Ph.D.