April 15, 2020
Dear Members of the Boston College Community:
Another academic year will soon come to an end, one so much affected by COVID-19. I write to update you about recent decisions made in response to the pandemic and related economic upheaval as well as planning to ensure that Boston College maintains its current institutional momentum.
As you know, the University announced on March 11 that it would be shifting to online classes, starting March 19. I think this mode of learning has been effective and well received, though some students report missing contact with friends and feeling isolated at times, so understandable. Personnel in Information Technology Services, the Center for Teaching Excellence, and the Center for Digital Innovation in Learning continue to provide support to students and faculty, as do staff in Campus Ministry and Counseling Services.
Boston College required students living in residence halls to vacate their rooms by the evening of March 15, except for those facing international travel restrictions and other significant personal situations. It also made plans to send affected students prorated refunds of board and room amounts already paid, and a total of $23.6 million has since been credited to appropriate accounts.
The University remains open, and most employees are working from home, with the exception of those needed to provide essential services, such as security, maintenance, housing, and dining, for 290 students now living on Upper Campus, and technical assistance for students and faculty engaged in online teaching and learning.
Certain construction/renovation projects related to the Schiller Institute for Integrated Science and Society, the Frates Center on the Brighton Campus, Bapst Library, and additional undergraduate housing in Rubenstein Hall will be completed. A number of other projects will be postponed until further notice, deferring an estimated $45 million in expenditures.
Last week the University informed the campus community that Commencement will not take place on May 18 as scheduled, but that if travel and gatherings are permitted, graduation events would be moved to the weekend of October 9-11. Alumni Reunion Weekend, planned for May 29-31, has been canceled, and alumni will be invited to class gatherings during the course of the next year. Classes for the first session of summer school, as well as orientation programs for first-year students and parents, will be provided online.
Boston College is committed to maintaining its distinctive campus culture, and it has sufficient financial reserves and liquidity to withstand the recent refund of board and room payments, loss of revenue from various campus events, and fluctuations in the value of its endowment. But these developments have put a significant strain on finances, and the University also must have the capacity to respond effectively to possible continued effects of COVID-19 and economic decline on enrollment, staffing needs, intercollegiate athletics, and philanthropic support in the coming months.
Thus, the University has made the following decisions:
- merit pay increases will be suspended for the coming year, saving approximately $8 million;
- a hiring freeze will be instituted immediately, except for positions determined essential for core strategic and academic purposes;
- travel for conferences and events will require authorization by the President, Executive Vice President, or Provost; and
- purchasing of goods and services and use of procurement cards by administrative units will be further restricted, which will be specified in a separate communication from the Financial Vice President and Treasurer.
Boston College also intends to keep monitoring economic conditions and changes in American higher education so that it can adapt appropriately to new opportunities and challenges.
The University is committed to continued implementation of the Four Strategic Directions (strengthening the Core Curriculum and liberal arts education; enhancing formation efforts for students, faculty, and staff; supporting scholarship and research; and increasing its presence and impact locally, nationally, and globally) described in “Ever to Excel: Advancing Boston College’s Mission,” its strategic plan approved by the Board of Trustees in 2016-2017.
Despite the effects of the coronavirus and current economic turmoil, Boston College remains a vibrant, financially strong, top-tier institution of higher education firmly committed to its Jesuit, Catholic heritage and values. Since its founding in 1863, it has weathered a range of difficulties, emerging with greater strength from them; and I am confident that will happen again in our day. May we as members of the Boston College community respond to COVID-19 and related challenges with generosity, hope, imagination, and conviction, always with the shared commitment to enhance our University and its mission.
William P. Leahy, S.J.