Dear Western Community,
I want to share with you some immediate measures we are taking to mitigate the financial fallout from the global coronavirus pandemic. These measures are in keeping with my earlier message that, in addition to promoting the safety and well-being of our community and ensuring the continuity in delivering our education mission, protecting the well-being and employment security of Western’s faculty and staff in this ongoing situation is a top priority for us too.
It goes without saying that no one has been left untouched by COVID-19, and it is important—maybe more than ever—that we are here for one another. The past few weeks have had an impact on us all, and I know I speak for the entire leadership team in saying how grateful we are for everyone’s care, concern and flexibility.
We are successfully moving classes and many student support services online, mobilizing our alumni and donors to contribute to an emergency fund for students experiencing financial hardship, ensuring that our facilities and workspaces are safe, and most importantly we are continuing to provide a high-quality Western Washington University education.
While the coronavirus is first and foremost a public health emergency, it will have some significant financial implications. Because Washington’s revenue base relies heavily on sales tax, our state will be one of the first to see the economic implications due to this crisis. Potential impacts may include: a decrease in state appropriations, threats to enrollments, loss of auxiliary revenue (e.g. Housing and Dining Services), and a drop in private donations. We are hopeful that the economic impact is not as severe as projected, but it is important for Western to be fiscally conservative and prudent at this time—until there is clarity on state support and tuition revenue for 2020-21. For all those reasons we are taking the following actions, effective immediately:
- Temporary hiring suspension. Hiring of all new full-time faculty and staff is temporarily suspended. All verbal offers that have been extended will be honored. Reasons for exceptions are provided below, and all exceptions require approval of the appropriate Dean or Vice President. One exception is the immediate need to deliver instruction. To this end, non-tenure-track faculty appointments for AY 2020-21 will be made to deliver courses planned for next year and contracts will be completed by the date stipulated in the WWU/UFWW Collective Bargaining Agreement, unless Fall 20 enrollments are significantly lower than projected.
- Temporary suspension of any non-essential purchases and expenditures. Vice President or Dean approval is required for all purchases over $1,000.
- Extension of the travel ban for all out-of-state travel. The ban on in-state travel is based on Governor Inslee’s Stay Home – Stay Healthy order and is currently expected to stay in place through May 31. Please note that date is subject to change, and you will be notified by ICS Commander Melynda Huskey if the ban on in-state travel is modified.
The temporary hiring suspension, non-essential purchases and out-of-state travel restrictions will be in effect until October 16, 2020, at which point we will have a better picture of fall enrollments and the status of the state's ability to maintain our state budget allocation.
As part of the temporary hiring suspension, we are suspending administrative searches currently in progress. These include the Executive Director of Internal Audit, Executive Director of the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX Compliance, Dean of Graduate School/Vice Provost for Research, and Director of Space Administration and Management.
Additionally, after careful review of the input received from the search committee and college faculty, staff and students, Provost Carbajal has decided that because of a lack of alignment between the finalists’ experience and the needs of the college and university, and due to concerns about the overall strength of the candidate pool, we will appoint an Interim Dean for Woodring College of Education through an internal process, and reopen the search for the permanent dean in fall.
Exceptions to the hiring and purchasing suspensions may be considered by your divisional vice president or dean for situations that meet immediate and critical functions:
- Direct impact to safety and well-being
- Immediate need to deliver instruction and research
- Compliance with federal, state, and local laws and regulations
- Maintain basic operational infrastructure
- Facilitate ability to work remotely in accordance with university guidance and state guidelines
- Critical items in which a delay would create substantial future expenses.
Human Resources, Purchasing and Contracts will follow-up with additional information on any changes to procedures. Restricted funds, such as federal grants and contracts, are excluded from this guidance. Expenditures on those funds should follow the standard approval process in consultation with Research and Sponsored Programs.
Given the dynamic and unpredictable nature of this crisis, please know that we will continue to closely monitor its impact and update or revise this guidance as necessary.
I appreciate your understanding as we work together to secure a healthy future for Western.
The Incident Command System team at Western has established three goals for all of our preparation and response to COVID-19: to protect life safety and minimize the spread of the coronavirus illness, to maintain – as much as possible – the continuity of Western’s operations, and to communicate with our communities as fully as possible.
Western's coronavirus information website features Frequently Asked Questions; has links to campus, regional and national resources; an archive of campus messaging and media stories about coronavirus; a new toll-free campus coronavirus information line, and more. The site is a living document, and will get frequent updates as the coronavirus situation evolves.