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Making the Tough Decisions Regarding Our FY21 Budget and The Road Ahead

September 17, 2020

Dear Morgan Family,

Our University has endured a great deal since the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic and I commend our Morgan community for the many sacrifices that have already been made thus far, which is why I share the following with great consternation. Additional sacrifices will have to be made if we hope to right-size our FY21 budget.

The likelihood of receiving another federal stimulus package to ease some of the financial stress that COVID-19 has had on our University’s operations seems further out of reach each passing day of inaction from our leaders in the federal government. This leaves us with no other option than to take deliberate and immediate steps to close a projected budget gap this year of $28.8 million. While not a completely devastating or insurmountable loss, it amounts to nearly 10 percent of the University’s annual operating budget and the impact will be felt.

When we made the decision to place the value of human life over the potential loss of revenue coming into the University, we knew that those decisions would eventually mean that even tougher decisions would have to be made down the road. I believed then, and I still believe now, that Morgan made the right decisions in getting us to this point. Under no circumstances did we want to place the lives of the overwhelming number of our students, faculty and staff—and the wider community beyond the campus—at risk.

Now, we have to address the inevitable consequences of those necessary decisions. As we traverse this path, we want to ensure that we maintain the vitality, vibrancy, sustainability, and high-quality work, living, and learning experiences, that have come to define the specialness of our National Treasure over the decades.

As you know, in late March, when we decided to close the campus, I vowed at that time that Morgan would not lay-off or furlough any of our colleagues through June 30, 2020, and, thanks to the funding we received from the CARES Act, we were able to keep that promise. The current fiscal year, however, is not one where we can make that vow. Even so, the strategies we have explored over the last two months to close the daunting financial gap were developed with the aim of minimizing the impact on people and ensuring that the right-sizing plan would be fair and equitable to everyone. Please rest assured in knowing that the decisions we arrived at did not occur unilaterally and absent representation.

For the past six months, on a weekly basis, I have convened the University’s leadership for a virtual Extended Cabinet meeting, where we discussed and deliberated the most pressing issues facing our campus community. This group of more than 50 University employees included faculty, deans, assistant/associate deans, assistant/associate vice presidents, and vice presidents, as well as the chair of the University Council to make decisions that are collaborative, respectful, transparent, and are in alignment with our six cores values—-Leadership, Innovation, Integrity, Diversity, Excellence and Respect. I am pleased with what we were able to accomplish throughout this process.

Wilson Social Distancing Meeting

In addition, I thank all of the members of my Senior Administrative Leadership Team—particularly Mr. Sidney Evans, vice president for Finance and Management and Dr. Kara Turner, vice president for Enrollment Management and Student Success, as well our colleagues in both of those divisions for their nonstop efforts to enable us to devise the least disruptive financial right-sizing plan, and for the aggressive approaches we have taken to stabilize our fall enrollment. I also thank Provost Lesia Crumpton-Young, and our colleagues in Academic Affairs, for ensuring that faculty have appropriate support to offer high-quality instruction in the online modality. These are tremendously difficult tasks given the fluidity of our situation.

As an Extended Cabinet, the first thing we agreed on was a set of five principles that would guide our efforts every step along the way to right-size our budget. Those principles are:

  1. Embrace fairness and transparency;
  2. Maintain and grow our success in student success outcomes (retention and graduation rates, internships, etc.);
  3. Increase our research success in grants and doctoral graduates;
  4. Maintain the high-quality of our academic programs and accreditation of all existing programs/schools; and
  5. Maintain high-quality extracurricular experiences of our students (in anticipation of a Spring return to campus).

With these principles as our North Star, we developed the following preliminary plan that I intend to submit to the Morgan State University Board of Regents for approval at its next regularly scheduled meeting, or at a special meeting.

How We Reduce the Deficit

  • Leveraging the remaining CARES Act funding ($15 million)
  • Instituting a hiring freeze on vacant positions (a savings of $3.5 million)
  • Eliminating contractual positions (a savings of $1 million)
  • Enacting an institution-wide furlough/temporary salary reduction plan (a savings of $2.3 million)
  • Mandating continued cost reduction/containment measures, including restrictive P-Card spending, a travel freeze, building closures and the cancellation of University-sponsored activities (a savings of $2 million)
  • Exploring and determining other financial measures (a savings of $3 million)

Over the next two weeks, we will continue to refine the plan and will be sharing additional details with you as they are approved. Unfortunately, the finalized version will include temporary salary reductions and/or furloughs and nearly everyone at the University will be impacted once the plan is implemented, including and starting with me. In addition to my previously announced gift of $100,000 to the University over the next five years, I will take the equivalence of an additional five percent salary reduction during this year. All vice presidents will be taking a four percent salary reduction. As of this writing, it is not our intent to seek salary reductions of colleagues making less than $50,000 per year. With salaries accounting for nearly 68 percent of our operating budget, this was unavoidable.

Before I advance the final plan to the Board of Regents for their evaluation, I will hold a virtual Town Hall meeting to enable you to seek additional clarity on any aspect of the proposed plan.

Please understand that these are the most challenging times in the history of our city, our state, our nation, our world, and, of course, our University. I have not an iota of doubt that on the west side of COVID-19, we will emerge as a stronger, more impactful, more responsive, and an even more consequential institution in service to all of our stakeholders.

In the words of our 16th president of the United States— Abraham Lincoln, “I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.”

Please accept my enormous appreciation to all of you for all that you do, and will continue to do, elevating Morgan to the top rung on the higher education ladder in the State of Maryland, and in our nation.

With respect and admiration,

Wilson Signature

David Wilson
President

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