Eyeing Potential End or Continuation of COVID-19 Pandemic Mitigation, MSU Administration Unveils Planning Models and Expansion of Remote Learning/Instruction
Morgan State University (MSU) President David K. Wilson announced plans today to prepare the University for the challenges posed by the current COVID-19 crisis, and beyond. As public health and elected officials evaluate conditions and seek to make a determination regarding the potential continuation or conclusion of the measures taken to mitigate the pandemic, Morgan’s administration is strategically positioning the University to embrace either outcome. After weeks of strategy sessions with his cabinet, Wilson has taken actions to protect the University’s financial health throughout the crisis and has unveiled three potential planning models to guide operations in the fall. At the same time, Morgan is embracing the uncertainty of a post-COVID-19 higher education landscape, by further exploring a comprehensive expansion of remote learning/instruction.
“For the past month or so, we’ve been keeping our eye toward the future and having very sobering discussions about this crisis. What we’ve learned will enable us to be a stronger, more dynamic institution going forward,” said President Wilson. “These are critical times for higher education, and sacrifices will have to be made by everyone until we find ourselves on the other side of this pandemic. Over the years, we have been deliberate and purposeful in our stewardship of the University’s budget and finances, however, the path forward leads to a significantly different business model and the implementation of progressive cost containment measures. Although this may appear to be a drastic deviation from business as usual, it is imperative for our continued momentum. And make no mistake about it, Morgan will continue to thrive.”
Under Wilson’s direction, the following has been implemented:
- The formation of a cost containment plan to ensure Morgan’s continued financial health. The president announced a hiring freeze through the remainder of FY ’20 and instituted a freeze on all spending unrelated to COVID-19.
- The outlining of three strategic planning models. Model One was built around a continuation of the current circumstances and current operation protocol; Model Two involves delaying the start of the next academic year until later in the fall and implementing significant social distancing protocols; and Model Three is centered on reopening the campus without restrictions and with a return to normal operations. (All models have some version of online/remote instruction/learning continuing through 2020–21, and all three have major financial implications for Morgan. Morgan expects to make a decision on the fall within the next three months.)
- Movement of all Summer Sessions to a remote instruction format.
- Movement of all orientation programs and open houses to a virtual environment. (In support of this effort, Morgan recently launched a new virtual tour tool.)
- The appointment of a special Online/Remote Instruction Committee to explore the further integration and perfection of remote learning/instruction as a possible modality in the future.
- An evaluation of the University’s tuition and fee structure for the 2020-2021 academic year.
- The call for an innovative rethinking of the University’s Academic Calendar.
- An expansion of community-based research with a focus on closing the racial and equity gaps made more evident by COVID-19.
For the past week, Wilson has been personally meeting virtually with the various University units to deliver the message about coming changes, while assuaging concerns and engaging in an open dialogue. These “micro townhalls” will continue this week and the next until all units have been engaged.
The majority of these measures were put into place before Morgan received direction from the State of Maryland and were further validated by the State’s decision on spending. The State has called for a freeze on discretionary spending and employee hiring, as well as FY 2021 budget reductions. The State’s budget freeze spans all State government agencies, only allowing spending on COVID-19-related expenses and payroll. Projections indicate that the State of Maryland could lose billions of dollars in revenue during the next three months alone. Morgan would not be exempt from this reality, as University administrators have already run financial projections that account for drops in enrollment, State support and revenue from athletics and that anticipate budget cuts.
Wilson is concluding his 10th year as president of MSU and has been lauded throughout his tenure for innovative thinking and the momentum the University has enjoyed. However, he realizes this may be one of the biggest challenges of his presidency: seeing Morgan through a broad economic decline that could take years to recover from.
“In a perfect world, this fall, the campus will be flush with the bright, smiling faces of students eager to engage in their studies and inspired to change the world. But what this COVID-19 pandemic has shown us is that the world is an imperfect place,” Wilson said. “The only thing we can attempt to do perfectly now is plan.”
Morgan State University, founded in 1867, is a Carnegie-classified doctoral research institution offering more than 126 academic programs leading to degrees from the baccalaureate to the doctorate. As Maryland’s Preeminent Public Urban Research University, Morgan serves a multiethnic and multiracial student body and seeks to ensure that the doors of higher education are opened as wide as possible to as many as possible. For more information about Morgan State University, visit www.morgan.edu.
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