April 30 2020, 3:30 p.m.
To Faculty and Staff
From Isiaah Crawford, Ph.D., President; Laura Behling, Ph.D., Provost; Sherry B. Mondou, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer; Uchenna Baker, Ph.D., Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students; Dave Beers, Vice President for University Relations; Joanna Carey Cleveland, Vice President and University Counsel and Secretary to the Board of Trustees; Shannon Carr, Interim Vice President for Enrollment; Gayle McIntosh, Vice President for Communications and Chief of Staff; Mary Elizabeth Collins, Director of the Office of the President

Dear Faculty and Staff Members,

We wish to express our deepest appreciation for your extraordinary efforts in response to the global health pandemic that has so drastically altered the daily life of our campus community. You have risen to the challenges before us amid great uncertainty with an unwavering commitment to support our students, our institution and each other.

Although there is a great deal that is still not known, we have been working diligently to develop a consultative and transparent process for moving through the pandemic with a focus on doing everything we reasonably can to support all members of the campus community.

Following up on our message of April 15, this message contains important information about next steps as we navigate our way through the end of the current fiscal year and prepare to make necessary adjustments to our budget and operations for the coming academic year and fiscal year. Our focus, as always, is on our mission as a residential liberal arts university.

Fiscal Year 2019-20

For the period March 7 – May 15, the university committed to pay staff members (including student staff) their regular wages regardless of ability or choice to work, and without requiring the use of any accrued paid leave hours. On April 15 we indicated that additional information would be shared by May 1 about pay for staff members unable or opting not to work for the period May 16 – June 30.

The president and several members of Cabinet consulted with Faculty Senate and Staff Senate leadership last week to discuss options for moving forward given current budget realities. Although the university does not qualify for the small business Paycheck Protection Program offered by the federal government, we are able to provide the following for the period May 16 – June 30:

  • Scheduled to Work. Most staff members will continue to work their customary number of hours at their approved FTE levels and will be paid as usual.  In some cases, staff may perform different assignments in areas of greatest need for the university. Essential staff will work on campus while others will continue to work remotely. Starting May 16, all staff will return to regular timekeeping with regard to the recording of vacation, floating holidays, sick leave, and leave without pay, as applicable.
  • Not Scheduled to Work. Staff members who hold positions that are less than 1.0 FTE in which they are not regularly scheduled for summer work will not be paid beyond mid-May (or other early summer dates) per their normally scheduled work dates. As usual, these staff members will continue to retain eligibility for university-provided healthcare benefits. Due to uncertainties about summer conferences, programs and activities, it is unlikely that additional work hours will be available to these staff members through June and possibly through the remainder of summer.
  • Work Not Available. Staff members who are not able to work all or part of their regularly scheduled hours (because there is no work or not enough work for all of their regularly scheduled hours) will be considered temporarily furloughed – unable to work partially or fully for the period May 16 – June 30, but still eligible for university-provided healthcare benefits. Staff members in this situation must utilize their accrued vacation and floating holiday balances in order to continue receiving payment from the university, and subsequently can apply for unemployment benefits when vacation and floating holiday balances have been exhausted. The Washington State Employment Security Department (ESD) determines eligibility for unemployment benefits. If approved by ESD, unemployment benefits may be enhanced with an additional $600 per week through July 31 under the federal CARES Act. Staff in Human Resources will be able to answer some questions about unemployment benefits but cannot file for unemployment on behalf of affected staff members.
  • Staff in Higher-Risk Categories. Per proclamation by Gov. Inslee, employees who self-identify as being in a higher-risk category as described and defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may request to be considered for alternative work assignments (such as remote work, reassignment, or work with additional social distancing measures, if feasible) due to the coronavirus outbreak. Department heads, in consultation with Human Resources, will consider all available options for alternative work assignments. Staff members who cannot be accommodated will retain eligibility for university-provided healthcare benefits and have the option through June 12 of being paid with accrued vacation/floating holidays or applying for unemployment benefits, in the sequence of their choosing, as mandated by the state. 
  • Faculty. Faculty will be paid according to the terms of their current academic year contracts.

In summary, for the period May 16 – June 30, most staff members will continue to work and be paid as usual. Some staff members may be temporarily unable to work all or some of their hours, but will continue to receive university-provided healthcare benefits and be able to use accrued leave and/or apply for unemployment benefits as stated above.

We understand that you may have questions specific to your circumstances. Look for an email message today from Human Resources with further details and guidance for supervisors and department heads. If you continue to have questions, please consult with your supervisor or Human Resources.

Academic and Fiscal Year 2020-21

As stated in our message of April 15, we have consulted with Faculty Senate and Staff Senate leadership to form two work groups to inform planning and decision-making for the upcoming fiscal year and academic year.

Budget Adjustment Group
The president has appointed a team that will be chaired by Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Sherry Mondou to offer input and feedback to the president and Cabinet on a range of potential options to adjust the FY21 budget as needed, which will likely be between 10 and 30 percent based on the notable financial constraints that are likely to be imposed by the ongoing pandemic.

The budget group will make and prioritize recommendations for adjustments based on principles in place to guide budget decisions , which were informed by feedback received from the Faculty Senate, Staff Senate, members of the LEAD group, and the Executive Committee of the board.

The group’s report will be shared with the campus community and considered by Cabinet prior to the president making a recommendation for the board of trustees to consider in June.

We know that difficult decisions lie ahead as we align our expenses with potentially significant reductions in revenue. With this in mind, at our request, the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees is supporting, at a minimum, a 5 percent temporary reduction of the president’s salary and 2 to 5 percent temporary reductions for Cabinet members.

Those serving on the Budget Adjustment Group are:

  • Chair: Sherry Mondou, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
  • Bill Beardsley, Professor, Philosophy
  • Laura Behling, Provost
  • Allison Cannady Smith, Associate Vice President for Constituent Relations
  • Alyce DeMarais, Professor, Biology
  • Bryan Gould, Director of Financial Aid
  • Amy Hackett, Director of Physical Education, Athletics, Recreation
  • Martin Jackson, Professor, Math and Computer Science
  • Garrett Milam, Professor and Chair, Economics
  • Kari Nolasco, ASUPS Vice President
  • Carol Odland, Senior Developer, Technology Services

Operational Planning Group
The president has appointed a team that will be chaired by Provost Laura Behling and will be engaged through mid-June to identify and analyze the issues that need to be addressed in order to have all of our students back on campus for the fall, and to develop contingency plans to continue operations remotely if absolutely necessary. This work will require a focused view of the facts and realities of the situation, a creative approach to problem-solving, and engagement with our community and outside experts. The group’s report will be shared with the campus community and used by the president and Cabinet to inform operational decisions about academic year 2020-21. 

Those serving on the Operational Planning Group are:

  • Chair: Laura Behling, Provost
  • Uchenna Baker, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students
  • Gwynne Brown, Professor, Music History and Music Theory
  • Kelly Brown, Director, Counseling, Health and Wellness Services
  • Nicole Gherima Ramiro Cariño, ASUPS President
  • Debbie Chee, Associate Dean of Students and Director of Residence Life
  • Jeremy Cucco, CIO and Associate Vice President for Technology Services
  • Bob Kief, Associate Vice President for Facilities
  • Michael Pastore, Registrar
  • Jennifer Pitonyak, Associate Professor and Adult Clinic Coordinator, Occupational Therapy
  • Andy Rex, Professor, Physics
  • Katherine Smith, Professor, History

More Information

Please continue to refer to pugetsound.edu/coronavirus for more information, and to share your ideas, questions, and concerns. You are also invited to attend a virtual Open Office Session with President Crawford on Friday, May 1, at 12:30 p.m. and a Human Resources Q&A Session on Tuesday, May 5, at 1 p.m. Please see information for joining these meetings at pugetsound.edu/covid19internal.

This is an uncertain time, but Puget Sound is a strong institution, able and prepared to manage the situation that is before us. In the coming days and weeks we will know more about fall enrollment and the operating conditions that will be necessary to ensure that we continue to deliver on our mission of providing an outstanding liberal arts education, not only in the short-term but for decades to come.

Thank you for your continued commitment and resilience as we work together to support one another, and to not only preserve but advance the university that we love.