Monday, September 25, 2023

MSU faces financial losses amid pandemic

April 23, 2020
<p> The Hannah Administration Building on Aug. 23, 2019, in East Lansing.  </p>

The Hannah Administration Building on Aug. 23, 2019, in East Lansing.

Photo by Sylvia Jarrus | The State News

After the university transitioned to online learning and encouraged students to return to their permanent residences, concerns about layoffs and furloughed payments began growing among faculty and staff.

Michigan State University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. said during a virtual town hall April 20 that the impact of COVID-19 has resulted in unexpected hits to the university’s budget, such as the refunds granted to students who left their dorm rooms before April 12. 

Due to the cancellation of basketball tournaments, the athletic department's budget also saw reductions.

To mitigate MSU’s financial losses, Stanley and other university executives will take pay cuts for up to a full year.

It was announced April 20 that a group of students filed a lawsuit against the university, demanding refunds for tuition, room, board and fees.

When it comes to furloughs for tenured faculty, Interim Provost Teresa Sullivan said the budget is being reworked to avoid that possibility. Changes include limited travel budgets for tenured faculty, for example.

"Our strategy has been to seek to reduce other expenses first," Sullivan said during the town hall. "We're going to look for cutting expenditures in those places before we look to cutting faculty positions."

While the university is expecting federal relief from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act, other high salary members of the university might be asked to take temporary pay cuts.

"I do hope people will recognize that this is a time when all of us will need to make some sacrifices to help out and that this is the beginning of what we're doing — there may be more," Stanley said during the town hall. "It very much depends, and I'm talking about the executives, on where we find ourselves. In this very tough time for the state, we feel very fortunate. We continue making contributions as part of MSU."

While current plans for fall semester classes are uncertain, Sullivan said she has begun planning measures in case travel measures prevent international students from coming to MSU.

"We anticipate that some of our international students may choose to wait a semester to see if travel looks more feasible," Sullivan said. "We're also exploring options for offering courses that they could take in their home countries before coming here."

When it comes to the future of MSU, Stanley said the university will continue to engage in communication to keep the public informed.

"We will get through this as an institution," Stanley said. "We are a very strong institution. We are keeping with our principles: Our commitment to excellence, our commitment to access, our commitment to our extension work and our land grant model — all of those things are things I think are things that abstain us in this time."

The pandemic might still cause more jobs to be lost, but MSU will continue to teach students and develop research to be shared nationally, he said.

"During this time, I think we will continue to work to move MSU forward, continue to work to support the people who are so vital to this state," he said. "Again, our students are the future of Michigan, and I think we need to do everything we can to support them."

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