Saturday, November 28, 2020

BOT approves 2021 budget, discusses COVID-19 testing and announces required masks on campus

June 26, 2020
<p>MSU Board of Trustees chairperson Dianne Byrum addresses the trustees at their June 26 virtual meeting.</p>

MSU Board of Trustees chairperson Dianne Byrum addresses the trustees at their June 26 virtual meeting.

The Michigan State University Board of Trustees approved the school's 2020-21 budget, announced a policy requiring masks on campus and explored options for COVID 19 testing in its Friday meeting.

“The 2021 budget comes on the heels of the fiscal year where we experience roughly $60 million in decreased revenue and increased cost secondary to COVID-19 cost suspension of RHA operations, the cancellation of summer programs, the cancellation of part of our winter and all of our spring sports, modest decline in research support and significantly increased cost associated with our move to fully remote and online teaching.”  President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. said.

Committee on Budget and Finance Chair Melanie Foster presented the budget, which includes revenues and expenditures from the General Fund, MSU AgBioResearch, MSU Extension, and Intercollegiate Athletics.

According to Stanley, the budget allots a 4% increase in financial aid to provide support for students and their families.

Earlier this week, Stanley announced MSU is estimating an approximately $300 million loss for the 2020-21 fiscal year due to the coronavirus, and will be implementing cuts throughout the university including professor wage cuts, pausing of several capital projects and retirement plan cuts.

During the public participation portion of the meeting, romance and classical studies assistant professor Victor Rodriguez-Pereira spoke on behalf of the Union of Non-Tenure Track Faculty, or UNTF, and their concerns with MSU’s recent financial decisions. 

“We understand that we are facing challenges that we have never seen at the university before and I can speak on behalf of my members when I say that we are all doing as much as we can to push through these times,” Rodriguez-Pereira said. “However, we have a concern about how the university is facing these challenges.”

He said that they are unaware of some of the other things the university is doing to help with their financial losses. For example, the exact salary cuts for faculty, as some members of UNTF have some of the lowest salaries amongst the faculty as it is. 

Stanley said the university has contingency plans ready if the estimated losses go beyond what they expected. 

One of the possible ways to reduce cost would be to expand cost reductions in academic and administrative units beyond the 3% reductions already made.

He also said they can take a look at utility savings, and possibly monetizing assets on campus such as parking to increase revenue. 

Stanley said that going forward university revenues will also be affected by enrollment, specifically in international students, due to the pandemic and U.S. immigration policies, and state allocations. 

He said based on student deposits made thus far, enrollment for fall 2020 is greater than what it was last fall.

Additionally, Stanley said he projected increased costs associated with preparations necessary for the return to campus in the fall.

Masks will also be required on campus.

Stanley said he hopes this will be enforced through social pressure. He gave the example of trying to eliminate tobacco use on campus, which was effective due to peer pressure. Rather than police, there were people who stood up and enforced it upon others.

Failure to comply may result in discipline through human resource systems for university employees and a similar discipline process for students.

A testing subcommittee, one of 21 subcommittees that make up the Reopening Campus Task Force, hopes to include voluntary bi-weekly testing, explained in Jack Lipton’s presentation about COVID-19 testing.

Stanley also acknowledged MSU’s executives’ wage cuts, and the Board’s previous approval of the tuition and room and board freeze.

“I think we’ve done the best we can at this moment in time based on the circumstances we have to prepare a budget as said in my remarks that will allow us to continue all of our core missions,” Stanley said. “... I’m comfortable with where (the budget) is now but we’ll continue to monitor again the number of circumstances could change which could either relieve some of the pressure we’re under it or exacerbate it.”  

The Board also approved funds functioning as endowments titled from Homer Nowlin Estate Stanley & Selma Hollander and John Wettaw, presented from the budget and finance committee.

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