Town Hall 050520

Annotations of Town Hall 5/05/20

Present: David DeCenzo (President), Travis Overton (Vice President for Executive Initiatives/Chief of Staff), Carlos Johnson (VP of Legal Services/University Council), Dan Ennis (VP of Academic Affairs/Provost), David Frost (Chief Financial Officer)  

Disclaimer: The below annotations and timestamps are for reference only, compiled by volunteer staff. The below are for reference only.


David DeCenzo Introduction (00:42– 13:27)

  • 1:21 | Discussion of timing of e-mail correspondence from administration
  • 3:06 | Campus remains closed, stay at home and work from home.
  • 4:12 | CARES first installment payment was made 5/4 into university accounts.
  • 4:48 | CHANT411 continues operations
  • 5:39 | New Enrollment numbers; deposits down 22%, decrease more in in-state students
  • 7:39 | “All public institutions [of higher learning] in the state are…planning for an approximate 15% reduction in enrollment.”
  • 8:09 | Discussion of budget cuts:
    • Establishing a committee on cuts to work with executive committee, to work alongside the reduction in force committee from the faculty.
    • Executive Committee has received a lot of suggestions.
  • 9:04 | We are expecting the passage of continuing resolution.
  • 9:36 | Charged the emergency management group to begin preparing a plan to reopen the university. “It is certainly my hope that we have on-campus classes beginning in August.”

Questions (13:40 – 1:12:34)

  • 13:40 | Why wouldn’t we require students to arrive on campus having tested negative in the last 15 days?
    • DeCenzo: We have no isolation facilities or an infirmary. We have the ability to quarantine students and provide isolation. Steve Harrison is converting rooms, but we are going to be prepared for positive students to be showing up on campus.
  • 14:49 | Why send e-mails after hours?
    • DeCenzo: We want to make sure everything is relevant and timely.
    • Overton: Realize that this is a stressful time.
  • 17:37 | Have any of the individuals who will be furloughed have been contacted, and if there are any furloughs across the board to those working through the summer?
    • Johnson: “No one has been furloughed from Coastal Carolina University.” Furloughs require authorization from the SC Legislature or the Governor. We have been operating under emergency declarations, and we have determined essential employees. There are employees not reporting to work because they are non-critical, and they are using accrued sick or annual leave. This is not a furlough; it is an operation of the state of emergency. Until we receive more direction from the governor, the employees that are not reporting to work will need to use leave. More employees will receive additional information as we gain more information about the situation.
  • 21:16 | Would we have access to the guidelines for disbursement of the CARES Act fund? Where do we direct students as required?
  • 22:40 | If we can work from home full-time now, can we expect accomodations when it is safe to return?
    • DeCenzo: Everything is certainly on the table. The Emergency Management Division is looking into that, but the accommodation will depend on the guidance that we get from State HR. But we can’t say definitively at this time.
    • Ennis: We have accomodated all kinds of medical conditions in the past. We will be consistent with the state, and not every faculty member will need to be in face-to-face mode. We are going to create an environment where students feel safe and comfortable.
  • 25:31 | How many faculty/staff have applied for early retirement?
    • DeCenzo: It is too early to give an answer. We don’t anticipate seeing antying until the later part of May.
  • 26:07 | Those individuals who are on the optional retirement plan?
    • DeCenzo: The plan that we submitted to State HR only dealt with State HR retirement. We are beginning to look at a very similar type of plan for OPR-related employees.
  • 27:10 | Is there going to be a list of those who have opted to take early retirement?
    • Johnson: We are working on a process that provides non-retiring individuals who are interested in transitioning their employment away from CCU some opportunities to do that under certain circumstances. We are waiting for state approval for that plan.
      We have had communications with State HR on what that plan should look like, and what other colleges and universities have done in the past.
      State guidelines do require some publication of who has participated and not participated. We are going to abide by those guidelines, but protect that personal information. We want to wait until our plan is complete before providing that information.
  • 30:10 | Can you provide an overview of where we are on hiring and any type of hiring freeze that we are currently in as a university? Job offers that were made before COVID-19, and some new hires received a written or e-mail offer and accepted.
    • Johnson: It is an active process. I’m working with various areas in the university to determine their need, both immediate and for the next academic year. There is not a hard freeze, but we are doing additional analysis to ensure that we are strategic about our hiring and making sure that we are serving the university’s needs while being efficient.
  • 32:23 | Has the cost-cutting committee been formed, and, if not, how are members selected?
    • DeCenzo: We are working on that. We will be announcing who is on that committee.
  • 32:50 | Is there an update on employee tuition waivers, so that affected employees may determine whether or not to drop a class?
    • Johnson: The employee tuition waiver is under review. The program that allows for tuition reimbursements to outside universities may be terminated, and both programs are under review. E-mail Carlos or Kim Sherfesee with specific questions.
    • Overton: The Executive Committee reviews policy changes once a month, so that information will come from the next meeting.
  • 35:41 | Looking at the operating budget in 2019-20, what is the line item labeled Dual Employment/Extra Compensation ($1.7 million), and can that be cut down to save money?
    • Frost: That item involves a lot of things. A big piece of that was the credit banking we did in the past, and that program is discontinued. That line item will be reduced to about $700,000. The other item is that an individual does two functions at Coastal, and they are paid for the additional work they do.
  • 36:38 | Has President DeCenzo actually declared there is a financial crisis that threatens the survival of the university? If not, the Reduction in Force Committee should not be active.
    • DeCenzo: “…Yes, there is a financial crisis that threatens the survival of this institution. …If you look at the the financials right now, if we do nothing, we're $22 million-23 million dollars in in the red next year, given a 15 percent reduction in enrollment. Obviously, if enrollment doesn't go down by 15 percent, we’re better. If that 22% number I gave you earlier is closer, we're in worse shape. But what also magnifies the financial crisis is if we have to open the semester online …that could lead to that we could not charge out-of-state students in out-of-state students out-of-state tuition rates they would have to be charged in-state rates that takes that $23-23 million dollar deficit up over $40 million dollars. …We are looking at a serious crisis if enrollment dips below 15%.”
  • 40:47 | Is there a university policy that speaks to forming the cost-cutting committee, or is this an ad-hoc committee?
    • Overton: Am I correct in stating that there isn’t a policy governing a cost-cutting committee, and that the charge will be determined after the committee forms? (DeCenzo nods)
  • 41:41 | What role does employees taking leave play in cost savings?
    • Johnson: The leave function regarding hte essential and critical personnel determinations. It is a function of the law. It’s not a CCU administrative decision. The law states that employees must take leave, unless the Governor authorizes leave with pay. That determination [for essential and critical personnel] is made concerning the operations of our campus activities under COVID-19, which right now is none.
      As the university is managing through the financial circumstances we see in front of us, as it relates to COVID-19’s impacts currently and in the future, we will be looking at our cost-savings in the future.
    • Frost: We can only pay for work that is performed. If you cannot work, then you can take the leave that you have earned. There are not any immediate cost savings for leave. There might be a slight bookentry at the end of the year, depending on how much accrued leave is outstanding at the end of the year.
    • Johnson: It is also required that if you are deemed non-critical/non-essential, that you do not report to work. This is a pure operation of what the law is. As we are making the decisions from an HR standpoint, we are sensitive to the individual impacts, but we have requirements that we have to follow to stay compliant from an HR aspect.
  • 46:27 | DeCenzo: Several individuals don’t like that I put the retrenchment (Reduction in Force) committee in effect. Talk to Brian Bunton on the procedures for putting this committee in place. “We are in a period right now that we have never experienced before. …If we lose 10-15% enrollment, how we make up those dollars when 80% of our costs are in payroll. And we can’t run at a deficit, we have to balance the budget.” I wanted faculty’s input and their recommendations for cuts, and I wanted them to have an ample opportunity to do so.
  • 49:39 | Why are folks who are being let go, or whose positions being dissolved, are not paid out their accrued annual leave?
    • DeCenzo: If there are people who have left the university, then they are entitled to the payout of their annual leave.
    • Overton: For individual questions, please reach out to HR.
  • 51:17 | Can you tell us how international students at CCU have been handled, and if we are going forward with admitting international students in the Fall?
  • 54:54 | Why are questions on athletics not being address, such as moving CCU operating money back to academics?
    • DeCenzo: We are looking very closely at athletics. I think you will see that there will be some changes occurring in athletics. There was a question about putting athletics on hold for a year or two. There are certainly a lot of options we can take on both athletics and academics. Board of Trustees and I are looking at a number of options as it relates to athletics and certainly the athletics director. We are not at a point yet where I can say what we can do. We are looking at athletics.
      Most of the open positions (roughly 38) that I have frozen in athletics that will not be filled.
  • 57:12 | Why are we not reopening the golf course?
    • DeCenzo: There are a lot of stipulations. It would be nice to start generating some revenue, but we have to make sure that we are promoting a safe and healthy activity.
  • 58:42 | Can you address the discrepancy between faculty and staff allowing them to work from home?
    • Overton: Staff members who have duties that can be fulfilled remotely can do those tasks from home. Carlos, did I state that correctly?
    • Johnson: There isn’t a distinction between faculty and staff in working from home. The distinction is in the job function and the determination of the critical nature of the job function, and then the actual job function itself, if it can be performed from home.
  • 61:10 | Why are we requiring leave when two of the three research institutions in the state are not?
    • DeCenzo: Because we are following state law. We cannot pay people for not working. Johnson and Frost have called Clemson and USC, and they do have people who are taking mandatory leave. The difference is in what they are classifying as “critical,” that don’t apply to this institution.
    • Johnson: Everyone around the state is experiencing the same challenges.
  • 65:04 | Overton: We will be holding these town halls on a biweekly basis.
  • 65:28 | What specific things are the President doing to cut costs?
    • Overton: The cost-cutting committee will look at these suggestions in collaboration with the CFO, and evaluate these suggestions. I will make sure that the suggestions submitted in questions will be reviewed by that committee.
  • 66:34 | Are there different considerations for faculty or staff working from home when classes resume on campus?
    • Overton: HR will evaluate any questions regarding health. Both faculty and staff will be evaluated in a similar manner.
  • 67:28 | What is the role of our endowments and foundations, and the role they play in providing financial support?
    • Our foundation is a relatively young foundation, and its assets are around $50 million. Most of those assets are in restricted funds, and they have a couple million dollars with unrestricted funds that can help the university when it can. Most of the funds are earmarked or restricted. There’s not a lot of assets that can just be drawn in.
  • 69:16 | Any word on TAs getting a letter of separation and keeping access to e-mail and Moodle?
  • 69:47 | Overton discusses many stressors. We are all in this together. The suggestions that you provide during Mentimeter and comments are beging evaluated. Staff Senate will facilitate distribution of question answers.