Author: Joel Vertin

Financial Planning in the Wake of COVID-19

By: Rick Koubek, President

Members of the Michigan Tech Community:

The gravity of the situation in which higher education institutions find themselves, including Michigan Tech, is difficult at best. Yet, in spite of these trying times, our campus community has banded together to help each other and even those afar through innovation, creativity, and kindness.

Thank you.

Today, I would like to outline the framework and planning horizon the leadership team is working from to address the fiscal deficit caused by COVID-19. Currently, we are assuming an enrollment decline for both the summer and fall terms, a correlating decline in auxiliary services revenue, and a modest reduction in state funding. Based on these assumptions, we have estimated a budget shortfall of approximately $18 million—but it could be as high as $38 million depending on additional fluctuations in enrollment, how the state’s higher education funding formula unfolds during the legislative session, and whether Michigan Tech returns to face-to-face instruction to start the fall semester.

In early April, we enacted cost controls to address the current fiscal year deficit. These included a hiring, spending, and wage freeze, among additional measures. Thanks to your efforts, we have minimized the fiscal year 2020 shortfall. However, we must now turn our attention to the projected deficit for fiscal year 2021.

Effective immediately, I will take a 15 percent pay reduction and the vice presidents will take a 7 percent pay reduction, at least through December 31, 2020. This is in addition to a number of other cost-saving options under consideration, which will be reviewed and prioritized by the President’s Budget Advisory Committee. All of our decisions will be guided by the following principles:

  1. Protecting the health, safety, and well-being of our campus community to the best of our ability;
  2. Supporting and continuing high-quality educational and research activities at Michigan Tech; and
  3. Respecting all health and safety requirements issued by the state of Michigan and modifying our operations in compliance with these guidelines.

Over the next few weeks, we will solidify our decisions in preparation for the May Board of Trustees meeting, where we must present a balanced fiscal year 2021 budget to the Board for approval. Actions necessary to achieve a balanced budget with a projected shortfall of $18 million may include reductions to operating budgets and workforce needs, and/or temporary pay cuts. In full disclosure, we must acknowledge that additional cuts to services and programs may be necessary over the course of the year due to additional, unforeseen factors or if we experience greater declines in enrollment or state funding over and above what we are currently projecting.

I will continue to provide regular updates regarding the status of campus operations and the fiscal implications related to COVID-19 in the coming days and weeks. I remain optimistic about Michigan Tech’s long-term future. We are positioned well financially, our reputation is strong, and I am confident in our ability to discover creative solutions, even in the face of adversity.

Take care and stay safe.

Sincerely,

Rick Koubek
President

COVID-19 Campus Update

By: Rick Koubek, President

Dear Members of the Michigan Tech Community:

COVID-19 has certainly changed our campus in an unprecedented way, at an unprecedented pace. And, while I believe our combined efforts are helping to “flatten the curve,” we must continue to remain vigilant in protecting ourselves, our health care providers, and those most vulnerable in our community from the effects of this virus—even if it means taking extraordinary precautions.

Below are a few updates for our students and employees in this regard.

While it’s still too early to tell how or when this crisis will end, Michigan Tech is a community of problem solvers. To that end, we have a number of committed faculty, researchers, students, and staff using their talents to help our community, state, and nation navigate the impacts of this virus. It is that indelible spirit that gives me complete confidence for the future of Michigan Tech.

With that said, the University is planning for fiscal impacts resulting from the COVID-19 crisis and will begin implementing a series of temporary budget controls to balance revenues and expenditures. Initial guidelines will be sent from the CFO’s office to departments in the near future.

During this challenging time, we are listening closely to our students, faculty, and staff to better inform our decisions and ensure our planning efforts respect the values we hold as a campus community. We will also continue to provide regular updates on the University’s operations in addition to any new developments related to COVID-19. Until then, I ask that you continue to do your part to help protect your own health and the well-being of our community.

Thanks for all that you do.

Rick Koubek
President

Stay Home, Stay Safe Executive Order and Campus Operations

By: Jackie Huntoon, Provost and Senior VP for Academic Affairs

As you may already be aware, at a press conference today Governor Whitmer announced Executive Order 2020-21, “Stay Home, Stay Safe,” requiring the people of the state of Michigan to stay at home. This order is effective at 12:01 a.m. on March 24 and will continue until at least April 13. The University’s COVID-19 Stay at Home Protocol specifies what this means on campus.

Why a Stay at Home Order is Necessary:

The executive order was issued to suppress the rate of spread of COVID-19 in an attempt to prevent the state’s health care system from being overwhelmed. COVID-19 is easily spread from person to person and the number of cases continues to grow rapidly in Michigan.

Working together to slow the spread of the disease will allow the production of critical test kits, ventilators, and personal protective equipment. We need the supply to catch up with the demand to avoid needless deaths and protect the lives of health care workers.

Leaders in places already hit hard by the virus are consistent in their assertions that others should not wait until the crisis is at hand before taking action.

We are fortunate that no cases have been confirmed in our area so far — but we can’t expect that to last. Our best chance of keeping the number of cases at a manageable level is to follow the executive order and stay at home unless it is absolutely necessary to go out. We all need to ask ourselves before making any trip out of the house whether or not the trip warrants putting our own or others’ health at risk. We are all going to need food and medicine, but most of our regular trips to town or campus can and must wait.

At this point we need to assume we have the disease, and it is our job to make sure we don’t give it to anyone else. The best way to do that is to stay at home and avoid contact with other people.

What this Means for Faculty and Staff:

This means stay at home unless you absolutely must go out.

To comply with the executive order, only essential personnel with written permission to enter a University building will be allowed access. University leaders (vice presidents, dean, chairs, directors, and others) are working now to determine who will be given permission to enter based on health and safety considerations, a need to access equipment used for remote instruction, or involvement with research that requires ongoing human support and attention. No one else will be allowed to enter any University facility (however, students will still be able to access their residence halls).

Letters to those who have been granted access based on recommendation from their chair, dean, or supervisor will receive written documentation of their right to enter from a vice president. Letters from vice presidents will be issued beginning the evening of March 23, 2020. Individuals’ access will be explicitly limited to specific buildings and rooms.

Building access will be restricted starting at 12:01 a.m. on March 24, 2020. After that deadline, special exception requests for access will need to be approved by a vice president. A process for requesting access is being developed and information will be released soon. Special exception requests will only be approved if allowable under the executive order, and access will only be granted for a limited amount of time (for example, one hour).

What this Means for Students:

Students living in the residence halls or in the Houghton area will be allowed to remain. However, students will no longer be able to access any University classroom, laboratory, shop, computer lab, or other facility. After 12:01 a.m. on March 24, University facilities will be open only to serve essential functions.

Updates and Other Information:

As we all continue to navigate the COVID-19 challenge, many questions will emerge. Please continue to submit your questions to covid-19@mtu.edu. Questions will be answered individually when possible, and Michigan Tech’s COVID-19 website addresses FAQs. You can also refer to Research FAQs, Grad School FAQs, HR FAQs, and Facilities FAQs.

We are all in an extremely challenging situation and I am impressed by the fortitude, resourcefulness, and optimism exhibited by people across Michigan Tech and throughout our local community. We should all be proud of ourselves. I am honored to be a member of the Huskies family.

Jackie Huntoon
Provost and Senior VP for Academic Affairs

Stay at Home Order for MTU Residents

By Matthew Weekley, Director of Housing Auxiliary Operations and Residence Education

Dear Michigan Tech Residence Hall students,

Thank you for your patience and understanding as we continue to work through fast-moving developments with the State’s response to COVID-19. Earlier this morning, Governor Whitmer issued a “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order for the people of Michigan.

The Governor’s order allows students to travel to return to a home or place of residence from outside this state or to return to your home within the state of Michigan. You are strongly encouraged to return to your permanent residence, assuming you are permitted to do so based on your home country’s guidelines, have what you’ll need to continue with classes, and will be safe and healthy there.

Consistent with the Stay Home, Stay Safe order, the University will now put in place the following measures to limit the spread of COVID-19:

Residence hall students are permitted to move out of the residence halls to another place of residence.

The executive order permits individuals to move to another home or place of residence. Residents planning to move off campus must follow these guidelines:

  • Each student cannot be assisted by more than two individuals who are not in the same residential housing facility as the student.
  • The individuals assisting with move-out may not have a temperature of 100.4F or higher, cough, trouble breathing, or otherwise feel ill.
  • The individuals assisting with move-out must adhere to social distancing at all times, except while jointly carrying a heavy object.

All residence hall students residing in Wadsworth, McNair, Douglass Houghton, and Hillside MUST COMPLETE the Residence Hall Spring 2020 Departure Plan Form that was originally sent to you on Wednesday, March 18.

All residence hall students must complete the Departure Plan form as soon as possible, but no later than Friday, March 27, 2020 at 5 p.m. EST. You can select any of the departure dates available; however, to be eligible for the $1,100 residence hall credit, you must depart on or before April 12, 2020. If you have extenuating circumstances, please contact housing@mtu.edu and we can assist you. Students who choose to depart the residence halls should follow these guidelines to checkout properly.

Residents are prohibited from visiting other buildings and from having visitors

  • Residents who choose to stay on campus are not permitted to visit residence halls other than their own.
  • All non-Michigan Tech visitors/guests are prohibited from visiting resident students through the duration of the Stay Home, Stay Safe order (excluding the exception for those helping to move, mentioned above). 
  • Residents may not have guests that exceed the number of students currently assigned to a room (example: If there are two assigned beds in a room, only two individuals can be in the room at the same time).

Dining restrictions and front desk operations

  • The Campus Cafe will be closed.
  • Dining operations will continue in each building for the time being.
  • Front desk operations will begin limiting their hours of operation for mail/package pickup.  Hours of operation will be 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Front desks will also no longer be checking out equipment, with the exception of vacuums.

Practice social distancing and hygiene techniques

Resident students are required to continue practicing social distancing. Here are some important tips:

  • It’s critically important students follow CDC guidelines to maintain proper hygiene (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes, and washing hands thoroughly for 20 seconds). Fully detailed guidance can be found here.
  • Avoid congregating in social gatherings of 10 or more and in public venues.
  • When socializing, attempt to keep a distance of about six feet from the nearest person.
  • Properly dispose of personal trash such as tissues and disposable dining utensils that come into contact with your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Avoid touching your face, nose, and mouth and rubbing your eyes.
  • Refrain from personal contact to help stop the possible transmission of the virus and other illnesses.

Make sure to continuously check Michigan Tech’s COVID-19 website for updates

This continues to be a very fluid situation for the entire world, and you are encouraged to utilize Michigan Tech’s COVID-19 website for updates and guidance on new developments.

Sincerely,

Matthew Weekley
Director of Housing Auxiliary Operations and Residence Education

Important COVID-19 Update: Remote Instruction

By Jacqueline Huntoon, Provost Senior VP Academic Affairs

Dear Faculty and Staff, 

We are in the midst of a rapidly changing situation in the United States as a result of the spread of COVID-19. Per President Koubek’s email earlier today, we will not be teaching face-to-face in classrooms or laboratories.

Our intention is that remote instruction for some courses will begin on Monday, March 16, with all courses being offered remotely no later than Wednesday, March 18. This means that your students must hear from you about your plans for your courses no later than March 18. Remote instruction will continue through at least April 17.

I know that many people involved with instruction are already prepared to offer their courses remotely using multiple types of technologies. Others may need some assistance and support. Both IT and the Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) are preparing to provide the support that everyone needs. Both groups can provide assistance online, by phone, or in person.

For those somewhat familiar with useful instructional technologies, https://www.mtu.edu/ctl/instructional-resources/canvas-continuity/ provides an online refresher. Your fellow faculty and staff are also great resources who may be able to provide assistance and information about strategies they have tested and found to be effective.

As you implement remote instruction, recognize that it will likely be impossible to cover all the information you would normally include during a semester. In addition, it will be challenging to offer students the same experience they would get on campus in many courses (including laboratory courses). Instructors are in the best position to know how to adjust their courses, and everyone should feel that they have wide latitude to make the necessary changes.

Michigan Tech’s faculty are known for their “can-do” attitude and I am certain that by working together, supporting one another, and sharing tips and best practices, we will provide students with the best possible education given the constraints of the current situation.

In order to ensure that IT and the CTL are aware of your needs and requests, I ask that you complete the survey available at https://forms.gle/fo6anxvRngUEm8uA7. An IT or CTL staff member will contact you as appropriate based on your responses. IT or CTL staff may also offer focused sessions on topics of particular interest (e.g., using Canvas). If you are a course coordinator, please talk with your instructional team to set expectations and coordinate requests for assistance so that neither IT nor the CTL are overburdened.

As the semester unfolds, please let your department chair or dean know if you are having problems or are ill. Your health is important. It will also be helpful if you can let your department chair or dean know if you are concerned about any individual students in your courses or research group.

Additional information and updates regarding Michigan Tech’s response to COVID-19 can be found at mtu.edu/covid-19. Also, feel free to email covid-19@mtu.edu with your questions. We will continue to act on the best information we have and keep you informed.

Sincerely, 

Jackie Huntoon
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs