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April 8 email from Provost Debbie Prentice to faculty and staff

From: Provost Debbie Prentice

To: Princeton faculty and staff

Date: April 8, 2020

Dear Princeton University faculty and staff,

Thank you for the work that you have done over the past weeks to support our students and your faculty and staff colleagues under circumstances that none of us could have imagined when this semester began.  Even with the disruptions of the past month, the University continues to meet its scholarly mission, and that would not have been possible without all of you.  

At a time when we are all seeking clarity, much remains uncertain about the current crisis.  We do not know when we will be able to resume normal operations nor when our students will be able to resume their educational activities on campus.  It also remains unclear how the current health emergency will impact the fall semester. 

We also don’t know what the ultimate operational and budgetary impacts of this crisis will be on the University.  This unprecedented public health emergency has precipitated a period of economic uncertainty, touching every corner of our nation.  Economic conditions have been fundamentally altered in a matter of weeks, and universities across the country are having to reassess every aspect of their operations.  

Princeton is not immune from these challenges, and we will have to make some hard choices in the weeks and months ahead.  That said, because of our strong endowment, the generosity of our community, and the work of many of you, we are fortunate to face these new challenges from a solid budgetary position.  This will not spare us from the need to make difficult reductions and tradeoffs, but it does buy us time to evaluate the evolving situation and make major decisions in a more thoughtful, measured way.

Even with these advantages, however, there are a few critical moves that we must make now in response to the economic reality we currently face.  The impacts of this crisis are real, and we need to start addressing them immediately.

First, we are suspending faculty and staff salary increases, except where required by previous agreement, including in relation to faculty promotion and retention.  Because of the immediate impacts of this crisis, this will also include this spring’s Merit Increase Pool.  

Second, we are carefully managing staffing levels to sustain our current workforce for as long as possible.  Our goal is to protect the positions of those currently working at Princeton.  That means that all requests for new permanent and term positions and hires, including filling open vacancies, will be approved on an exceptional basis only — and the bar will be high.  

In addition to our regular employees, at any given time there is also a limited number of temporary hourly, casual, and contracted positions working across our campus.  This period is no different.  Through the end of this semester, managers should continue to use their existing resources and usual discretion when it comes to retaining these positions.  We will not be able, however, to guarantee support for all of these positions over the long term.  Understanding that our operating picture will look very different heading into the summer, we are asking managers to start planning now for a decreased dependence on these positions beginning June 2nd.  

Third, we are asking all managers to look for ways to better leverage existing staff whose primary responsibilities cannot be fulfilled under our current ‘stay at home’ order and social distancing protocols.  This may require some of you to take on new tasks and functions for the time being.  We appreciate your flexibility during this unusual period.

Finally, we are asking units across campus to cut all non-essential spending.  We do not know how long this health emergency will last, and we do not know how deep the economic impacts will be.  Every dollar we can save now will give us more flexibility to support our core priorities as the long-term economic picture becomes clearer.  Each one of us can make a difference when it comes to spending.  If you see areas where we can save, please raise them to your manager.  All ideas are welcome, and no amount of savings is too small for us to pursue.  
 

As we continue looking across the University for savings, our focus will remain on four key priorities -- ensuring the health and well-being of our students, faculty and staff; restoring our teaching and research activities to normal operations, safely but as soon as possible; sustaining our commitments to access and affordability; and retaining and supporting our talented workforce.

Over the coming weeks, the central administration will be working with departments, centers, and operating areas across campus to find more ways to reduce costs and adjust our operations to meet the world we now live in.  Make no mistake, we will all have to tighten our belts, but we will do so based on the best data available and grounded in those guiding priorities.  

Later today, the Office of Human Resources and the Dean of the Faculty’s office will distribute further guidance to heads of offices, departments and academic units on how we will implement these new directives.  We will continue to communicate with all of you as major decisions are made and will continue to share the financial realities and the thought process behind those decisions.  

Thank you again for your continued commitment to Princeton and your professionalism during these trying times.  

Best wishes,

Debbie Prentice

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