4.15.20: University Actions in Response to COVID-19

An update sent to faculty and staff regarding reducing university expenses.

Dear Colleagues,

It has been truly impressive to see our Lehigh community come together and respond so quickly and effectively to the extraordinary circumstances we now experience together. The commitment and dedication to our mission has never been more evident, and the many acts of compassion, caring and support we have seen are inspiring. We wish each of you and your families good health and the very best during this difficult time.

What the future holds is impossible to discern. We know you are acutely aware of the necessity of the measures our government and the university have taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19, as well as the financial impact of these measures on the economy, on the nation’s level of unemployment, on the financial markets and on so many of our family, friends and neighbors. We anticipate that the financial situation of some of our students will have changed, and ensuring access to a Lehigh education remains a priority.

Taken together, along with the operational changes necessitated by our COVID-19 response, we must consider the impact on Lehigh’s finances as we plan for the fall and beyond. We undertake this planning at a time of great uncertainty. We are hopeful but have no way of knowing when we will resume more normal operations on campus.

Given this financial uncertainty, and the negative impact current circumstances have had on the university finances, we are instituting measures to reduce our expenses. These actions are guided by our commitment to our students and our educational and research mission, and to the faculty and staff who enable us to fulfill that mission.

Hiring Freeze and Suspension of Position Re-evaluations:

In addition to the recently announced hiring freeze, we are suspending all re-evaluations of existing positions. Any exceptions, which we expect only under extraordinary circumstances, must be approved by the Provost and Vice President for Finance and Administration. We appreciate that some are being asked to take on additional work during this time, and we encourage everyone, including supervisors, to be creative in finding ways to best contribute, even if it is outside the scope of a current position.

Suspension of Scheduled Merit Increases:

The university will not provide merit increases scheduled to take effect July 1. We encourage supervisors to continue to conduct performance reviews and to set clear expectations during this time of significant change.

Expense Reduction:

We understand that outside consultants can be a valuable resource to the university. During this extraordinary time, we will be evaluating our relationships with consultants with the goal of suspending all but the most absolutely critical ones. Our Budget Office will be reviewing all budgets to uncover opportunities for expense reduction. We ask that each of you examine your responsibility to look for expense reductions that will be put toward mission-critical priorities.

Limiting Travel:

While travel has been largely limited due to health and safety concerns, we will be limiting university travel for the foreseeable future. We understand that some travel will be required as we resume operations, but we ask that any travel that is non-essential be deferred.

Capital Projects:

Pennsylvania has shut down all non-essential construction activities, and we have suspended current work on campus, including on the Health, Science & Technology (HST) building and on the Singleton, Hitch and Maida Residences. We are assessing the impact of the shutdown and evaluating how best to proceed once the Commonwealth’s order is lifted and accounting for the substantial investment made in these projects to date.

We believe the actions we have outlined are in the best interest of the university, and we thank you in advance for your cooperation in implementing them. We will keep you informed of the impact of COVID-19 on our operations and on our budget, and communicate with you about major decisions.

In addition to the head-spinning pivot we have made to remote teaching and working, we know that many of you are facing additional stresses in your personal lives. We urge you to make your physical and mental well-being a priority, and we thank you for all you are doing for our students, for your colleagues and for our university community.

Pat Farrell, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

Pat Johnson, Vice President for Finance and Administration