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Message Sent To:All Faculty, All Staff
Message From:Message from the Office of the President
Date Sent:Wednesday, April 29, 2020 01:29 PM CDT

Navigating Our Future Together

Dear Faculty and Staff,

It cannot be said enough—thank you for your tremendous work in bringing our spring semester to a successful conclusion in the face of unexpected and extreme challenges. Thank you, most especially, for caring for our students and their Loyola University Chicago education and experience. From Day One of the COVID-19 crisis, our collective focus has been on the safety and well-being of our entire Loyola community. We have worked together to “make it happen” effectively and safely. Thank you!

Like you, I cherish this time of year as our graduating students go forth as Rambler alums into the world, our undergraduate and graduate students move to the next phases of their education and formation, summer sessions kick into full gear, and we welcome new students and their families to our Loyola community. This year, so much is different. But together, we are finding creative and meaningful ways to celebrate our graduates, deliver our summer courses online, and welcome our newest Ramblers. We remain committed to hosting an in-person graduation ceremony in August if conditions are favorable; otherwise, we will adapt, again.

The ability to adapt while sticking to our core mission and values is part of Loyola’s DNA and will be instrumental in how we face the COVID-19 crisis and its aftermath, together, and emerge stronger.

All institutions of higher education, each with unique characteristics and circumstances, are facing transformation. Coming to grips with enrollment and economic realities along with the lasting impact of the global pandemic forces us to define a “new normal.” While we continue to keep our focus on our educational mission and our people, students, faculty, and staff, we at Loyola must also work expeditiously toward adapting to this new, changed “normal,” our new reality.

Well before the pandemic we spoke openly about the upcoming demographic shifts that will impact traditional undergraduate enrollment and even graduate education. We also acknowledged the challenges from many stakeholders calling for colleges and universities to reexamine the ways we approach education, innovate the types of programs we offer to our students, and reimagine the ways educational institutions have worked for decades. At Loyola, we knew these changes were on the horizon, and we have been considering all of them in conversations and actions across the University and departments as well as in our strategic planning process. What we did not anticipate, of course, is that a global pandemic would accelerate and exacerbate our need to address these very real and very important challenges. It is incumbent upon us to successfully navigate and transition through the financial repercussions from the pandemic so that we are positioned to not only survive, but also to thrive in the future.

The central focus grounding and informing our efforts and decisions must remain on our people--the heart, soul, and strength of our University. We have implemented a number of initial steps already communicated during the past weeks as well as during both of the virtual “Pizza with the President” meetings this past week (thank you to the over 600 participants)!

These include but are not limited to:

  • repatriating and reimbursing students from study abroad programs, such as John Felice Rome Center, Vietnam, and others;
  • providing staff who have limited or no ability to work remotely or who are providing care to a family member with 30 COVID-19 days (six weeks of additional PTO);
  • refunding pro-rated housing, meals, parking, and activity fees to students;
  • setting up emergency funds for critical student needs and offering shelter-in-place to students who had housing challenges;
  • providing students, faculty, and staff with laptops, Wi-Fi hotspots, and other equipment;
  • expanding wellness resources including telehealth for students;
  • freezing all new staff hiring for the foreseeable future in order to continue paying and supporting our current employees; and
  • suspending all capital projects that have not been started or that do not impact safety/security. (Cudahy Hall science center and Francis Hall residence building will be completed).

As I have shared on several occasions, our strong fiscal stewardship and discipline have served us well going into this unprecedented circumstance and the uncertainty it has created. This current financial position enables us to take a measured and methodical approach, unlike some of our peers that have already announced dramatic cuts in personnel and programming. However, it does not insulate us from the upcoming financial challenges that we will need to address. At the forefront of our decision-making remain our students and their expanding financial and other support needs, plus our desire to retain existing faculty and staff.

Going forward, there are a number of additional steps that will need to be implemented given the current economic outlook, the ongoing safety and health measures that will be required, and the challenge to enrollment. We will need to adapt, we will need to remain nimble. Using a multi-phased approach over several months will enable us to balance fiscal realities with good data and information and support ways for our University to emerge stronger. Presently, there are more than 265 members from across our University, including 38 faculty engaged in a myriad of activities on teams supporting the emergency response planning and preparedness. This will continue to expand.

As we work, plan, and prepare through the late spring and summer, I will bring together different groups to ensure that we are listening to many voices and opinions across all of our campuses, better informing the increasingly difficult choices we may need to make to support our community for the long-term.

Consistent with our approach throughout the course of this health crisis, we will maintain timely communication and updates in the weeks ahead about activities, information, and the impacts of COVID-19 on our operations. The COVID-19 website remains an essential source for up-to-date and accurate information, so please refer to it regularly.

In the next few weeks, I will share more detailed information 1) outlining key decisions and target dates in our strategic approach to reopening that will evolve as the situation changes, 2) implementing the next phase of fiscal strategies prior to June 1 aimed at continuing to support our existing workforce but addressing the budget shortfalls we have already identified, and 3) updating our community on recruitment and retention efforts along with some new program options for students.

For more than 150 years, our University has remained vibrant, strong, resilient, and mission-focused even in the face of various struggles and challenges that tested our community and the broader society. I have great confidence that we will continue to work tirelessly together, to adapt, innovate, and follow the examples set by St. Ignatius and the early Jesuits. As always, thank you for all that you are doing every day.

With prayers for you, your families, and the entire Loyola community,

Jo Ann Rooney JD, LLM, EdD
President