The Economic Crisis: November 4, 2008

Brown Announces Campuswide Measures To Address Economic Crisis

November 4, 2008  |  Media Contact: Mark Nickel |  401-863-1638
In remarks at the monthly faculty meeting today and in an e-mailed message to the campus community, Brown President Ruth J. Simmons announced measures the University will take to protect academic excellence and positive momentum in the face of potential dislocations created by the ongoing economic crisis. The text of the President’s message follows here.
(See also: President’s October Message  |  Provost’s Memo on Outstanding Balances)

November 4, 2008

Dear Members of the Brown University Community,

I write to inform you of measures we are taking to address potential revenue shortfalls and the possibility of other dislocations created by the ongoing economic crisis.

Protecting the work of scholars and students is especially important in times of crisis. In considering how to respond to the uncertainty and additional financial demands we may face, we turned first to our commitment to preserve an environment in which faculty and students can continue to focus on doing excellent work.

The biggest challenge facing Brown at this moment is the unprecedented level of uncertainty about the direction of the economy and the financial markets world-wide. Our most pressing task is to position the University to address any immediate problems created by the recession and credit crisis and to respond to any further deterioration of the economy. Our overall aims during this process will be to:

  • protect the most essential elements of the University’s academic excellence and positive momentum;
  • meet increased need for financial aid for current students and payment flexibility for families whose finances have been adversely affected by tightening credit;
  • continue to take advantage of strategic opportunities even in the context of these constraints;
  • improve the capacity of the University to act quickly to reduce expenditures further if the need arises;
  • maintain the University as a stable work environment for our employees.

We therefore plan the following immediate actions.

Staff And Administration Hiring Pause

Beginning immediately, and lasting through January, we are pausing hiring for ALL administrative and staff positions that are now vacant or that may become vacant during this period as a result of voluntary turnover. A Vacancy Review Committee will determine the small number of vacant positions that are critical to our goals and should be filled. The committee will also review and approve any necessary utilization of consultants, temporary employees, and independent contractors proposed in lieu of staff hiring. Finally, the committee will examine recommended hires as the result of searches already underway to determine which offers should be extended. Guidelines for this process will be issued in the week ahead.

Faculty Searches

Already authorized faculty searches will go forward, but appointments proposed as a result of these searches will be carefully reviewed to ensure that they will significantly strengthen Brown’s teaching and research mission.

Organizational Changes

We will consider whether staff and administrative organizational changes can be made to achieve efficiencies and enable the reallocation of resources to student support and academic programs. An Organizational Review Committee that includes faculty representation will oversee this process and report to me and the Provost. The University Resources Committee (on which students, faculty, and staff are represented) will also be encouraged to suggest areas where savings can be effected.

Capital Projects

Our capital budget will be reviewed to determine which renovation, new building construction, infrastructure and technology projects can proceed during this period and which should be deferred. The Facilities and Design and Budget and Finance Committees of the Corporation will consider and act on campus recommendations.

Expenditure And Revenue Review

A review of major budgeted expenditures will be necessary to determine which of all the activities planned and underway can be scaled back. At the same time, we will work to confirm, shore up and enhance revenue streams, especially fundraising. This will mean that our administrative schedules should be adjusted during this period to accommodate more emphasis on revenue generation.

We will ask the University Resources Committee to develop recommendations for the FY10 budget that consider more modest tuition and fee increases, salary pools for faculty and staff, and inflationary adjustments in the context of the more unfavorable economic forecast. At this time, we anticipate little or no growth in revenue to fund requests for increases in operating budgets.

The Importance Of Broad Community Participation

Many universities have now called for significant cuts, layoffs, and other changes in budgets as a consequence of these circumstances. Brown will certainly not be immune from serious measures to address similar anticipated shortfalls in revenue. At the same time, our intent is to act in accordance with our community values and our highest educational aims and priorities. In addition to taking the steps noted above, we are relying on the community to help us identify savings that could help us avoid more damaging actions. As we alter our work to cover existing high priority needs, some services may be curtailed or less available. I believe that any slight inconvenience or modest adjustment in services is a small price to pay to advance our core aims.

During these past weeks, we have held numerous special meetings to review the status of our programs, our endowment portfolio, and our governance. We have also held fundraising meetings to appeal to our donors for increased support for financial aid. Throughout this period, I have been heartened by the skills and commitment of our staff; the dedication, knowledge, and generosity of our volunteers; the guidance and support of members of the Corporation; and the patience of our students and families as we developed a response to this crisis. I have also been struck by the willingness of so many to work collegially to seek solutions in keeping with our values and priorities as a community.

The test of a community is in how we work together in difficult times. Thus far, we have proved admirably that we are a strong and effective community, able to refocus, make difficult decisions, and forego unnecessary conveniences in order to preserve and protect our central mission.

I thank you all for what you are doing on behalf of the University.

Sincerely,

Ruth J. Simmons

Editors: Brown University has a fiber link television studio available for domestic and international live and taped interviews, and maintains an ISDN line for radio interviews. For more information, call (401) 863-2476.