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Dear Editor,

To President Lieberman and Provost Reed:

Given the COVID-19 pandemic, we understand that significant changes and sacrifices are necessary to maintain the academic integrity of the University of La Verne, while also ensuring our continued financial stability. That being said, we have serious concerns about the approach that has been taken with this challenge. We believe the proposed budget cuts will adversely impact the quality of education for our students, and further decrease the chronic low morale of the faculty who provide the instruction that draw students to our university, as well as the staff who provide vital support to students and faculty alike.

We appreciate that a great deal of uncertainty remains regarding the financial impact of COVID-19 upon the University of La Verne, and that the size of impact is impossible to fully anticipate.  While the uncertainly is anxiety provoking, we are fortunate that the university was on strong financial footing before this pandemic hit. Through administrative leadership and faculty excellence, we have recorded a budget surplus for at least 10 consecutive years that contributed to a $40 million ‘quasi-endowment’, and many programs at the university are expanding and thriving. Further, we are encouraged by enrollment numbers for the upcoming year, with traditional undergraduate enrollment up 48% and transfer enrollment up 66%. We are also pleased to hear that the university qualified for $5.8 million in CARES funds through the federal government, which should further limit the number of cuts necessary to remain solvent. While we understand that we have been experiencing budget shortfalls in some academic units, these are part of ongoing trends that pre-date the COVID-19 pandemic. We are confident that the administration anticipated these shortfalls given the challenges that various academic units have faced in the last few years.

As faculty members we have contributed to the long-term sustainability of the University of La Verne by maintaining high standards of instruction, providing a vibrant and relevant curriculum, engaging in relevant and collaborative research and creative activities with students, and keeping faith with our mission. In addition, we made significant adjustments to convert courses to online instruction and demonstrated our commitment to our students and the University, while concomitantly, in many cases, providing the necessary care and support for children and dependents. However, we are concerned by proposed budget cuts that we believe will impact the quality of education, as well as the overall experience that attracts students to our university in the first place. Students choose to attend the University of La Verne for its small class sizes and personal attention from faculty members. Increasing class sizes and the teaching loads of faculty will undercut this, and erode the added value for attending our university rather than a State University or Community College.

Faculty and staff are being asked to shoulder a significant portion of the budget cuts through furloughs, lay-offs, targeted salary cuts, retirement contribution cuts, department chair/program chair stipend cuts, and the cessation of sabbatical and research support. We wish to remind the administration and our fellow faculty members that the University of La Verne knew of many of these coming budget difficulties well before COVID-19. Asking faculty to accept cuts to their salaries and retirement plans, as well as layoffs and furloughs, appears to suggest that you are asking us to sacrifice ourselves to fix long-standing financial problems that are unrelated to the performance of faculty and staff. This approach is both problematic and disturbing.  We ask you to recognize that the impacts of COVID-19 are also being felt by faculty and staff. While we cannot predict what the next academic year will entail, there is a strong likelihood that many faculty and staff will need to continue to provide childcare or education to their own children and dependents. Thus, requiring faculty to teach an additional course will create a significant burden for these faculty members.

Given the significant funds that were acquired through budget surpluses, we propose using our ‘quasi-endowment’ to address the potential budget shortfall (depicted in the CFO’s Scenario 1) and caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Because these funds are not donor restricted, these funds (approximately $40 million) are classified as unrestricted net assets and are appropriate for our financial crisis. These funds are significant enough to offset the majority of cost-savings proposed through faculty cuts, and will give the university the opportunity to collect actual data on the impact of COVID-19 to our financial sustainability. If it becomes clear after this academic year that COVID-19 related budget shortfalls will continue (i.e., Scenario 2 or 3), then taking these more drastic measures would be far more justified.

We remind the Administration that the long-standing lack of transparency has already compromised our trust and confidence. Thus, we ask for greater transparency and consideration of our concerns in your proposed budget cuts.  We ask you to demonstrate your appreciation for the efforts already made by faculty and staff who have valiantly responded to the needs of our students by utilizing the quasi-endowment first, before you ask faculty and staff to sacrifice more. We vehemently oppose the proposed budget cuts that will compromise our well-being and livelihood. We ask the President and Provost to advocate for the faculty and staff by asking the Board of Trustees to allow the use of quasi-endowment funds to cover the budget shortfall in Scenario #1.

Faculty of the Psychology Department

 

Dear Editor,

To President Lieberman and Provost Reed:

The Anthropology Program fully supports the sentiments and substance of the Psychology Department’s 11 May 2020 letter addressing the budget decisions currently under discussion in response to the financial impact of the COVID-19 crisis. Our faculty, staff, and students are foremost in our minds as we write this, and we ask that you advocate for their on-going health and well-being, and most importantly their continued trust that we will do right by them. We have witnessed the herculean efforts of both full-time and adjunct faculty in the abrupt transition to online courses and their efforts to insure the continued integrity of our academic mission.

In solidarity with Psychology, we ask that you appeal to the Board of Trustees to use the quasi-endowment funds to cover budgetary shortfalls.

Felicia Beardsley
Professor and Chair of Anthropology
Director, Cultural & Natural History Collections

Kanya Godde
Associate Professor of Anthropology

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