May 19, 2020 - Message from President Markwood
With final grades from spring semester in and the May Conferral of Degrees Ceremony behind us, it is time to look ahead to the summer and fall and begin preparing for our staggered return to campus.
The University System of Georgia (USG) has communicated to the Governor's Office and to our sister universities in the system that we will plan to resume face-to-face classes this Fall - with social distancing practices. As a result, we have created a Return to Campus Task Force, made up of nine work groups, to develop the plan for safely returning to campus. The Workplace and Health Safety group has completed its initial plan and submitted it to the USG for approval.
Obviously, health and safety are paramount in the reopening of the campus, and social distancing guidelines will help us to maximize the use of our campus’s world-class facilities and amenities while minimizing exposure to and the spread of COVID-19. We are working through numerous scenarios and practices — it amazes me how much we took for granted regarding how we interacted with each other on campus.
The other huge challenge we are addressing is the budget reduction requirements. As we continue to experience challenging times, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the state’s economy. This April, state revenues declined by more than $1 billion (or 35.9%) compared to April of last year. Further revenue declines are expected, and will likely result in serious budget reductions we must plan for now.
The University System of Georgia and all state agencies were recently asked to prepare budget plans that reduce spending by 14% in Fiscal Year 2021, which starts July 1. Nothing will be final until a budget appropriation is approved by the General Assembly and signed by the governor. That is expected to happen in June, as legislative leaders meet for the remainder of the 2020 legislative session and finalize the FY21 state budget.
Chancellor Wrigley has asked us to be strategic in our approach as we plan for this reduction at CSU. Our greatest priority continues to be helping our students complete their college education. Again, I want to reiterate that this is a plan, and final decisions cannot be made until we actually have a budget from the legislature. In addition, we need to plan for additional reductions resulting from enrollment and tuition challenges.
I have asked Jeff Davis, VP for Business and Finance, to work through this process as expeditiously as possible; and I have asked Ted Laskaris (CIO) to lead a small group of our colleagues to find any efficiencies that might save budget dollars and at the same time make us more effective in the future. I know this will be a challenging endeavor for us to undertake. But I also know that everyone on this campus is capable of rising to the occasion.
The takeaway from this message is that we must be prepared for any eventuality. If we come back in the fall and the conditions are favorable, the semester will proceed with face-to-face instruction with social distancing. If the situation deteriorates, either prior to or during the semester, well, judging by your response this past spring, we’re prepared for that, too.
We will also be prepared to use the significant portion of our budget that we will have remaining to make CSU better. It will be challenging, but we will adapt, innovate, and find creative ways to educate our students.
Have a great week and thank you for all you do for our students, our community, and for each other.
President Chris Markwood