Faculty Senate met virtually on May 6 and they were joined by President Neeli Bendapudi, Chief Financial Officer Dan Durbin and Executive Vice President and Provost Beth Boehm who each shared various university updates.
President Bendapudi opened her comments by addressing the importance of the university making an early announcement about the plan to return to regular on-campus operations for the fall semester.
“One of the things research shows nationally is that students are not interested at all in enrolling if they don’t have a chance at least of being on campus. And it’s a very real concern. And it has been shown by research all over. So, one of the things we want to do is at least preserve our competitiveness,” Bendapudi said.
She expressed that faculty, staff and student safety are her number one priority and that more university communications will soon follow about how the university plans to reopen and how the university will make sure everyone stays safe.
Bendapudi reminded senators that the public-private partnership, the Co-Immunity Project, began its first phase of testing of over 2,000 health care providers across the UofL Health system and other hospitals. The next phase of the project will be random testing of the population across the city, including the university community.
“Not every university has that luxury, we have that because of the research capabilities that we have,” Bendapudi said in reference to UofL being one of only 12 research universities in the country with a regional biocontainment lab for responding to public health emergencies and emerging diseases.
Chief Financial Officer, Dan Durbin, reported on the university budget in three main categories: the past, present and future. The full presentation can be viewed here.
In his description of the present state of the university budget, Durbin provided rationale behind the various actions that the university took to mitigate risks and recover lost revenue due to the pandemic. He projects a recovery of those losses through the savings that will yield from the university’s corrective actions, including hiring freezes, travel restrictions, summer online options, dental clinic services, CARES Act funds, admin salary reductions, employee retirement temporary stop, and focused furloughs.
“The last thing we want to do is drive people away from the institution. And that’s part of the balance with this. People still need to feel wanted, people still need to have compensation and the last thing we want to do is drive people away from the institution, so we tried to be somewhat sensitive in terms of the salary reductions. Back to the furloughs, we tried to make sure there was a safety net of that federal $600 per week to be able to balance the furloughs.”
Provost Beth Boehm reported that multiple committees have begun to form in order to conduct scenario planning for the various situations that may occur by the time fall semester begins.
“We are planning a large education to students about personal hygiene, how to behave on campus when there is a pandemic going on, or ending, or wherever we will be in August. We have a platform that will enable us to video tape things for orientations. We will also have a version of that for faculty and staff about how to be as careful with your own personal hygiene. So, we have a whole lot of things we’re planning to do but are not yet finalized. The flu shot is finalized though and that will be a requirement,” said Boehm.
She assured senators that she stays in close contact with ACC provosts who meet regularly to discuss and plan cautiously together. “We will be looking at how we can do this efficiently and smartly,” she said.
Student Government Academic Vice President, Ben Barberie, reported on the student body perspective regarding campus reopening in the fall.
“Some students are very, very conflicted. I’d say that’s the general consensus at the moment. There are some quite eager to get back to campus for in-person instruction in the fall. Some, frankly, have a difficult time justifying the value of online or remote education when they have cheaper options available, especially for general education,” he said. “There is a general consensus as well that students are pretty worried about the safety of reopening in the fall, given that we don’t quite have a real idea of where we’re going to be at in terms of public health.”
Committee reports and video recordings of the virtual meeting can be accessed on the Faculty Senate meetings webpage.
The next Faculty Senate meeting will be June 3, via videoconference.