Virtual Town Hall answers COVID-19 questions from campus community

Chancellor Reddy and campus leaders address questions from campus during the April 23 virtual Town Hall.

Chancellor Reddy and members of his Cabinet addressed faculty, staff and students at an Apr. 23 virtual Town Hall, the first that UCCS has held since it moved to remote operations on March 16.

In his introductory remarks, Reddy thanked the UCCS community for making the quick transition to remote teaching, learning and work.

“We live in a world full of digital and virtual tools. And our community has used this technology for something simple and profound: staying connected with each other and taking care of each other,” he said. “In a difficult time – like the current crisis – our instinct has been to reach towards each other and not away.”

“A global pandemic couldn’t stop our students from learning,” he continued. “It couldn’t stop our faculty members from teaching and conducting research, and it couldn’t stop our staff from showing up, day after day, virtually of course, to keep UCCS running.”

Reddy also outlined the results of financial scenario analysis he and campus leadership have conducted to guard against the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The analysis shows that UCCS could face a budget shortfall of more than $6 million by the end of the fiscal year. With Colorado’s state revenue forecast anticipating a $3 billion shortage, several potential scenario analyses take into account reduced funding from the state, lower enrollment numbers in the summer and fall terms and different modes of academic class delivery for the coming fiscal year. Reddy explained that although there are many unknown factors yet to shape UCCS’ financial standing, the impact of COVID-19 on the university’s budget could exceed the 2019‐20 budget deficit.

Reddy then shared tools that the university is using to stabilize the budget as well as anticipated windfalls. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act recently established a higher education emergency relief fund which will provide UCCS with $4 million in emergency aid for students and another $4 million to reimburse institutional expenses related to COVID-19. Departments have minimized expenses, all university-sponsored travel has been halted and, as it begins a hiring chill, the university will only fill mission-critical positions.

Provost Tom Christensen, interim vice chancellor for student success Carlos Garcia and vice chancellor for administration and finance Chuck Litchfield also delivered updates in their respective areas. A panel of campus leaders then responded to questions submitted by faculty, staff and students prior to and during the Town Hall. You can listen to a response to each question below.

Reddy concluded the session by offering a timeline of next steps for the campus’s budget analysis scenarios, which will include use of the federal emergency relief funds being made available to UCCS in the near future. He also shared that campus leadership is preparing to open UCCS for the fall semester if circumstances allow, and that efforts are being made to further strengthen UCCS’ online offerings.

He acknowledged the joint efforts of individuals across the CU system, from the members of the Board of Regents to shared governance leaders on campus, and expressed gratitude for their efforts to tackle difficult questions and support UCCS’ students over the past weeks.

“Thank you for your thoughtful questions, and thank you once again for the tremendous leadership and compassion you are showing each and every day,” Reddy remarked. “While we face a challenging situation, we are stronger because we are facing it together. I truly believe that we will emerge stronger, more innovative and more resilient than we have ever been before.”

Members of the UCCS community who would like to submit additional questions may do so online. They may also fill out a survey response to the event.

Below, listen to the response to each question answered in the virtual Town Hall session. You can jump to an individual topic using the list below.

Q: What plans are in place to prevent furloughs and layoffs for employees?

Q: When can faculty and staff return to work on campus? What markers are being considered in order to make that decision? And what will a return to on-campus work look like?

Q: Will students be able to return to campus for classes in the fall?

Q: Why isn’t a pass/fail option available for every class?

Q: Will UCCS face a budget cut in fiscal years 2020-2021 and 2021-2022?

Q: How can faculty and staff get involved in the virtual Commencement ceremony?

Q: Will the campus form a taskforce to create a crisis recovery plan?

Q: How can UCCS not just survive this crisis, but thrive in the future?

Q: What progress is being made in online learning methodologies and technological enablement?

Q: What if students need to take a class that is unable to be offered online, such as a lab course?

Q: What impacts will campus openings or closures have on the Family Development Center?

Q: My professor does not allow incomplete grades, but could exceptions be made for students directly impacted by COVID-19?

Q: Will auxiliary services be impacted if student fees are not collected over the summer?

Q: Are there plans to create more consistency in the online learning platforms faculty members are using to teach?

Q: Does the one-year tenure clock extension apply to both existing and incoming faculty members?

Q: Is UCCS planning to move the start of the fall semester either forward or back?

Q: Will tuition increase in the fall?

Q: How is UCCS helping campus researchers to take advantage of federal funds available for COVID-19 related research?

Q: In the event that we are furloughed, will employees still be covered by their benefits and insurance?

Q: Is the Ent Center for the Arts impacted by the campus closure? What about construction on the William J. Hybl Sports Medicine and Performance Center?

Q: When will the position review committee make decisions about whether or not open positions will be able to be filled?

Q: Should employees still expect to return to on-campus operations by May 15?

Q: Will UCCS benefit from the federal stimulus package for higher education institutions?