In an email sent May 1, University President Ron Liebowitz updated the Brandeis community on the mission of the COVID-19 Task Force and how the University will be moving forward with plans for both the remainder of this school year and reopening campus in the fall.

In the email, Liebowitz explained that earlier in the semester, the task force –– directed by Provost Lisa Lynch and Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration Strew Uretsky –– was working toward “ensur[ing] the health and safety of students, faculty, and staff” while transitioning to an online platform in March. “Now,” he wrote, “the task force’s focus is on the future.”

The task force includes eight working groups: “Academic Working Group for Undergraduates,” “Academic Working Group for Graduate Students,” “Research, Labs, and Studios,” “Hybrid Instruction and IT Support,” “Campus Living and Operations,” “Communications,” “Finance and Human Resources” and “Public Health and Campus Re-Opening,” Liebowitz wrote in his email. Each group is directed by University faculty and staff and will focus on how to reopen the University for the start of the next school year.

He explained that the working groups will be “developing strategies to address questions and multiple scenarios” in regards to reopening the campus and its research facilities, and to developing the academic calendar as well as “hybrid teaching options for different teaching scenarios.”

The University administration will make decisions regarding reopening in the fall based on government guidelines and restrictions, availability of therapies and testing for COVID-19 and the University’s ability to comply with these new standards to ensure health and safety, Liebowitz explained. 

Liebowitz then explained the financial impact that COVID-19 has had on Brandeis. He wrote that the University is “anticipating revenue losses of more than $12 million” for the July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020 fiscal year, and that fundraising will fall short by $2 million. Revenue loss is because of student reimbursements, canceled summer school and pre-college sessions and other canceled “revenue-generating events,” according to the email. President Liebowitz also wrote that there could be further revenue losses in the next fiscal year because of “anticipated decreases in tuition, room and board, fundraising, sponsored research, and endowment income, as well as an increased need in financial aid.”

Despite being unable to determine the exact losses, Liebowitz wrote that University administration is monitoring the financial situation and working to mitigate any future revenue losses. He explained that this will be done through “reducing capital and operating expenditures, a significant slowing of hiring, and a freeze on faculty and staff salary adjustments,” with the exception of a decrease in his own salary and that of his direct reports. However, the emergency paid time off will now be extended to June 30 for employees who can work.

There will also be opportunities for faculty, staff, students and alumni to check in via Zoom with Liebowitz, according to the email. A check-in for on-campus students and virtual office hours for all students, a check-in for alumni and a check-in for faculty and staff were hosted May 5, May 6 and May 7, respectively. The administration also hosted virtual office hours for families on May 14 and a check-in for students of the Class of 2020 on May 15. Future virtual office hours for faculty and staff will be hosted on May 20 and a second opportunity for virtual office hours for families will be hosted on May 22.