from the desk of Harlan Sands

Dear Colleagues:

We begin by expressing our deep gratitude to you, our faculty and staff, for your tireless work during the COVID-19 pandemic. Collectively, you are delivering an outstanding remote learning and teaching experience, and continuing to provide important services and support to our 16,000-plus students. Your creativity, determination and professionalism throughout this process have been inspiring and have put us on a path to get through this current crisis and realize new opportunities to become an even better CSU – what we are calling “CSU 2.0”.

While our collective response has indeed been remarkable, CSU, like all of public higher education, faces real and urgent financial challenges as a result of the pandemic. These challenges are from both projected reductions in state funding next fiscal year and possible enrollment declines as a result of uncertainty around our public health situation and willingness to continue remote content delivery, if required, while waiting for a full on-campus experience.

To address our situation, we must do two things simultaneously: 1) continue to advance our strategic priorities, with a re-ordering based upon what we have learned about our changing operational environment, and 2) take prudent actions to preserve the financial health of CSU and ensure that we can continue to deliver our mission of affordable, accessible education. Given the extent of our expected financial shortfall, it is clear that everything must be on the table if we are to seriously consider how to best secure a bright future for CSU, and that additional conversations are needed for us to fully appreciate the choices before us. Initial discussions have produced a range of potential actions including:

  • Reducing administrative, organizational and operational costs
  • Strategic realignment of academic colleges/schools and athletic programs
  • Instituting hiring freezes, furloughs, pay reductions and/or select layoffs
  • Examining course offerings and class schedules for opportunities to increase efficiency
  • Stringent limits on expenses (such as travel)

Some of these actions must be taken in the very near future, while others will be longer-term, phased efforts. As a community, we will undertake this effort with an appropriate sense of urgency, a commitment to shared sacrifice, and in a deliberative and strategic manner. During this process, we also intend to protect high-priority investments in our faculty and programs that are needed to advance strategic priorities.

In the coming days and weeks, we will be advancing conversations within our CSU community – trustees, vice presidents, deans, faculty/staff/student leadership, and others – to sharpen our focus on a path forward. We are committed to keeping our community informed and engaged throughout this process.

Our critical mission as an anchor institution in Cleveland that provides access, affordability, and social mobility can only be achieved by the continuing commitment, dedication, and passion of our faculty and staff. Working together, we can weather this period and emerge stronger when the pandemic passes and we can fully return to campus.

Thank you, in advance, for your support, resilience, flexibility, and for being part of our CSU family.

Harlan M. Sands, J.D., M.B.A.
Cleveland State University

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