Board Update: Budget, Huron and More — March 11, 2020 - The University of Tulsa

Board Update: Budget, Huron and More — March 11, 2020

Dear campus community:

I want to thank all of you for your patience, understanding and support as we navigate what is likely to remain a dynamic and fluid situation regarding coronavirus. I believe the decision to move to online classes is in the best interest of our students, faculty and staff as we aim to reduce the risk of exposure for all members of our community while continuing to fulfill our educational mission.

As confirmed by the Tulsa Health Department yesterday, there is no known exposure to TU at this time. We are unaware of any confirmed cases on campus, although we are aware of two cases in Tulsa County, one of which is a family member of a student. As this situation evolves, the latest information and answers to your questions will be updated on the TU website.

Just as our campus remains open, albeit with changing modes of learning and the flexibility of work-from-home options for faculty and staff, our work on meeting the Board of Trustees mandate to accelerate our progress toward financial sustainability has to continue. While we are still early in the process, I believe we are making good progress. I would like to provide some additional details on the decisions made during the recent board meeting on Tuesday, March 10.

Financial Stewardship

We all have a shared responsibility to ensure that TU remains a successful, sustainable and thriving institution for the next 125 years. As part of a broad approach to reduce costs and increase our organizational efficiency, we commissioned Huron Consulting Group to review our administrative structure and spending. For us to be successful, it is vital that you are provided with as much information as possible about our current budget status, our plans and how we are collaboratively addressing the challenge we face.

To that end, we have set up a new internal Sharepoint site called Budget Response. It is here that the complete 144-page Huron report is available to all staff and faculty. TU’s normal confidentiality policies do apply, and I trust you will treat this information as you would other confidential or proprietary information that you may have access to in your role. As was announced by the board, Huron will continue to support TU as we look to tailor and implement some of Huron’s recommendations.

Shared Accountability

The Huron report is one input, not a blueprint for change. We will consult with the Staff Advisory Review Group, among other advisory groups, as we consider the Huron recommendations and identify next steps. The new Sharepoint site also has more detailed information on the goals, progress and the membership of every advisory and working group that will be helping us move forward. Close to 100 members of our TU community are participating in these processes to ensure we solicit input from all relevant stakeholders; engage in a collaborative, timely and constructive manner; and develop proposals, ideas and options that are the strongest possible.

While this site will be a useful information source as we continue to make progress and decisions over the weeks and months ahead, I realize that having an opportunity to discuss these changes and answer your questions in real time is important. As promised, I, together with key members of the leadership team, will be holding a series of Campus Conversations on Friday of this week to discuss the budget challenges, the Huron report and steps taken to date. Necessarily, due to coronavirus concerns, these sessions will now be held via video-conference or phone. Please watch for a separate email with your invitation.

Early Retirement

Day in and day out, our staff work diligently to support our students, faculty and every aspect of our operations. We believe offering an early retirement program, as identified in the Huron report, is one way to help us reduce staffing costs in a manner that is least impactful to our employees. General information about this offer is available here, and eligible staff will be receiving specific information from Human Resources on Friday, March 13. Additional information sessions with eligible staff also will be scheduled soon to discuss this plan in more detail.

Academic Task Forces

I appreciate the time and effort of all those who participated in developing the various task force reports. Based upon recommendations of the administration, the board has accepted the task force recommendations, which did not support:

  • Reorganization into a professional college including programs in business, health and law as originally proposed
  • Interdisciplinary divisions in the College of Arts and Sciences, as originally proposed
  • Interdisciplinary divisions in the College of Engineering and Natural Sciences, as originally proposed

The idea of consolidating our five colleges and over 30 academic units into a smaller number remains under review. The status quo is not an option.

I realize that change is hard, that we are moving at a rapid pace and that there is a lot of information to digest. I also know that it is vital at times of change to make sure we are all clear on and working toward our shared objectives:

  • Play to our strengths by enhancing our student-centered approach
  • Meet the board mandate to accelerate our progress toward financial sustainability
  • Build a culture of shared accountability

TU proved its value and relevance during its first 125 years. Our challenge is to ensure it is strong, sustainable, relevant and viable for the next 125 years. I believe the TU community is fully up to meeting not only the budget challenge but the many other opportunities for improvement identified in the Huron report. We have strong teams who are rolling up their sleeves, who are collaborating and making progress and I am confident in our ability to meet the challenges that lie ahead. Thank you for your support, engagement and ideas.

With warmest regards,

Janet K. Levit

Interim President