Sent on Behalf of Chancellor Weatherby: Fall 2020 Planning and Budget Update

Good Afternoon,

As I mentioned last week, a number of groups and departments across the university are imagining what Fall Semester might look like and planning for a range of scenarios.

Two goals are clear. We will do everything possible, as conditions allow, to resume face-to-face courses. We will do everything possible to safeguard the health of our students, community, and all of us who work at the University of Montana Western.

Provost Hedeen has convened a group of 18 faculty and staff, the Fall Course 2020 Task Force, which began work last Friday. Our directors of the auxiliary operations (Dining, Residence Life, etc.) are working together to plan for the enhanced hygiene and cleaning practices and social distancing that will be necessary this fall to keep our campus community safe. Vice Chancellor Reid has met with the Budget Committee and all those involved in enrollment and budget projections.

All of our planning is in concert with our colleagues in the Montana University System under the direction of Commissioner Christian and his leadership team. Dean of Students Hazelbaker is our representative on the MUS Healthy Fall 2020 Task Force and will be providing information and asking for your input. Our planning is also aligned with state and local government and public health and law enforcement, and other organizations with whom we routinely collaborate.

Today, I write to let everyone know that, based on recommendations from the Budget Committee, we have decided that we must plan for and implement a 5% budget reduction for this next fiscal year, which begins July 1. For this and for all of the planning in which we are engaged, we are in the challenging situation of having to make decisions without all of the facts we usually rely upon. Even so, to safeguard the university’s fiscal health, we must move forward based on the likelihood that the pandemic will negatively impact enrollment, revenue and expenses. We have carefully followed the national higher education news, discussion, and projections and believe that this is a conservative, but responsible reduction. We are also preparing for larger reductions, should they be necessary.

Again, our goal is to minimize risk for the university and maximize the protection of the health and safety of our community.

We cannot delay this reduction as we need to begin generating savings as quickly as possible and staffing decisions and a variety of deadlines must be met.

Vice Chancellor Reid and Provost Hedeen are working with directors, supervisors, and division chairs of all of their departments to generate the necessary adjustments and savings.

Until further notice, we are instituting a university-wide travel freeze. No institutional funds may be used for travel without approval by the appropriate vice chancellor in advance.

In addition, all institutional memberships will be reviewed and those that aren’t deemed essential will not be renewed in order to help with our cost reduction efforts.

Events for Fall Semester will also be reviewed and streamlined on a case-by-case basis.

We will work with you to develop this reduced budget and will continue to keep you informed.

I want to also take a moment to reflect that we are fortunate in many ways, but I will mention just a couple. We entered this volatile time as one of the most stable, financially sound institutions in Montana, AND Experience One allows us to be flexible and adaptable to keep meeting the needs of our students, no matter what happens next. We will be well-positioned to welcome students back to Dillon for the Fall Semester, but also to keep adapting if conditions require us to do so.

Thank you again for your patience and understanding. Thank you for supporting and educating our students. Thank you for your hard work and commitment to the health of our university and community.

Chancellor Beth Weatherby