Dear Staff, Faculty, and Student Employees,
First, this communication comes with my best wishes to you and your families for continued health and wellness. In addition, it comes with my deepest appreciation of everyone’s thoughtful, creative, and resilient efforts in adapting to our new educational and operational circumstances during this unprecedented time.
At the March 17 Staff Virtual Town Hall, the College leadership announced a commitment to continuing employment and full pay with benefits for full and regular part-time employees through May 1. Our goal was to alleviate your immediate employment and economic concerns while the crisis was rapidly evolving and its impact still unknown. It was also shared then that, if the health crisis were to last longer, MICA would provide further information on employment and pay by mid-April.
With the COVID-19 global pandemic being forecast to last into the summer and its profound impact continuing unabated, this communication provides the promised update on MICA employment and pay between May 1 and July 31, 2020. The information has been clearly organized below by questions that you are likely to ask and will be a part of the FAQs on MICA’s COVID-19 website for online viewing.
What Are the Principles Guiding MICA’s COVID-19 Related Actions to Date?
In March when COVID-19 health threats and mandates required MICA to make hard decisions within a very narrow timeframe, our institutional navigation was guided by several foundational principles:
We consider the health, safety, and wellness of our community members in accordance with MICA’s tenet of “A Community of Care.”
We ensure the continuity and integrity of our educational mission and our students’ educational experience in fulfillment of our core mission.
We make decisions based on the best information available while thinking through multiple future scenarios, in order to adapt agilely and act responsibly with escalation readiness.
We share information with campus members and parents as soon as new decisions and information are available.
At that time, institutional decision-making under unprecedented and rapidly evolving conditions did not permit the engagement of the wider campus community that is otherwise customary at MICA even though we swiftly provided decisions and information. Going forward, it remains an institutional goal to engage key constituencies as much as possible.
How Are These Principles Applied to Employment and Pay Decisions?
In case fiscal challenges necessitate decisions that impact employment and pay, applying the above principles means the following:
We will consider the protection of our whole team as much as possible, with layoffs being our last resort;
We will adopt measures to distribute burden with fairness and with care to protect our more financially vulnerable members;
We will protect the educational quality at MICA and prepare for optimal recovery—and a stronger future—by avoiding short-sighted actions;
We will leverage both internal and external resources to cope with fiscal challenges—including a priority to reduce costs unrelated to compensation to lessen the impact on employees;
We will share information and decisions quickly and transparently; and
We will engage faculty, staff, and students to include their voices in decisions that impact them.
In return, the College leadership asks the MICA community for understanding, collaboration, and a One-MICA mindset as we jointly navigate through these unprecedented times and their aftermath.
What is MICA’s Foreseeable Operational Status? How Does It Impact Employment and Pay?
As a community, we need to continue to make adjustments to address still-evolving pandemic circumstances that do not yet yield a clear picture ahead. We are planning for two possibilities at once: Fall 2020 opening per our normal practice, as well as a delayed or significantly restricted start to the academic year. We, as is the entire higher education sector, are projecting multiple reduced-enrollment scenarios because of the negative impact COVID-19 is predicted to have on enrollment for the next academic year. We are proceeding from one phase of decision making to the next based on the best possible information with prudence and principles.
At this point, MICA is planning for continued campus closure through July 31, 2020, even though we stand ready to reopen sooner.
Accordingly, this update covers an interim period from May 2 to July 31, which coincides with the currently scheduled end-date of the special federal unemployment insurance benefits of the CARES Act. We will know more about the post-July 31 plans for MICA when the Fiscal year 2021 budget is adopted by the Board in late May and early summer enrollment projections can inform decisions for the next fiscal year. The next update to MICA employees will likely come by mid-June.
Below are the key decisions that impact employment and pay between now and July 31, 2020:
MICA will continue employment and full pay with benefits for full and regular part-time employees through May 31, the end of this academic and fiscal year.
Remote work will continue until further notice: Except as provided below, faculty and staff will continue to work remotely, with only very few ‘required attendance’ staff on campus to maintain facilities and essential operations. A return to normal operations will be determined based on future governmental guidance and orders, in conjunction with institutional decisions to resume on-campus activities. Every effort has been made to find employment for current student employees; for example, Human Resources will be reaching out to students with some unique projects to support Admissions, Strategic Initiatives, and Strategic Communications.
Most hiring activities are suspended: As previously communicated, the recruiting and hiring process will continue only for those positions that are critically needed. Searches for all other positions have been temporarily suspended.
Starting June 1, the President and Vice Presidents will take a voluntary salary reduction (10% for the President and 5% for the Vice Presidents).
Starting June 1, employees who are not able to perform their job duties remotely or due to the suspension of certain on-campus activities will be placed on unpaid furloughs with benefits, with a subset of employees eligible for voluntary furloughs sooner:
All furloughed employees will keep their enrolled MICA medical, dental, and vision insurance plans. MICA will pay the employee share of premiums in addition to the employer share during the furloughs. MICA will continue to match employee contributions to its retirement plan for employees being partially furloughed and still working part-time.
Furloughed employees will be informed by their managers and Human Resources beginning the week of April 27, 2020. Human Resources will provide step-by-step assistance to accessing Maryland unemployment insurance, federal CARES support, and Employment Assistance Program.
The furloughs are intentionally timed to coincide with projected campus closure and the special unemployment benefits that the federal CARES act provides to individuals. Because of the significant $600 federal benefit that is in addition to the normal state benefit, some employees will receive as much or more in unemployment benefits than their normal pay. Therefore, MICA will work with eligible employees, beyond those needed for a basic level of services, if they volunteer to go on furloughs sooner than June 1.
The above decisions will serve to help conserve College resources so that we, as a community, will have the ability and means to thrive through a likely challenging fiscal year coming up.
Will Furloughed Employees Return to Regular Employment on August 1?
This will depend on a couple of factors: 1) MICA’s ability to resume on-campus operations; and 2) MICA’s FY21 budget that will be adopted by the Board in late May. If the campus re-opens before August 1, furloughs may end sooner depending on the scale of operation. The key principles detailed at the outset of this memo will inform and guide all decisions.
How Do I Ask Questions?
We understand that you may have questions regarding these decisions. To help answer them, MICA will be hosting a Staff Virtual Town Hall on Tuesday, April 21, from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. We encourage you to submit your questions in advance using the following link: Staff Virtual Town Hall Questions.
The absolute strength of MICA is the people who devote themselves to do incredible work tirelessly for our students and for each other. I am especially inspired by, and grateful for, your commitment to our community during this challenging time. Decisions that impact friends and colleagues are extremely difficult. We will weather this storm together, supportively, compassionately, and as One MICA.
I close by reminding everyone that MICA is a strong institution and a strong community going into this crisis situation. Together with one another, we will emerge even more resilient and stronger than ever.