May 12, 2020
Dear MICA Community Members,
I hope that this message finds you and your families healthy and well.
Last Friday marked the official end of the Spring 2020 semester. It has been an inspiration to witness our gifted students and dedicated faculty and staff meet the challenge to “keep on teaching and learning” using remote and alternate modes of education over the past six weeks. An excellent example of their creativity is a virtual exhibition from the Personal Direction classes (sophomore-level) with almost all of the displayed pieces completed in the remote portion of the Spring semester. Stay tuned for the Class of 2020 virtual showcases in June leading up to the alternative year-end celebration of the graduating students on June 25 and 26. With strong input from the Class of 2020, their exhibitions are also being planned for the next academic year in physical form.
Other behind-the-scene efforts by MICA team members to transition to productive telework, continue vital organizational activities, and maintain on-campus essential services have been equally exceptional and admirable. I remain profoundly grateful to be a member of this extraordinary MICA community, especially during this challenging time when devotion to our educational mission, mutual care, and effective teamwork are sustaining forces for us all.
Now that the Spring 2020 semester is drawing to a close and we look forward to the next academic year, I am writing to share with you MICA’s plan to navigate the still uncertain landscape of the COVID-19 crisis in the coming weeks and months.
While we do not have all the answers—as no one does— it is critical that the MICA community understands: how we will move forward together as a team, what are the most likely academic scenarios for Fall 2020, and when major institutional decisions will be made and shared.
THE R5 ROADMAP FOR OUR TEAMWORK
The near-term forecast for the higher education sector is one of hardship and MICA is not immune from this projected impact. While the degree of difficulty we will face is yet unknown, we must strive to achieve our best while being ready to cope with lesser possibilities.
To prevail with purpose and self-determination, we must rise through—not merely survive—the public health and economic crisis. The post-COVID-19 world and post-COVID-19 MICA will not be a return to the status quo, and we should seize on this period of disruption and change as an opportunity to further advance our strategic transformation as a College and a community. We can and must emerge from the crisis stronger and better positioned for the future.
The R5 Roadmap (R5), as shared in the Community Town Hall yesterday can be found on the R5 website, is a clear, focused, realistic, and campus-wide approach to achieve this aspiration. It functions as both a shared campus mindset and a concrete action framework.
It is essential that the implementation of R5 is a One-Team MICA effort. Our community wants the involvement and empowerment in forging solutions together. And the College needs the collective community’s ideas, capacity, efforts, and spirit to thrive through the challenges ahead.
Because of this, the R5 work—Respond, Reopen, Recover, Reimagine, Remake—will solicit broad input and foster ownership across campus by connecting ongoing planning efforts and supplemented them by additions where gaps exist.
Together, we must traverse the adversity through a path of courage, compassion, and creativity. The courage to face brutal facts while keeping hope. The compassion to consider people and community first while safeguarding the College’s soundness and ability to fulfill our educational mission. And the creativity to adapt, learn, and invent while taking measured steps to deliver responsible outcomes on both educational and operational fronts.
R5 will serve as our holistic strategy to forge this path and shape a stronger, bolder, and more resilient MICA. All relevant R5 information can be found on the R5 section of the MICA website.
MOST LIKELY ACADEMIC SCENARIOS FOR FALL 2020
Our primary goal for campus reopening and academic planning for Fall 2020 remains the offering of an on-campus school year while ensuring the health of our community. MICA is working with local and national health agencies and guidelines in evaluating a range of possible scenarios to meet this goal.
We are planning for an on-time late-August start to the Fall 2020 semester with public health measures, including physical distancing masks, and temperature taking, among others, in place.
We are working with our faculty and staff to plan for changes in the size and structure of classes and public events, to use a productive blend of in-person and virtual methods for teaching and learning, and to stage assignments and activities to manage occupancy density in our physical spaces.
In the residence halls, all bedrooms within an apartment will be used for single (1-person) occupancy, regardless of their originally-intended usage. This will ensure that every resident has their own self-contained sleeping space. Other apartment-specific health safety measures will be put in place and in addition, Residence Life will consider exemption requests from the first-year and second-year on-campus living requirement due to COVID-19 related concerns.
If a delay of the Fall semester becomes unavoidable, we have alternate scenarios to start the school year later and still complete it in time for students to advance to the following academic year.
Following are the three most likely planning scenarios we are considering for Fall 2020 and Academic Year 2020-2021 (AY21), based on current information
Scenario A—On-time start for all / public health measures in place: This is our primary scenario. The campus is open. Some level of physical distancing requirements will cause us to limit class size, residence hall occupancy, limit or virtualize large public gatherings, and deliver courses, exhibitions, etc., though a mix of in-person, online, remote, and hybrid modalities.
Scenario B—Delayed start for some / public health measures in place: The campus is open. Some students/programs are able to start on time while others need to observe a delayed start due to travel restrictions, public health measures, and other conditions. We will stage instruction and residence hall move-in appropriately to meet the needs of specific student populations.
Scenario C—Delayed start for all / public health measures in place: Here, we are not able to open the campus on time, but are able to open soon enough to deliver the full Fall 2020 semester education within a modified calendar. This scenario would cause some disruption to the semester schedule and potentially to the annual calendar. It would also impact our ability to deliver on some of the ideas for extended access for the Class of 2020.
Further details on these planning scenarios, with that addition of less likely alternatives, can be viewed via this link to the full set of academic scenarios.
It is important to recognize that many of the solutions involved in these generalized approaches will need to be sensitive to the specificities of the different fields and programs. These scenarios will therefore need to be the outcomes of R5 planning and development at the program or unit level, with input from faculty and students, and in coordination with the various support services of the College.
FORECAST FOR FY21 & TIMELINE FOR MAJOR INSTITUTIONAL DECISIONS AND COMMUNICATIONS
Each of the above scenarios has its own set of significant impacts on MICA’s budget projections for Fiscal Year 2020-2021 (FY21) in terms of enrollment expectations and the costs associated with the various coping requirements. Such impacts should be considered in a context broader than MICA. As widely reported in the news, the entire higher education sector is bracing for a potentially devastating next year. Some institutions have already announced severe budget reductions, from programs to personnel, starting now and lasting through the next academic and fiscal year.
In MICA’s case, we are entering into a challenging next AY21/FY21 with fundamental strengths—an amazing campus team, a solid financial foundation, and promising Fall 2021 recruitment results to date. Nonetheless, our fiscal projections, taking into account different levels of tuition and housing revenue losses resulting from COVID-19, still indicate a significant negative margin for next year.
We are modeling two primary budget scenarios: “COVID-1” and “COVID-2”. On an overall institutional budget of $90 million, COVID-1 predicts a gap of $9 million while COVID-2 forecasts a gap of $19 million, requiring corresponding budget balancing measures.
We are currently planning to prepare for whatever may come. Our proposed FY21 budget is being finalized and is scheduled for review and adoption by the Board of Trustees on May 22. We will implement budget balancing plans in a staged and measured way so that we can defer the most draconian steps until they become absolutely necessary while we do the utmost to avert them.
I hope you agree with this “right next step” approach. Nobody likes uncertainty, especially in challenging times. But sometimes, steering carefully forward to avoid premature damages and to achieve maximum success requires us to proceed one phase at a time. Such phase-by-phase planning with several scenarios makes the best sense now for MICA and our community.
Below is a timeline for major institutional decisions and communications:
Mid-March to May 31: This phase covers the current fiscal year, which ends on May 31. In mid-March, we decided to carry the employment, pay, and benefits of the MICA community through May 1. In mid-April, that carriage was extended through the fiscal year (May 31). While not easy, this decision put into practice our “Community of Care” tenet—giving everyone a chance to catch our collective breath by minimizing immediate financial anxiety.
R5 Teamwork Begins in May: R5 work groups, involving multiple minds and voices from diverse campus constituencies, inform MICA’s COVID-19 navigation decisions and actions.
June 1 to July 31: This phase starts with the new fiscal year on June 1. We will be managing a difficult—and potentially extremely difficult—FY21.
April 17: MICA employees were informed of the June 1 start of a summer furlough program. This set of furloughs, including benefit coverage fully paid by MICA, affects those who have either no work or substantially reduced work because they either cannot work remotely or their jobs are not possible or not needed due to campus closure.
May 22: The Board of Trustees will review and vote on the FY21 fiscal plan that will include a COVID-1 level balanced budget and a contingency plan for additional budget reductions towards COVID-2 level if needed.
By May 27: The campus community will be informed of the budget measures to begin on June 1, most likely at COVID-1 level that would include pay freezes and benefit alterations, a further salary reduction for myself and the Vice Presidents, as well as shared impact by both faculty and staff. At COVID-1 level, there will be impact on compensation, but we do not anticipate layoffs.
R5 Work Continues: More current regional, national, and international COVID-19 information and factors will begin to lend clarity to the Fall 2020 campus reopening plan.
By July 6: The campus community will be informed of a more concrete Fall 2020 reopening plan, as shaped by the R5 work groups. The campus community will also be informed if COVID-1 budget coping measures need to be escalated towards the level of COVID-2.
August 1 and after: While we will do everything possible to land as softly as we can, we need to prepare for the possibility of a COVID-2 reality.
August 1: If there is a need to augment COVID-1 level budget measures with COVID-2 level reductions, the new measures will likely begin on August 1. If salary reductions are unavoidable, MICA is committed to creating a progressive plan that provides higher percentage reductions to those who earn more and smaller percentage reductions to those who earn less.
R5 Work Continues: The collective efforts of the R5 work groups will lead to the optimal start of the Fall 2020 semester possible under the prevailing circumstances.
MICA’s GUIDING PRINCIPLES OF COVID-19 NAVIGATION
As I have shared in previous campus memos, a strong set of institutional principles has served us well in our navigation through evolving COVID-19 scenarios and related challenges and uncertainties. These principles, both logistical and ethical in nature, serve as a compass in guiding our decision-making and actions. In order to not lengthen this communication, I will not repeat them here, but I invite you to view these principles that will continue to be observed.
I look forward to greeting everyone back on campus. I especially look forward to a time when we can look back together to this particularly challenging period and recall with pride how our One-Team MICA approach has enabled us to rise through the crisis with success and new-found strengths.