To: Wellesley College Faculty and Staff
From: Piper Orton, Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer, and Carolyn Slaboden, Chief Human Resources Officer
Re: Update on Summer Furloughs
Date: May 19, 2020
As we near the end of a spring like no other in Wellesley’s history, we are grateful for and inspired by the hard work, dedication, and compassion our community has shown during this difficult time.
We are also heartened by evidence that Massachusetts, along with other states that acted aggressively to contain the virus, has succeeded in flattening the curve, as new cases of COVID-19 are decreasing.
Though there has been some progress on the public health front, the economic shock waves of the pandemic continue to worsen. Wellesley, like many other colleges and universities, must respond to the immediate financial challenges while preparing for the longer-term systemic impact of this crisis.
Over the next several years, we expect the $5 million to $6 million immediate negative impact Wellesley experienced this fiscal year to increase exponentially due to several factors: the financial hardships many of our students and their families will face, which will result in greater need for financial aid; the likelihood of reduced philanthropy and endowment returns; and a decrease in revenue if we need to implement a phased approach to bringing students back to campus.
In response, we have already taken several actions to reduce spending: hiring freezes on faculty and staff positions; salary freezes for faculty and administrative staff; reduced salaries for senior leadership; and a hold on nonessential spending. At the same time, the College has maintained salary and benefits through the spring semester for faculty, administrative staff, and union staff.
This week, we are implementing plans for summer furloughs for some administrative and union employees. These furloughs are a difficult but necessary step in response to the significant financial impact of COVID-19 on the College. These are temporary staffing adjustments; furloughed staff remain active employees of the College. These temporary staffing adjustments enable us to contain costs by focusing on the most critical work that needs to be done this summer in preparation for the fall.
Division and department heads have not made these decisions lightly. Each leader has considered the work that must be prioritized in the coming months and the staff necessary to complete this work. Some of these decisions are directly tied to the closures of dining and residence halls over this summer, and to the changes that will be needed as we plan for the next academic year in a time of pandemic; others are the result of general belt-tightening measures as departments have been asked to prioritize work and cut back on projects that do not need to be completed this summer.
Furloughs in no way reflect the value of the employees or their work. All faculty and staff at Wellesley support our mission in different ways. It is also important to remember that furloughs are not layoffs; furloughed individuals will remain active employees, and will receive ongoing benefits from the College during the furlough.
In making these decisions, the College has been guided by the desire to continue to pay employees to the greatest extent possible, while recognizing the financial challenges to the College from this pandemic.
The following is an overview of the furloughs that will be communicated this week by division heads and managers; see also this FAQ for additional information.
- Approximately 330 administrative and union staff will be furloughed; 58 percent of the positions are administrative and 42 percent are union.
- Most will be partial furloughs, with employees working reduced schedules or working some but not all weeks this summer.
- All furloughed individuals will remain active employees and will receive ongoing benefits from the College, including the College’s contribution to health insurance and eligibility for paid time off.
- All furloughed individuals may apply to receive income from state and federal unemployment compensation programs for a COVID-19 related reduction in hours.
- All furloughed employees will be able to use vacation time and, after that is exhausted, up to two weeks of sick time. We estimate that most union and administrative staff will be able to cover their furloughs with vacation time, should they choose to do so.
Over the past few weeks, many of you have reached out to ask how you can help support staff members who may be furloughed. In response, we have developed a COVID-19 leave-sharing program that allows administrative and union staff to donate unused accrued vacation time for the benefit of other staff who have exhausted their vacation leave due to COVID-19 related reasons. Employees who have been furloughed from the College as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic are eligible to apply for a leave bank transfer. Learn more about the COVID-19 Leave Sharing Plan.
In the next few days, we plan to share information about a hardship fund we are creating that will enable interested faculty and staff to donate funds to be used to help faculty, administrative staff, and union staff who are experiencing hardship as a result of COVID-19.
Thank you for your continued hard work and patience as we navigate this crisis. We understand that this is a difficult time, as everyone manages work and family responsibilities in the midst of this pandemic. With careful planning, we hope to emerge a stronger institution, one even better prepared to provide an outstanding education to women who will make a difference in the world