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CSUF Budget Update

Monday July 20, 2020 10:58 am

Dear Colleagues:

Earlier this morning, you received a letter from Chancellor White that underscores the short- and long-term plans by which we, as a system, aim to navigate the significant and substantive budget cuts, decreases in revenue, extra expenditures, and financial shortfalls brought on by COVID-19. If you have not yet read that email, I encourage you to do so. If you have read the email, you are likely wondering what the State’s $299 million baseline budget cut to the CSU means to both Cal State Fullerton as a whole and you as a Titan educator.

To understand the magnitude of the challenge, it is first important to note that if you add the Governor’s January proposed $199 million baseline budget increase for the CSU to the eventually-instituted $299 baseline decrease, the actual system-wide cut we now face balloons to $498 million – an approximate $37 million shortfall on our campus alone. Even if we don’t count the increase of the original budget proposal, our share of the final $299 million system-wide baseline budget cut stands at the not-insignificant figure of $24 million. This is on top of the $9 million in losses we have experienced to date in our self-funded enterprises such as parking and housing, and our $4 million in unexpected COVID-related expenditures, much of which is tied to IT expenditures in our move to virtual teaching and learning.

I have said this before, but it bears repeating: None of this is meant to discount or downplay the economic hardships that so many Titans and their families are enduring. On the contrary, we have redoubled our commitment to Titans in need during this difficult time while continuously navigating the pandemic by the light of our twin touchstones: The health and safety of all Titans and the continuity of high-quality education with unobstructed and equitable paths to degree.

It is also important to note that despite the unprecedented nature of COVID-19, we were not caught entirely unprepared. As I have regularly reported to the campus in our bi-annual Fiscal State of the University presentations along with all of our other transparent budget processes, over the past two budget cycles we have worked very hard to reduce our structural budget deficit. Thankfully, our strategic and intentional belt-tightening has not only achieved that goal substantially, but also established some very limited reserves that will help us make innovative moves to both cover our losses and live up to our educational commitments during this pandemic. Further, as we began to prepare for COVID-19 back in January, a significant portion of our proactive work was directed toward the financial tsunami we felt the pandemic would inevitably cause and, as a result, further belt-tightening measures were implemented, including our current hiring chill and travel freeze. This, in conjunction with the significant resources we received and dispersed from the CARES Act, has been crucial these past few months.

To be clear, at no time did we allow our plans to mitigate financial losses impede our academic mission. On the contrary, we kept our campus open virtually, graduated more than 12,000 Titans, and led the CSU in standing with marginalized communities whose disproportionate suffering during this time points to the systemic racism that we, as an institution, are determined to root out.

I am pleased that, to date, we have manifested that success without cutting salaries or implementing layoffs, with the exception of limited MPP layoffs and the furloughed employees in Auxiliary Services Corporation (ASC) whose percentage of lost income and work has improved in the last month. I am also pleased that we have provided tens of thousands of hours of paid administrative leave as well as created funds for Titans in need, including one specifically for faculty and staff. And of course, I am very proud that our graduation and retention levels remained steady thanks in large part to the emergency loans, grants, payment plans, and debt forgiveness programs (not to mention the amazing Titan education) that we have continued to provide and enhance virtually.

All that said, as we continue to manage this budget shortfall while concurrently navigating our ongoing losses and expenditures, we will in all likelihood have to face the unfortunate reality of layoffs — either from lack of work or lack of funds, or both. As you read in the Chancellor’s message, we hope to minimize layoffs this academic year through belt-tightening and drawing down on our reserves, and without the Chancellor’s Office seeking to negotiate a systemwide faculty and staff furlough program at this time. On our campus, we will manage these challenges in a spirit of trying to mitigate the impact on both our Titan Family and the quality education that we collectively provide. Further, in making budgetary decisions, we will be intentional in our consultation with relevant stakeholders, including our union representatives, the Academic Senate Executive Committee, PRBC, and others.

Finally, I want to circle back to a quote from the New York Times that I shared with all of you when we were first decanting from campus in our transition to virtual teaching and learning: “Contagion is real, but it doesn’t just work for viruses. It works for kind words and generous thoughts, and acts of selflessness and honesty.”

Titan Family, over the past months, as we collectively faced both COVID-19 and the institutional racism that continues to be our nation’s true plague, we have done so with kind words, generous thoughts, and acts of selflessness and honesty. That is who we are, and as we confront the added adversity tied to our budget shortfall, I take solace in knowing that we will do so with those values infused in our work and those sentiments embedded in our hearts.

Fram Virjee