Faculty and Staff - June 24, 2020

Dear Colleagues:
I want to share with you information from the quarterly board meeting that was held on Friday. I was unable to attend due to extenuating family circumstances, but I am pleased to say that the meeting went well under a new set of guidelines we enacted to keep everyone as safe as possible.

First, this was a jam-packed session, and action on Friday included the following:

·     First step on renaming Tillman Hall – As members are sensitive to the pain that racism and injustice have caused within our community, the board voted to ask our legislators to consider an amendment to the Heritage Act which would allow us to restore the name of our administration building to Main Building. I know many of you have been following this issue for some time, and I am proud to add my voice to those who have advocated for this change over many years. Since we do not know the timing of any legislative action on this, I ask for your patience as we move forward with this request. Read more about the board’s action. 

·    Tuition and fees/university budget – I am elated that the board voted to hold tuition steady and adopt minimal fee increases for 2020-21. Of course, we know the impact on COVID-19 on our students and families, and this action is what is best for them. The board also approved a balanced budget of $117,653,787 for 2020-21, down from last year’s budget of $123,899,970.  Read more about these decisions.

·    Elimination of the tennis program – This was a difficult decision for the board. Over $600,000 had to be cut from the annual athletics budget, and when all of the sports were reviewed, tennis was chosen to be cut based on its costs vs. revenues. Read more details on the decision.

·    Faculty specific actions – The board conferred emeriti status on 8 retiring faculty members and heard of our tenure/promotion decisions, all of which are included in our news release. We congratulate these deserving colleagues for their sustained hard work that these actions reward.

·    Other action – The board voted for its same officers to continue to serve for the next year and recognized student representative Imani Belton who graduated in May for her service.

The board also heard from our leadership team on the plans and preparations we are making across campus to welcome students back in the fall. We will have a test run of much of this planning when we host students with D session classes and those pursuing research through our Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) and Eagle STEM Scholars programs next month. In the meantime, we are planning communications and a series of town halls to get everyone up to speed on what to expect in August. Reminder that Phase 2 of our three-phase return to work plan begins on July 6, and that Phase 3 is scheduled to begin on July 27.

Importantly and in the interest in being fully transparent, trustees discussed the difficult potentiality of a significant drop in our enrollments this fall, which could result in a large shortfall in our finances. As you may know, many universities across the nation are preparing for such declines in enrollment. We discussed many unknowns related to Winthrop’s budget development, such as allowed CARES Act expenditures, any support we might receive from accelerateSC, tuition incentives, our institutional allocation, expected auxiliary revenues, and more.

We shared information with trustees on the budget impact of hiring and travel freezes, renegotiation of service contracts, and how reductions in operating on the personnel side could work. Furlough options (scaled models based on employee type or salary level) were discussed, as was a Reduction in Force (RIF), retirement incentives and voluntary separation. At this point in time no definite decisions have been made in regard to pursuing possible furloughs, RIF, retirement incentives or a voluntary separation program. Needless to say, as we move forward in time we may need to pursue some of these options as our revenues for 2020-21 become more evident.

The approved budget reflects a potential shortfall that could be as high as $7 million to be filled through the following, as necessary, based on the unknowns mentioned above:

•       CARES Act funds

•      Transfer from net position

•       FEMA reimbursements for COVID-19 expenses

•       Furloughs

Moving forward, discussions will begin as to basic assumptions, process and objectives in developing a budgeting model that will provide a foundation for the next several years. I am asking our leadership to use strategic guidelines related to mission and vision, as well as compassion, when making recommendations and decisions on long-term budgetary reductions. We will collectively review practices and policies campus wide for renewed savings, set a reduced target for scholarships, establish voluntary separation/retirement incentive programs, and, if necessary, pursue a staff/faculty RIF plan.

From the beginning of my work here at Winthrop, I pledged to be transparent with you, and I will tell you that these are difficult budgetary decisions that we sincerely regret having to make, but for the long-term viability of the institution and the continued pursuit of our educational mission for our students and their families, we simply must.

I understand that this is a lot of information to absorb and that some of it is unsettling. Please be reassured that I will continue to share information on our processes, opportunities and decisions moving forward. I truly appreciate your patience and all your good work as we navigate these difficult times together.


George W. Hynd
Interim President