In an April 22 email, President M. Roy Wilson said there’s been some negative financial impact amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which Wayne State is addressing through changes to key budgetary procedures such as spending and hiring.
"Over the coming weeks and months, the administration will work with the Academic Senate, Student Senate and collective bargaining units to further refine our scenario planning and recommend a budget to the Board of Governors that best meets the needs of our entire campus community," Wilson said.
Wilson said effective immediately, the following actions will be taken:
Spending will be limited to essential purchases only.
Consultant and independent contractor contracts exceeding $50,000 will require presidential approval.
All immediate hiring decisions are subject to presidential approval, and a process is under development to provide enhanced review for all longer-term hiring decisions.
All information technology functions will be consolidated under Computing Information and Technology.
New policies regarding carry-forward reserve and deficit balances will be communicated to the relevant people as soon as possible.
Another important concern for WSU is how to provide financial support to students and faculty who are struggling during this time. Much of WSU’s efforts in this realm are aimed at supporting those who experience food or housing insecurity or have become unemployed.
Students employed by WSU, including through work-study, will be paid through the end of the term, according to Dawn Medley, WSU associate vice president for enrollment management.
WSU is providing support to students in terms of access to housing, healthy meals and technology, while still providing services for mental health, disability support and tutoring, Medley said.
WSU has received $19.3 million in financial aid from the federal government through the bipartisan Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, according to the Department of Education’s allocation page.
Medley said the funding is divided into two sections: a minimum of $9.6 million for WSU’s Student Emergency Fund and additional operating costs for the university.
Wilson said on April 23 he would be taking a 10% pay reduction while his executive team and deans of colleges would be taking a 5% reduction.
The money from the pay cuts will be going into the Student Emergency Fund, he said.
Faculty and students can access the WSU Food Pantry, which is still open through a partnership between the Dean of Students Office and Gleaners Food Bank. Beyond providing meals, the food pantry is serving the university’s effort to provide students access to technology, as it’s the location for students to pick up and borrow Chromebooks.
Sophomore Saylem Bryant has benefited from WSU’s assistance during this global pandemic to help secure safe and affordable housing. Bryant said they encourage other students in need of support to reach out.
“Some students are losing their safe spaces, losing their homes. Some students are losing a large aspect of their life, so me personally I hope that school can be back in by the fall and I hope that students are really tapping into the university and local community resources they can to stay healthy and really stay safe during this time,” Bryant said.
Medley said she has confidence in the university to navigate WSU effectively through this pandemic.
“We have strong leadership at the top who's looking at all the scenarios and how they play out and what the best path forward is,” Medley said.
Budget scenarios WSU is considering, according to Wilson:
Scenario 1: Budget reduction of 5%, or approximately $20 million. This budget scenario can be managed under our current budget model with the administrative decisions outlined above and some additional belt tightening. This is consistent with annual reductions made in recent years.
Scenario 2: Budget reduction of 10%, or approximately $40 million. At this level of reduction, we will need to consider multiple options for reducing expenses, including furloughs and selected layoffs. We also will need to review programs and functions, and focus spending in areas that are strategic priorities.
Scenario 3: Budget reduction of 15%, or approximately $60 million or more. This scenario would entail actions noted in Scenario 2 plus the elimination of select programs and services.
Cover photo by Jonathan Deschaine.