President Julie Sullivan shared the following in an email with faculty and staff.
We made it to February and another milestone – the start of spring semester! While the pandemic is far from over, the arrival of multiple vaccines provides hope of light at the end of this long tunnel.
I am grateful to each one of you for your resiliency amidst this difficult time. Many of you are hurting at this moment, after almost a year of stress, isolation and tension in both your work and home lives, and the cost mitigation measures we adopted last May asked for shared sacrifice on the part of every member of our community. Thank you all very much for helping St. Thomas get to this point.
Today, I am pleased to share with you encouraging news about our fiscal year 2021 financial projection. With more information about spring enrollment, residence hall occupancy and the welcome news that St. Thomas will receive funds as part of the second coronavirus relief package passed by the U.S. Congress in December, we have increased confidence in our financial position. This gives us the ability to discontinue some of the cost mitigation measures that impact employees the most. The details are below.
First, retirement contribution suspensions will end. Effective Feb. 1, St. Thomas will begin again to contribute the full 9.4% of earnings into employees’ 403(b) retirement accounts. The first payment will be noted on Feb. 12 paychecks. In addition, in March, employees’ Transamerica accounts will receive an additional lump-sum contribution intended to replace contributions that would have been made in the month of January. The practical effect of these two actions achieves our original goal of ending the suspension of retirement contributions on Dec. 31, 2020.
Second, in recognition that all St. Thomas employees have been adversely impacted during the pandemic, the following salary adjustments will be made:
- Faculty salary reductions will end a month earlier than originally planned. Rather than end on April 15, faculty salary reductions will end on March 15. Faculty whose salary was reduced less than $500 per month during the period of the salary reductions will receive supplemental payments, so each will receive at least $500, prorated for part-time employees.
- Staff who experienced salary reductions will receive a payment approximately equivalent to one month of salary lost from pay reductions. For example, a staff member who had a 5% salary reduction would receive a payment approximately equal to 5% of one month’s salary. The minimum payment will be $500, prorated for part-time employees. Staff began taking salary reductions earlier than faculty, so this payment is intended to ensure equity with respect to salary reductions.
- Employees who did not participate in salary reductions (employees with salaries less than $58,500) will receive payments of $500, prorated for part-time employees.
- A separate communication with be coming in the next several days from Human Resources (HR) with more details (including dates) on the supplemental payments. Please be patient with our HR colleagues as they work to make accurate payments as timely as possible within the limitations of our non-automated systems.
- The university’s Employee Emergency Assistance Program remains available to assist eligible employees experiencing temporary financial hardship as a result of the pandemic. Grants of up to $1,000 can be awarded and do not have to be repaid. More information can be found here.
Finally, we are lifting the current hiring freeze. While prudence in hiring and staffing decisions remains important, and open positions should be carefully evaluated before moving forward with posting them, we will return to our previous policy of hiring decision approvals made by school/college or department heads.
While not a mitigation measure, I am nonetheless thrilled to also report that funding coming from the second coronavirus relief package will enable St. Thomas to direct additional money in hardship assistance to students. While details are still being worked out (and we need to stay compliant with the spending regulations associated with the funds), we anticipate directing even more support than we were able to provide with the first relief package.
The challenges of COVID-19 are not over, and the university will continue to diligently follow health and safety protocols and to carefully steward our financial resources. However, I also want to recognize the sacrifices, hard work and effort of all faculty and staff that helped us achieve firmer financial ground and serve our students in this incredibly difficult time.
To the St. Thomas essential workers who showed up – and continue to show up – in our dining halls, residence halls, public safety offices, Center for Well-Being and in all the places on campus where we need you and our students need you, I thank you.
To the faculty dedicated to ensuring the best learning experiences possible in a very difficult situation, I thank you.
To those who experienced increased workloads often while juggling increased pressure at home, I thank you.
This has been an incredibly difficult year and our humanity has been tested in many ways. We can be proud of how we have emerged. We are stronger as individuals and as a university community.
The pain and stress that many are feeling right now is not necessarily all about financial pressure. To those who have lost loved ones or are dealing with sickness and/or loneliness, I pray for you and with you. I pray not only for your health and that of your loved ones, but also for the ability to return to the social connections that we miss so much.
May God keep all of us close as we navigate our way to the light.