A Message from President Julio Frenk

April 28, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

South Florida and the University of Miami know more about disaster and resilience than most regions and most universities. Even so, the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged every dimension of society, in virtually every corner of the world. As we continue to manage through the profound public health crisis, the economic crisis in its wake will be even more far reaching.

I am deeply proud of how our community has mobilized in response to the coronavirus, from our health care heroes on the front lines to the intellectual contributions of our public health, medical, and nursing researchers, and the innovation and adaptability displayed by our students, faculty, and staff as the balance of our semester moved online in March.

We at the U know better than most that acting early and deliberately, guided by values and a commitment to every member of our community, will allow us to weather even the most difficult storms and build back better. It is in the spirit of early, deliberate action that I am writing today.

At the beginning of this month, we shared our immediate actions to mitigate the financial impact of COVID-19. Today, I share with you the next phase of those efforts.

First, some context: As a result of the strategic initiatives and operational efficiencies we have put in place through the Roadmap to our New Century and the generosity of our donors, we are confronting this crisis from our strongest financial standing in more than a decade. In fact, we were poised for another outstanding financial and academic year.

COVID-19 radically altered that picture, and we must now navigate significant financial losses from areas across the University, including clinical and student-related revenues, reduced research activities, and an endowment feeling the impact as investment markets around the globe have declined. We are committed to evaluating every possible scenario to minimize both the short- and long-term effects of this crisis on our University.

Without any substantial mitigation efforts in place, our projections show potential losses of hundreds of millions of dollars over the coming year. Our actions are guided by these sobering projections. The following measures apply to the entire University:

Salary reductions for senior leadership
Recognizing the number of families already facing financial hardships, we will begin reducing expenses at the leadership ranks of the organization. I, along with the provost, chief operating officer, senior vice presidents, vice presidents, deans, and equivalent positions at UHealth will reduce our compensation by 15 percent starting on May 1. In addition, those employees whose compensation falls in the top one percent of earners at the University will be asked to voluntarily reduce their compensation by 10 percent. Human Resources will share details with those impacted by this action.

Suspension of retirement contributions for FY21
Effective June 1, the University will temporarily suspend contributions, both core and matching, to employee 403(b) plans, including grandfathered over-the-limit taxable contributions through fiscal year 2021. We take this step with full realization that it will have an impact on your plans for the future. Employees can continue their elective contributions, within IRS limits.

Suspension of merit increases for FY21
We will suspend merit increases on all campuses for FY21. This is a temporary measure that in no way diminishes the deep appreciation we have for the excellent work of our employees.

Hiring freeze for all positions on all campuses
As announced by Provost Duerk and Dr. Travisano on April 7, we will continue the hiring freeze on all vacant and new positions at least through December 2020 on the Coral Gables and Marine campuses. We are now extending this hiring freeze to the Medical campus for all positions except those deemed mission-critical by the UHealth Joint Operations Leadership Team (JOLT). The hiring freeze does not apply to budgeted student worker positions or those fully funded through grants.

Additional expense reductions
All budget centers, including colleges, schools, and administrative/operational departments will continue to significantly reduce or eliminate travel, entertainment, outside services, consulting, conferences, meetings, and other expenses.

Capital projects on hold
Capital projects that are already under construction, such as Lakeside Village, will continue. However, we have postponed nearly every other capital expenditure until further notice.

Furloughs and layoffs
We are considering every option possible to avoid furloughs and layoffs; however, a reduction in workforce may become unavoidable. I value the talent, commitment, and ingenuity our employees bring to the U every day, and one of our aims is to avoid across-the-board actions that would challenge family budgets or contribute to the current unemployment crisis. We will conduct a careful analysis of potential furloughs and layoffs through the lens of efficiency gains and protection of revenue streams. We will use every instrument at our disposal to support any affected employees.

Remote work practices
We continue to support work-at-home arrangements during the pandemic and are extending the University’s temporary COVID-19 policies and pay provisions as outlined in the communication sent by Human Resources last week. We will continually assess these policies and communicate changes, taking the reality families are facing as a result of COVID-19 into account.

Maximizing funding sources
Our Government Relations team continues to evaluate and urgently take action on funding opportunities available to health care systems and institutions of higher education through the CARES Act and other government programs. The team communicates frequently with local, state, and federal representatives to advocate on behalf of the U on a wide range of issues impacting our community, including higher education policy, health care, immigration policy, and scientific research.

The next few months will provide greater clarity, as we quantify our fall enrollment and further assess the financial impact of COVID-19 on the UHealth system. We will continue to reassess and keep you informed along the way.

The path forward
COVID-19 has taken many thousands of lives, hundreds right here in our community. Compounding that loss, we are facing a significant economic disruption. We are mindful of those who have lost loved ones or who face a long road to recovery. Let me assure you—there is a path forward, and I firmly believe that as a University and as an academic health system it is our responsibility to lead by example.

What does this mean? It means that we will continue to prioritize the health and safety of the University of Miami community.

It means that we will protect our core mission—education, research, innovation, service, and patient care—because the world needs us now more than ever before.

It means that we will make decisions through the lens of transparency, belonging, and inclusion, because We Are One U.

I know that this has been a challenging, isolating, and, for some, frightening time period. I also know that ’Canes are up to any challenge and can be counted on to support one another. Thank you all for the ways you are stepping up, and lifting one another up, especially our brave clinical colleagues working on the front lines. As I shared with our clinical chairs recently, our institution is not an abstraction; it is not a series of buildings and courses and programs. It is brought to life and given its meaning by each of us working together toward the mission that is our “why”: our reason for being one U.

Times of crisis offer opportunities for transformation. Together, we will build a better normal, with our values as its intact foundation. I am confident that we will arrive on the other side of this crisis with a renewed sense of purpose rooted in the resilience that has distinguished the University of Miami for 95 years—and will always be at our core.
President Julio Frenk signature
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