The estimated cost of the pandemic at Carolina exceeds $100 million, Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz told faculty gathered virtually for a community update on Friday.
Guskiewicz said the University could expect an additional $55 million loss in housing and dining revenue this semester. Enrollment is unaffected; this year’s first-year class is the largest in the University’s history, he said at Friday’s On the Off-Ramp meeting sponsored by the Office of Faculty Governance.
He added that financial plans are underway to help mitigate the University’s shortfall, including limiting hiring and opportunities for salary adjustments.
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Robert A. Blouin echoed Guskiewicz’s comments about the budget and encouraged faculty and staff to work together moving forward to address ramifications. “Make no mistake, this is going to be a very difficult time financially,” he said.
Blouin added that if remote learning continues into the spring semester, the financial ramifications will be further amplified.
Comparing the pandemic situation to the 2008-2010 recession, Blouin said, “This has the potential of being much, much worse than that.”
Guskiewicz also reported on the student experience since the shift to remote learning and athletics events.
To prevent the spread of the virus, the University moved to remote instruction for undergraduates on Aug. 19 and reduced the number of students living on campus to about 1,500, he said.
Guskiewicz said there is no substitute for everyone being on campus together, but the University will work to offer the best experience possible. The UNC System, he said, made it clear that the System schools were going to open and Guskiewicz made it clear that Carolina needed local autonomy to make decisions.
The chancellor said he was sorry the University had to take an off-ramp and that he knows many people are disappointed. However, he added, the University is putting in place measures to learn from this experience. He acknowledged Faculty Chair Mimi Chapman’s announcement of a plan for an “after-incident” review, made during her opening comments at the meeting.
“Our leadership team will continue to engage as many people as possible in this process during this reflection and contingency planning,” Guskiewicz said.
Guskiewicz, Blouin and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Amy Johnson responded to questions about plans for the spring semester, the Roadmap implementation team and holding the Greek system accountable for compliance to the community standards.
A panel of students, including Student Body President Reeves Moseley, Graduate and Professional Student President Ryan Collins, Commission on Campus Equality and Student Equity President Lamar Richards and others also asked questions, sharing concerns about tuition and fees, mental health, residence hall life, decision-making on the implementation team and the planning process for the spring semester.
Bubba Cunningham, the University’s athletics director, also expressed concern about the student experience and the mental health of students, including student-athletes.
He expects the athletics department’s budget “would take a beating this year,” and his team is already planning for next year. He announced that there will be no fans at fall sporting events in Carolina’s stadiums in September. “We’d like to see how the fall progresses before we make a declaration for October and November,” he said.
A recording of the meeting is available.