April 10, 2020
Latest letter from Dr. Carter, FMU President – April 10, 2020
Latest letter from dr. Fred Carter, Francis Marion University president, to faculty and staff.
We have one more week behind us this semester, and I hope that everyone is doing well. Let me take a few minutes and update you on a few events of the past week.
The General Assembly convened on Wednesday with plans to pass a continuing resolution and a sine die resolution. The continuing resolution would allow state government to continue operations in the likely event that a new 2020-21 budget is not passed by July 1st. The sine die resolution would establish the date and the agenda for the reconvening of the body to approve this 2020-21 budget.
Contentious issues over the reform of Santee Cooper, the state-owned utility, prevented the passage of either resolution. As of now, legislators are expected to meet again within the next few weeks to complete this work.
The proposed sine die resolution calls for the legislature to return and adopt a new budget in mid-September. Since the Governor postponed tax filings until June 30th, this should provide adequate time for the Department of Revenue to process returns and for the Board of Economic Advisors to provide accurate revenue estimates for the 20-21 fiscal year. Of course, this scenario is dependent upon the passage of a continuing resolution permitting the state to operate under the 2019-20 appropriations act until this new budget is passed. I’m sorry that this appears so convoluted, but I want you to realize that the state’s ability to continue to function past June 30th is dependent upon these legislative actions.
On a separate but related matter, the state’s Board of Economic Advisors met yesterday and determined that there was no need for a mid-year budget cut this fiscal year. So our existing 2019-20 budget will be unaffected by any state action for the next three months.
Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Education provided us the initial instructions for processing the student support portion of the CARES Stimulus package. By the end of next week, the university should have $2.07M to award directly to our students for emergency financial aid grants for “disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus, such as food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and child-care expenses.” We’ll use our financial aid and accounting processes to plan, implement and monitor these distributions. Darryl Bridges, Alissa Warters, Cathy Swartz and Kim Ellisor will coordinate this effort.
Within a couple of weeks, the university should receive another $2.07M for reimbursing costs that the institution incurred as a result of the coronavirus crisis. Approximately half of this allocation will be used to replace funds that were used for student housing and dining service refunds. The remainder will be used to cover lost revenues and fund expenditures directly related to the crisis.
As you all know, the university implemented an alternative grading process this week—allowing undergraduate students to select the S/U grading system as an option to the standard scale. The provost, faculty leadership, deans and chairs, and the SGA leadership have all played instrumental roles in making this change possible. Many students have limited access to technology or are competing each day with K-12 siblings and telecommuting parents for computer time and bandwidth. This plan will give these students the opportunity to complete coursework without affecting their GPAs adversely. Even for many of us who are traditionalists, this is a fair and reasonable alteration of our grading policy— at least for this temporary online period.
Now, let me share a bit of positive news. This morning I had the pleasure of calling fifteen of our colleagues to tell them that they have been awarded tenure or promoted. Next to handing out diplomas, this is the most enjoyable part of my job. It was certainly a delightful respite at the end of a perplexing week.
Of course, the Provost enjoys the prerogative of announcing the names at the fall breakfast each year. I won’t step on his toes now, but I’ve very proud of this highly accomplished group.
Finally, let me thank all of you once again for working so diligently to get us through this difficult time. During meetings with the other university presidents each week, I listen to concerns voiced by others and chuckle quietly. While I might wish for different circumstances, I’m so proud to be working with all of you.