May 7, 2020

Latest letter from FMU President Dr. Fred Carter – May 7, 2020

Latest letter from FMU President Dr. Fred Carter – May 7, 2020

I hope everyone is doing well. Permit me to take a little time to update you on a few issues.

One of the most unique semesters in the university’s history is over. Final grades have been submitted and posted to transcripts, and diplomas will be mailed to graduating seniors by the end of next week. I am deeply appreciative to every member of the faculty for all of the hours spent online to make this possible.

Over the past couple of weeks, a number of graduates have been coming to campus in the afternoon to pose for photographs in their caps and gowns. Three of the more popular sites are Wallace House, Hanson Park, and the fountain next to Stokes Hall. I’ve especially enjoyed having the opportunity to speak to number of them about their experiences finishing the semester. Without exception, they have been gracious and complimentary regarding the faculty and the quality of online instruction. They are also very apprehensive about the job market and their immediate prospects for employment. As the economy improves, we’ll need to intensify our efforts to assist this class in identifying and pursuing job opportunities.

You may recall from the last email that the following working groups are in the process of developing plans for ensuring our safe return to campus in fall:

1) In-class, Online, and Hybrid Curricular Options- Peter King, Glen Gourley, Alissa Warters, and Jennifer Kunka;

2) Classroom Safety and Spacing– Alley Steadman, Peter King, Bud Simmons, and Ralph Davis;

3) Student Residence Hall Safety, Spacing, and Sustainability– Chris Kennedy, Cheryl Tuttle, Nick Townsend, and Erika Cook;

4) Student-Athlete Protection and Spectator Safety and Spacing– Murray Hartzler, Gary Edwards, Jeri Porter, Stacey Vallee, and Rhonda Brogden;

5) Personal Protection Measures for Students, Faculty and Staff– Darryl Bridges, Paul DeMarco, Karen Gittings, Teresa Ramey, and Charlene Wages; and

6) Food Preparation Protection and Dining Facilities Spacing– Kelli-Anne Dailey, Darryl Bridges, Nick Townsend, and Eric Garris.

All six groups have met extensively over the past 10 days, and the senior staff will begin reviewing the draft plans next Wednesday. On May 22nd, the deans, chairs and faculty leadership will join us to continue this review process. By the end of the month, this collaborative process should produce a comprehensive set of procedures that will continue to be refined throughout the summer. Just remember that we’ll likely begin with a more rigorous approach and relax it as conditions improve.

Next Monday all of the state colleges and universities will submit a tabulation of existing Coronavirus-related expenses to the CHE and Accelerate SC. Then, within the next few weeks, cost projections for fall will be submitted. Hopefully, there will be sufficient federal money to provide at least partial reimbursement for both. By the way, our expenditures to date total $2.4M.

Tomorrow morning I’ll meet with Chairman Robert Lee and other trustee leaders to discuss our existing and prospective budgets. Our finances are very stable, although next year’s budget remains speculative because of the uncertainty regarding enrollments and the 2020-21 state appropriation. As of now, our returning enrollments (registrations) are consistent with enrollments at this point last spring, and freshman fall applications are up 6%.  We’ll continue to monitor these numbers closely.

The General Assembly will return next Tuesday to pass a continuing resolution and a sine die resolution. The continuing resolution will allow us to expend money after July 1st at the level established in the university’s 2019-20 recurring budget. The sine dieresolution sets the calendar and the agenda for an additional session in September to pass the 2020-21 Appropriations Act. You may recall that the passage of this new budget has been delayed because tax filings were delayed. Consequently, the Board of Economic Advisors will not have reliable revenue estimates for next year until late summer.

So we proceed into the summer with some ambiguity over next year’s budget, but confident in the knowledge that we are as secure financially as any comprehensive university in the state. We have ample reserves and little debt. You may wonder why I continue to mention this in most of these emails. Perhaps it’s not so much to remind you as it is to remind myself to remain frugal until we can peek around the corner into the next fiscal year. That’s why the university has frozen hiring and curtailed spending in a number of areas.

When the governor’s executive order closed FMU two months ago, we agreed to focus on three major objectives – keeping everyone safe, finishing the semester, and protecting faculty and staff jobs. Working together, we’ve accomplished one, and we’re realizing substantial progress on the other two.

The employee assistance fund has made 118 awards. The committee is closing the second cycle and will begin a third cycle next week, so past recipients will become eligible for additional support.

Finally, let me acknowledge those members of the senior staff who have worked so diligently to sustain this university for the past two months: Peter King, Darryl Bridges, Charlene Wages, Alissa Warters, Tucker Mitchell, Chris Kennedy, Alley Steadman, Jennifer Kunka, Murray Hartzler, Lauren Stanton, Teresa Ramey, Glen Gourley, Jonathan Edwards, and Don Tarbell.

I am so proud of this team. It is a privilege to work with them daily and enjoy their friendship.

Please call me if you need anything.