Dear Members of the University of Bridgeport Community,
On campus today, we continued our preparations for campus closure in response to the additional information we have received regarding how the coronavirus is transmitted. Trending on social media at the present is an illustrative 2006 episode of Scrubs.
The coronavirus is an infectious disease that is quickly and easily spread by anyone. Age does not matter. Our best tool to combat the spread of infection is to practice a new default as an institution—namely, having as few people on campus as possible. With the health of the community at the forefront of institutional decision-making, faculty and staff who need to pick up materials from their offices are welcome to do so as quickly as possible. However, after 3 p.m. on Friday, March 20, anyone who must enter a building should contact Campus Security at 203-576-4913. More information regarding protocol will be forthcoming from Rob Schmidt, chief operating officer for administration and facilities.
Over the past week, I have been in daily contact with the Connecticut Council of Independent Colleges & Universities, our state lobbying consortium, sharing the actions we have undertaken on the UB campus. This afternoon, I spoke with Paul Mounds, Governor Lamont’s chief of staff, as well as Congressman Jim Himes. I informed them about the decisions UB has made, and they both were helpful—directing me to potential sources of state and federal support. I expect that I will be speaking with both of them frequently to keep them up-to-date. Tomorrow, I will participate in a call with the governor and the Department of Economic and Community Development to learn how the state is responding to the economic dimensions of this crisis.
As I have shared in previous letters to the community and during our most recent faculty and staff meetings, the Board of Trustees and administration have worked carefully over the past 20 months to reduce the institution’s deficit as quickly as possible. Our goal is to eliminate the deficit by the end of the 2020-21 academic year, or June 30, 2021. To achieve this, we have acted upon numerous alternatives to mitigate the fiscal situation, including dramatic reductions in spending and travel, as well as renegotiating vendor contracts. In view of our budget situation and now the pandemic, we must pursue the option that we tried desperately to avoid: a reduction in force. We took this last step reluctantly and only after considering every other option. These changes include lay-offs and furloughs. This is painful, unwelcome, and, unfortunately, necessary in order for UB to continue.
In addition to UB, every institution, government, and country are facing enormous challenges. To quote Winston Churchill, we are living in the midst of “a measureless and perpetual uncertainly.” These are frightening and trying times. To address the challenges facing the institution, with the support of the Faculty Executive Committee, I have convened a task force composed of students, staff, administrators, faculty, alumni, and trustees. The task force will work in partnership with the senior leadership group and the Board of Trustees to share information and discuss plans as we navigate through the next few months. Thank you to the following individuals for their involvement:
Myranda Burkit ’21, student
Kevin Cano ’21, student
Elena Cahill, director of the Trefz School of Business; College of Engineering, Business, and Education
Maria Gherasimova, PhD, associate professor of Physics & Chair of the Department of Physics; College of Arts and Sciences
Terence Perrault, professor of Clinical Sciences, School of Chiropractic, College of Health Sciences
James Lehman, DC, director, Community Health Clinical Education, College of Health Sciences
Linda Paslov, EdD, interim director & coordinator of the dual enrollment program, School of Education; College of Engineering, Business, and Education
Bob Berchem, chair of the UB Board of Trustees
Art Landi ’74, trustee
Barbara James ’74, ’77, alumna and trustee
Gordon Stier ’77, alumnus
Despite this difficult news, I wanted to provide an update regarding admissions. We have 3,404 domestic freshman admits, on pace with last year. Deposits are ahead of the previous two years. We have a record of 400 students registered for Accepted Students Day on March 29, which will now be delivered in an online format. The Office of Admissions has my gratitude as it continues to be focused and proactive in connecting with prospective and admitted students in its ongoing effort to achieve enrollment targets for fall 2020.
Registration for summer courses will begin on March 29. In the weeks ahead, we will determine if it is safe to have classes on campus this summer, or if they will be online. This summer, there are a number of interesting courses being offered on topics that include the history of jazz, perspectives of happiness, and more. In total, UB will offer more than 200 courses during two summer sessions, with the first session beginning on May 4. We are also launching a fully online Master of Public Health degree, taught by real-world practitioner and experts, with six start dates and seven-week terms. The first start date is May 11 and students are enrolling. The summer course catalogue is being finalized, and once it is available, we will share the link with you.
Until tomorrow, please stay home and stay safe.
Laura Skandera Trombley