Updated April 28, 2020, 4:20 p.m.
Layoffs and furloughs
Are there plans for layoffs or furloughs? And how will these decisions be made and communicated?
Layoffs and furloughs are unfortunate options that we must keep open. As our major sources of revenue remain uncertain, we have already sustained significant losses and funding cuts. Decisions about layoffs and furloughs will be made by working carefully with leadership across all levels and by ensuring MU continues to fulfill its core functions of student success, research, engagement and inclusion. Decisions will be communicated directly and with the utmost respect for the individuals who are impacted, as well as through communication with staff and faculty leadership, and broader community communications when appropriate.
Will the university favor salary reductions that target the highest-paid employees compared to those on the lower end of the scale?
The UM System president and interim MU chancellor, all chancellors in the UM System, their cabinet members and deans are taking a voluntary salary reduction of 10% from May 1 until at least July 31, 2020. Other senior leaders and administrators across the UM System, including those in Mizzou Athletics and MU Health Care, have also agreed to participate in this voluntary salary reduction. The cost-cutting actions enacted last month, including the elimination of merit increases and reclassifications as well as severe restrictions on spending and hiring, will continue.
The university remains on a 60- to 90-day planning timeline for its evolving financial decisions and will revisit the FY21 budget beginning in July to adjust plans dependent upon the circumstances.
What is the timeline for making decisions regarding staffing reductions, furloughs and other financial cuts that will affect the university?
Initial budget decisions including potential layoffs, furloughs and consolidations will be made in the coming weeks, with additional decisions made and communicated as the months progress. When the new fiscal year starts in July, leaders will be tasked with reevaluating budget decisions based on a multitude of factors including federal and state support, stimulus funding, enrollment numbers and more. As there continue to be many unknowns to our budget, we will revisit these decisions periodically to see if any further adjustments need to be made.
Is it possible for everyone to take a 5%-10% pay cut in order to avoid layoffs?
The university is still early in the process of understanding the full ramifications of the economic downturn. All UM System chancellors, cabinet members and deans are currently taking a voluntarily salary reduction of 10%. Other senior leaders are participating in this voluntary cut as well. After many inquiries from our dedicated employees about broadening this program to greater numbers of staff and faculty members, we are developing a process for others to volunteer for pay reductions with a variety of percentage options. While we appreciate the generosity of all who volunteer, we also want to be transparent that these measures will not likely eliminate the larger need for further cuts to payroll. Those who volunteer or who have already volunteered may still be subject to furloughs, layoffs, salary reductions or other actions.
If we are borrowing millions of dollars for the NextGen Precision Health Initiative, why can’t we borrow a small amount of money to prevent layoffs or furloughs?
The financial problems the university is seeing are based on potential significant reductions in state support, health care revenues, potential enrollment declines in the fall and how the market is doing in terms of the university’s investment outcomes. With all these together, university leaders expect a significant drop in revenue for the short and long term, which requires structural change in our on-going expenses. The NextGen Initiative is an investment in a project that capitalizes on the university’s research strengths and connects them with industry to encourage more discoveries that will not only improve the health of Missourians, but will provide economic returns for the university and for our state.
Would MU consider a staff buyout for those who are close to retirement?
Buyouts are not being considered at this time.
Working on campus
Can you briefly describe the criteria that will be used to decide when employees can resume working on campus instead of remotely?
Public health experts will advise the university on when it is safe to return to campus. Employees will likely return in stages and not all at the same time. The university’s emergency preparedness team is considering who will be brought back first, what steps that will require and what policies should be implemented to keep everyone safe.
Considering the number of faculty and staff now working remotely, is any consideration being given to allowing this practice into the future?
No decision has been made. But the current situation does provide an opportunity to reconsider teleworking policies and to determine whether those arrangements can help with space-utilization initiatives.
Will employees who have exhausted vacation and personal days be allowed to use accrued sick leave until they return to work on campus?
HR-700 outlines under what circumstances employees can take leave during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Individual answers will depend on each unique situation. For more information, please visit the HR-700 Enhanced HR Policies for Employees in Response to COVID-19 page.
Due to the financial constraints facing the university, are changes to employee retirement contributions or employee health insurance being considered?
At this time, there are no specific changes as it relates to retirement contributions or employee health insurance. The university is constantly evaluating benefit offerings and what is spent on those benefits. The Total Rewards Advisory Committee — which includes faculty, staff and retirees from all four campuses and MU Health Care — meets routinely to help determine how the university can manage costs and ensure the benefits offered are sustainable.
Will there be any cuts to employee benefits like tuition assistance?
There are no discussions about reducing those benefits at this time.
However, one area that will be discontinued is the employee wellness program. After a careful review, it was determined that this program was not achieving the goal of reducing health care costs at the university. Those employees who did achieve the required points for phase I in 2020 will receive $225 in their May paycheck. However, the program will be discontinued following that distribution.
Can faculty and staff contribute their vacation time and other resources to help impacted employees?
There is not a specific program in place for employees impacted by COVID-19. The shared leave program is still available for people to donate and apply to receive accrued vacation. Donating leave to this program will have tax implications. For more information about donating and using shared leave, please visit the Shared Leave Program page.
How might the economic downturn impact the pension plan and the health benefits plan for retirees of the university?
The pension plan is a long-term commitment of this institution, and it will be maintained as necessary. The cost-of-benefit programs is one of many factors the university considers in its long-term resource management strategy. Any strategic decisions regarding benefits would be communicated in a thoughtful and open way.
If my child has a job with MU but is unable to work now due to reduced operations, is she eligible to apply for unemployment?
To determine eligibility for unemployment, contact your state unemployment office. In Missouri, you can visit the Missouri Department of Labor website.
The university is encouraging supervisors to provide telework options to student employees who are able to perform their jobs remotely. Supervisors can also offer students alternate opportunities for work in other departments. The MU Career Center is actively connecting students with employers on and off campus to identify immediate employment needs. Positions will be posted on HireMizzouTigers.com.
Will there be any universal extensions to the tenure clock for all non-tenured tenure-track faculty, or is a tenure extension still considered on a case-by-case basis?
Faculty members must ask for any extensions to the tenure clock. These extensions will be granted given the circumstances instead of a blanket policy for all faculty members. The decision to pursue an extension is being left to each individual.
For more information, please visit the Promotion and Tenure page.
Will RIF and Grant and Contract Incentive (GCI) faculty raises and promotions be honored?
Faculty members who were being promoted will get those increases, as well as faculty members who have been promised lift payments. The university committed to a number of faculty members that grant and contract incentives payments would continue, and there were raises associated with ending that program. This decision was recommended by a group of faculty members to the provost and the chancellor.
How long until the university is hiring employees and supporting Columbia companies as it was before?
The university remains committed to supporting Columbia in every way possible. The situation is rapidly evolving, and it will take time to understand the impact on total university revenues. MU will carefully assess available resources – now and in the future. Long-term changes to hiring and purchasing decisions may be required.
While the university has significantly restricted hiring at this time, positions deemed essential to the mission of the university with the current circumstances are being approved to continue with the hiring process.