Two weeks ago, we wrote to you about the financial challenges facing the University. Earlier this week, employees at the University of Rochester Medical Center were informed of plans to implement furloughs based on clinical demand. We know that these messages have created additional anxiety at a time when many of us are already feeling anxious. Our intention was not to cause anxiety, but to be transparent about the University’s current challenges and the ways in which we were prepared to address them.
It appears that Rochester and the surrounding region has, for now, avoided the surge of COVID-19 cases seen in New York City and other parts of the world. But the negative financial effects of the pandemic and the accompanying global economic downturn have created particular challenges for us. We may soon be able to begin a gradual ramp-up of our clinical operations in the Medical Center, but we estimate that it will take a substantial amount of time before we can return to full clinical activity and an even longer period of time – perhaps measured in years – to recover the income lost in the final quarter of FY20 due to the clinical preparations for, and management of, the COVID-19 crisis. In addition, we do not yet know whether social distancing rules and travel restrictions will be eased in time for us to accommodate a full cohort of students in the fall on our normal schedule.
As a result, we have made difficult decisions to ensure the overall stability of the institution. At this time, with regret, and after exhausting other alternatives, we are announcing a temporary furlough program for staff on the River Campus, at Eastman and the Memorial Art Gallery, and on the South Campus. The furlough period will begin as soon as May 10. We hope the furlough period will conclude by August 31, but our ability to predict its duration is limited because of the continued uncertain course of the disease and its financial impacts, as well as of the state and county mandates to reopen our economy more fully. As a result, the furlough period may be reduced or extended.
Deans, senior administrators, and other unit leaders have been asked to identify proposals this week for a reduction of 20 percent of overall salary costs over the course of the furlough period. Once those plans are approved by senior leadership, employees will be officially notified of their furlough status by their managers, followed by a letter from Human Resources, which will include information on how to pursue unemployment benefits. We anticipate this notification process will take place within the next two and a half weeks; we know that this may cause heightened anxiety for you in the coming days, and want to assure you that we will be working as quickly as possible to finalize our planning.
In addition to the disruption these furloughs may cause to individuals, we also know that these furloughs may profoundly disrupt normal operations. As a result, we want to leave the design of unit furlough programs to the discretion of unit and department managers, as outlined in Policy 354, as long as the cost reduction plans are met. For example, partial furloughs or rolling furloughs may make sense for departments that must sustain operations. Similarly, full furloughs may be appropriate for those employees who are currently at home due to social distancing and who cannot perform their jobs remotely. Many furloughed employees may be eligible for state and federal unemployment programs to alleviate lost income.
Information on furlough planning, as well as FAQs, can be found here:
In addition, the Layoff and Recall Policy (Policy 354), has been modified to reflect the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Once again, we regret that we must take this step. We would not do so if we did not feel that it is absolutely necessary to help the University fully recover from the financial effects of this pandemic. If you have questions, please be in touch with your manager or your Human Resources Business Partner. If they don’t have the answers immediately at hand, HR will work swiftly to provide the information or resources you are seeking.
We look forward to the time when we are all able to return to normal operations and to focus fully on delivering on our educational, research, and patient care missions. In the meantime, we will do everything we can to help the University recover from the financial challenges of this pandemic and get everyone back to work.
Sarah C. Mangelsdorf, President
Robert L. Clark, Provost
Holly G. Crawford, Senior Vice President and CFO