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Our University in a Global Economic Crisis

The global economic crisis has now reached historic proportions not seen in this country since the banking holiday of 1933. It is understandable that many in our University community may be anxious about how this crisis may affect their lives and their futures here.

I have spent my academic career studying financial markets and financial regulation and know that it is unrealistic to make promises about the national economy when so much is uncertain. However, I can state that this country has pulled through worse crises before, such as the stock market crash of 1929–1933, and yet, above all else, we learned then that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

I can also state that history teaches the importance of avoiding making irrevocable decisions in times of economic panic. When the economy stabilizes, we will have time to address the ultimate implications of this crisis for our University. My senior leadership team, working with our Board, is monitoring each potential significant risk to the University. To date, we have not seen evidence of economic consequences for the University anywhere near as serious as we have seen in many business institutions. For example, we face no liquidity or cash flow shortages.

This is not surprising. Great universities such as the University of Rochester are among the most stable and long lived institutions in our culture.

Next week the University Board will meet in Rochester and I will ask them to approve the strategic plans of the academic divisions and the Medical Center. I will do so repeating what I have said before. Our strategic plans articulate our long-term goals. Our pace of implementation may be influenced by economic events. In the coming months, our efforts will include work on next year’s budgets and future facilities projects.

Now is the time for careful review. I am confident we will get through this and look forward to working with all throughout the University and our Board to address the implications of this crisis without panic, without fear, but with the realism that serious economic events require. Most of all, let me commit to communicating to all in our University as we move forward together.