Addressing the Challenges Ahead

March 30, 2020

Dear Brandeis Faculty and Staff,

Today, I am writing to update you on some of the steps the university is taking to mitigate the effects of two ongoing, interconnected crises – the public health crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the significant economic crisis that has emerged from it.

As I'm sure you know, we have already implemented an extensive, institution-wide response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the past two weeks, faculty members with staff support have rapidly adjusted to an all-online mode of teaching; staff members have facilitated and processed the move-out of more than 2,400 undergraduates; research labs have wound-down their activities to ensure the health and well-being of faculty, staff, and students; and all of us have acclimated to new modes of communication and day-to-day work.

While these changes have been dramatic and difficult, they have also been necessary – not only for the health and well-being of members of the Brandeis community, but also for the good of greater Boston, the nation, and the world. As public health experts have explained, it is incumbent upon all of us to take steps to help slow the spread of COVID-19 so that our health care system can tend to the most acute cases without getting overwhelmed.

I am confident that Brandeis' current policies and practices will allow us to do our part in slowing the spread of this virus in the coming weeks. And I am proud and grateful for the many ways that each of you has risen to the challenge of this crisis by supporting one another, showing compassion and ingenuity, and never losing sight of our mission.

With these policies firmly in place, my senior administrative team and I have now begun to evaluate and plan for the stark economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. At this early stage, it is difficult to know precisely how, to what degree, and for how long this economic downturn will affect colleges and universities across the U.S. But today, one thing is clear: a great deal of uncertainty lies ahead. My senior team and I are committed to addressing that uncertainty in a focused, principled, and transparent fashion.

While our public health responses to the COVID-19 pandemic are prudent, they are also costly. Students will soon receive adjustments for the balance of their room and board, which represents a significant loss of revenue for the university; we have already cancelled our summer study abroad programs and we expect low enrollments in other revenue-generating summertime initiatives, such as the pre-college programs; and, as the pandemic continues to affect visa processing centers around the world, like many colleges and universities, it is unclear whether we will be able to enroll and retain our international students.

Thankfully, we are entering this time of uncertainty from a position of financial strength. We have balanced our budget for the past four years, and the institution has enough resources to cover our expenses. Additionally, our endowment is positioned conservatively and can provide additional support to the university as we prepare for the challenges ahead.

Yet, just as we responded to COVID-19 at every level of the institution, we now must also take specific steps to respond to the emerging economic situation. We are taking the following measures to help prepare us for the financial unknown — all in a collective effort to preserve the long-term health of the university:

In a time when we are already faced with so much uncertainty and stress, I understand that these measures will likely cause anxiety and concern across our institution. Please know that we are taking these steps out of an abundance of caution so that we remain in a strong position for the significant challenges ahead.

I hope this message will initiate an ongoing conversation as we continue to respond to these evolving challenges. In this spirit, and in order to share with you more information on our financial situation, I invite you to join us for a virtual "Community Check-In." This event will be live-streamed at on Thursday, April 2, at 10 a.m. We welcome your thoughts, ideas, and questions. In order to make this session as productive as possible, and because this is a virtual event without the traditional way of asking questions, please submit any questions in advance using the form found here. If you are unable to attend, this event will be recorded and made available for review.

Thank you again for all that you have done during this period, and thank you for being a partner and committed member of the Brandeis community as we work together to build and sustain a stronger Brandeis.