April 28, 2020
While the spring semester is ending in ways none of us imagined, I am proud of the resiliency and resolve I have seen in my first weeks as president.
Despite the incredible challenges from COVID-19, you have acted boldly to best serve our students and help our community through building a community of scholarship entirely online, making masks for our heroes and helpers, partnering with Central Florida’s front-line responders to battle the virus and in many other innovative ways.
There is no doubt the past several weeks have been difficult. The pandemic has had devastating effects on universities and communities across the world. While we do not yet know its full impact in Florida or on UCF, the information and data we will learn during the next month will be critical to our decision-making.
Our leadership team is planning for a variety of scenarios for possible impacts to our operations and how and when we could reopen the campus, including what it means for our teaching, research, clinical, student support, athletics and other activities.
These decisions will be made consistent with federal and state guidance with our UCF family’s health and safety top of mind and in coordination with the colleges and administrative units, the UCF Board of Trustees and the Florida Board of Governors.
For now, we are operating under the assumption that face-to-face classes would resume this fall, with social distancing and other protective measures that prioritize the safety and well-being of our students, faculty, staff and campus visitors.
This means we likely will need to think differently about how our learning, research and work environments look and function going forward. We also are planning for other scenarios that involve a later start for face-to-face classes. I expect we will decide on the fall semester in June, and we will share that update with you.
Better Ways of Working Together
The pandemic has also made clear a responsibility for us to find more efficiencies in areas across the university so that we can emerge from these challenges a stronger institution. While our leadership team is closely looking at improvements we can make to the ways we work, it is up to all of us to consider how we can operate more effectively in support of our students and academic mission, especially in the face of financial uncertainties created by COVID-19.
Thanks to the federal CARES Act, UCF has received $51 million to support university operations and students impacted by COVID-19. This is the largest allocation to any Florida university and the fourth-largest in the nation, as the legislation prioritized schools serving the most Pell-eligible students.
Half of those funds will go directly to support our students with the greatest need in the form of emergency aid. The other half will help to offset some of the financial losses we are projecting through the summer. Other actions, like hiring, travel and purchasing freezes we instituted earlier this month, should save us $13 million through this fiscal year.
Together, these efforts will help us offset the financial strains of COVID-19, but we will continue to look for other efficiencies and understand the potential that ongoing financial impacts could require difficult decisions. I do not believe we can simply cut our way to excellence. We must continue to strategically invest in the human capital, initiatives and programs that will make UCF exceptional.
Our success is because of our talented people and a culture of innovation and grit that believes anything is possible — as shown by each of this semester’s graduating students.
This week, I hope you will join me in celebrating these graduates’ achievements during Saturday’s virtual commencement ceremonies, while also reflecting on everything you and our students have accomplished in this extraordinary time.
All the best,
Alexander N. Cartwright