EVP Cullinan: letter to faculty and staff

Author: Andy Fuller

Note: Dated communications are archived here for reference, but may not reflect the most up-to-date information available.

Dear Members of the Notre Dame Community,

This past month has been as unsettling and challenging as any time in our lives. Thankfully, I have also witnessed many moments of grace and generosity, affording me numerous opportunities to reflect on what it means to be part of the Notre Dame community. I am inspired by the selfless service and compassion I have seen in action at every level, confirming that we can accomplish more than we thought possible when we come together. Thank you for your efforts and for so beautifully embodying the spirit of Notre Dame.

Last week, I wrote to you about some of the financial challenges the University is facing given the economic disruption caused by the novel coronavirus. Some leading economists are now predicting a 25% decline in gross domestic product in the second quarter and a national unemployment rate of 13%. The federal government passed a $2.2 trillion emergency aid package this past Friday, which is the single largest relief effort in U.S. history.

My purpose in writing today is to give you a better sense of how the downturn is impacting Notre Dame and to share with you some additional steps we are now taking in response.

It is important to consider a number of factors in assessing the University’s financial position. The closing of our campus has decreased the University’s revenue streams, including the return of $20M in undergraduate room and board for the spring semester, and the loss of auxiliary revenue from our various campus retail outlets. In addition, we anticipate a dramatic increase in the need for student financial aid as families feel the strain of the economic crisis, and a decrease in benefaction from our very generous alumni, parents and friends. Finally, a decline in the endowment, our largest revenue source, will also impact our overall financial outlook. 

All of this is made more difficult given uncertainty around the duration and trajectory of the pandemic. Therefore, it is necessary and prudent to take additional steps, beyond the staff hiring freeze already announced, to respond to the disruption in the economy by further curbing expenses and controlling spending.

  • In consultation with University leadership and with the approval of our President, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., there will be no faculty or staff merit increases for the upcoming fiscal year starting July 1 and no increases to existing salaries related to promotions until further notice. Through our regular performance review process, we will still ask employees to assess their progress toward their specified annual goals, and supervisors will, in turn, offer their feedback. I encourage you to visit the HR website for additional details about performance reviews for this year, including the deadlines for completion.
  • Several University facility projects, including new facilities, renovations and infrastructure improvements, will be postponed. Some other projects, especially those nearing completion this summer, will continue.
  • As previously announced, all non-essential expenses should be eliminated (e.g. new engagements with consultants, University travel, whether now or booked for the near future, conference attendance that is not essential, replacing computers or other technology, etc.). Our key priorities are to provide the financial aid necessary for our students, to attend to the care and welfare of our workforce and to continue the University’s central work of teaching and research.

There is no question we are facing a serious financial crisis, but let me once again underscore that we are committed to doing all we can to support the members of this community. We are closely monitoring the economic impact of the pandemic, and we will continue to provide timely updates in the weeks ahead.

The challenges we face may be unprecedented in our lifetimes, but certainly not in the long history of the University. The fighting spirit of Notre Dame has always persevered, and together we will do the same. I pray that God continues to watch over you and all those you love.

Yours in Notre Dame,