Penn State will not lay off employees at least through the end of April, although faculty and staff won’t get pay increases this year, university leaders said during a town hall Tuesday.
The university is also planning for the possibility of continuing remote learning through summer semester, as COVID-19’s reach across Pennsylvania and the country grows.
Penn State President Eric Barron said the goal of committing to pay the salary and benefits of employees is for them to “not to have abrupt financial dislocation.”
“By deferring any decision until the end of April, that gives us a chance to be strategic, to think carefully through how the pandemic is evolving and what we can do best to mitigate the impacts on the university, our employees and our communities,” Barron said.
He said this is coming even in the face of “mounting financial losses associated with parts of our university that are not currently operational.”
In a news release, Barron said the university will wait until mid-April to decide on furloughs or layoffs that would happen after April 30.
Penn State ended in-person classes earlier this month, switching entirely to remote learning. It also essentially shut down its campuses, ending virtually all on-campus housing and dining services as part of social distancing efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Gov. Tom Wolf declared an emergency, and has closed K-12 schools until at least April 6 and issued a stay-at-home order for eight counties. As of Tuesday, there were 851 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania.
Penn State held the online town hall meeting for faculty and staff Tuesday morning. Another one is scheduled Tuesday afternoon for students and families. It can be livestreamed here.
Provost Nick Jones said during the faculty-staff session there will be no GSIs — general salary increases or pay raises — this year. And, the university is asking departments to hold off on filling new or open faculty or staff positions unless they’re critical.
The possibility that remote learning could continue through summer semester also seems to be growing. Jones said the university is “hoping for the best, planning for the worst.”
“In all likelihood, our ability to really have an unimpacted summer is severely in question at this point,” Jones said. “I think the plan Bs, which are a continuation of remote experiences, are likely more to be the reality.”
Barron and Jones took questions on other topics, including faculty and student evaluations.
Jones said the university will not use the evaluations faculty get from students — Student Ratings of Teaching Effectiveness — this semester as part of evaluations. Instead, the SRTEs will go to faculty only, rather than to department heads or deans as well.
Some faculty and students have also been pushing for the university to allow faculty to give students satisfactory/unsatisfactory rather than grades this semester. Jones said a committee has been working on that, and the administration expects to have a recommendation before the end of the day.