Office of the President

Campus Update from President Coley

July 16, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

I’m writing with an update on two matters of critical importance to our university — our ongoing preparations for the fall semester and the state budget.

Governor Newsom indicated that California’s response to the pandemic and reopening plans would be “like a dimmer switch,” and indeed, this week we have seen a reinstatement of business closures and a decision by K-12 school districts in Los Angeles and San Diego to only hold fully virtual instruction in the fall. The surge in virus cases and deaths in our region is extremely troubling, with profound impacts on all of us, our families and loved ones, our students and their families, and on our communities. I understand the stress and anxiety that this ongoing environment has on our campus community. I share your pain and grieve with you on how the pandemic is impacting our homes and communities. In spite of these intense challenges, you continue to persevere, and I again express my deepest gratitude for your ongoing efforts during what continues to be a truly extraordinary time in all our lives.

Preparing for Fall 2020

We continue to place highest priority on the health and safety of our campus community and student success. These two goals provide the foundation for our preparations for fall 2020.

As part of a campus-wide effort, I take this opportunity to recognize the teams in the Center for the Advancement of Faculty Excellence (CAFE) and Employee and Organizational Development and Advancement (EODA) for developing and managing an array of training opportunities and other resources. With their leadership and expertise in this endeavor, combined with the profound dedication of our faculty and staff, more than 1,300 faculty are participating in our Course Redesign for an Online Inclusive Polytechnic Education. Likewise, our Campus Conversation on Virtual Instruction and the Staff Forum on the Nature of Work reflected and illuminated the experience of faculty, staff, and students in our transition to virtual instruction. We continue to build on the insights garnered in these discussions and through feedback to Provost Alva’s team in Academic Affairs and the Academic Senate.

I am pleased to report that our formal Campus Plan for instruction, housing, and dining for the fall, outlining the very limited in-person activities that will take place, was accepted by the CSU Chancellor’s Office. These formal plans were developed in accordance with county and state public health orders, as well as protocols for higher education institutions and office-based work sites outlined in Reopening Safer at Work and the Community for Control of COVID-19 Order. And as developing our plan for the fall semester is a massive undertaking, I’m grateful to Provost Alva and the deans of our colleges for their leadership and effort in building our plan and thank the myriad partners across campus who are actively engaged in this process, including close consultations with Academic Senate, the California Faculty Association, and Associated Students, Inc.

Our plans were, for a time, stymied after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced a new and misguided policy related to international students. The Trump administration has rightly reversed itself on this policy after outcry from across higher education, including a lawsuit by the California Attorney General that was joined by the CSU. You can expect additional information about our formal plan for fall to come from Provost Alva and VP for Student Affairs Christina Gonzales in the coming days.

It is absolutely critical that Cal Poly Pomona continues to pave a wide path to a college degree. For any student, but particularly for first-generation and underrepresented students, any break or delay along their educational journey too easily becomes permanent. This is especially the case now where the coronavirus pandemic is accentuating the equity gaps that plague higher education in the U.S. This reality makes our collective efforts to prepare for fall even more meaningful and your contributions even more consequential.

State Budget

On June 29, Governor Gavin Newsom signed the 2020-21 budget. The crux of the current budget situation is that due to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the Governor’s Office estimates a state budget deficit of $54.3 billion. The governor’s original budget proposal, presented long before the coronavirus pandemic took hold, had actually included a base increase of $199 million to the CSU budget. This was welcome progress after nearly a decade of recovering from the budget cuts of the “Great Recession.”

As you may already know, the final budget does not include the $199 million increase but instead reduces funding to the CSU by $299 million. This move represents a significant disinvestment in higher education in California. These cuts could be mitigated if the federal government moves to provide additional funding to support states and locales, but that remains uncertain. Additionally, lawmakers included in the budget some flexibility around accessing institutional reserve funds, including those that we have set aside to address deferred maintenance. We are conducting a close review of our reserves and modeling which, if any, may be used to address campus needs. That said, not fully populating the campus has allowed the opportunity to address a significant backlog of deferred maintenance using these reserves to address a range of persistent facilities issues, including elevators and other outdated building systems in dire need of updates and modernization. 

We will know more about the impact of this budget on our campus over the coming weeks and months, but initial projections show that we are looking at a decrease of $17.16 million to the Cal Poly Pomona base operating budget this fiscal year, with an additional $3.2 million in unfunded benefits (a total of $20.36 million) as well as the certainty of additional deeper cuts in 2021-22 and 2022-23. While enrollment continues to look strong, we know that the pandemic will persist in having an impact on our projections. This reality requires that we consider a range of efficiencies and spending discipline to maintain our quality of education and scholarship. Already, the decrease in revenue since our move to remote instruction and work in March has resulted in layoffs, furloughs, and compensation reductions within the CPP Foundation and Associated Students, Inc. Additionally, the unions representing stateside faculty and staff have been formally notified by the Office of the Chancellor of potential layoffs. We will, of course, engage the Academic Senate and our campus-based unions as these discussions unfold and I will update the campus accordingly.

Many of us went through the budget challenges of the Great Recession, and I understand the intense trepidation such situations create. We are preparing for a number of budget reduction scenarios for this year and have been taking active steps to control spending appropriately since the beginning of the pandemic. As we move forward, we are committed to best budgeting practices that prioritize our fundamental mission as a public university, feature transparency and accountability, and invest in the long-term viability of Cal Poly Pomona. Again, I will continue to update our campus community as this situation develops and as more details from the Chancellor’s Office are available.

Caring for our Campus Community

I close this message with an entreaty for our campus community. Using the term “unprecedented” almost seems cliché at this point, but the truth is that we are living through a truly unique time. For many among our community, it has been exceedingly difficult. Indeed, our campus has not been immune to the tragedy and heartbreak that so defines this pandemic and which also spotlights the sharp inequities in our society. In addition to the pandemic, we are also engaged in a national, and even global, reckoning on inequality and systemic racism. As part of an institution committed to expanding knowledge and opportunity, it is a bittersweet dichotomy for us that these times should see both great challenges and opportunities. It is a time for deep reflection on our individual and collective role and actions that can contribute to addressing these longstanding issues.

In light of the current circumstances, I ask that we please take care of one another. We can each be more patient and more kind. Please reach out to those you think might be struggling. Take time for self-care. Campus resources are available for those in need of counseling or other support, and I strongly encourage you take advantage of them if you need help. We are on a difficult road, but we will prevail together!

As always, I thank you for playing your part to make Cal Poly Pomona the standard for an inclusive and diverse polytechnic university. Without a doubt, these are challenging and uncertain times. I am strengthened by your resolve and hope you are uplifted by our shared vision as a campus community.