A Message From the President
I am writing to let you know that the College has reached an agreement with our largest union on a set of measures that will significantly help us through the financial crisis caused by COVID-19. The agreement with Service Employees International Union (SEIU) calls for the college’s 254 maintenance, custodial, grounds, and dining employees to be furloughed for an average of 3 days per week starting May 18 and continuing through July 31 or later—a time when most students are not on campus and classes are not in session. The union also agreed to delay annual wage increases until June 30, 2021.
Furloughed employees are eligible for unemployment benefits, but sometimes there is a delay in the state payment of these benefits. To help people through that delay, the College will make an interest-free loan available to furloughed employees. Repayment of such loans would take place over pay periods upon returning back to work.
I am deeply grateful to the Local 200 of the SEIU for taking the lead on developing this agreement, and furlough time taken now will count toward any measures that individuals might be required to take later in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2021.
Additionally, I am writing to let you know that we are giving administrators an early option to be furloughed between now and July 31, 2020, with approval of their supervisors and the appropriate senior officer. The operational needs of departments may mean that employees in a given role will not be furloughed at this time. If you are an administrator and want to understand how this applies to your role, please contact your supervisor to discuss if and how an early furlough may be an option for you.
While it is difficult to consider being furloughed, we wanted employees and supervisors to have the flexibility to make the best decisions possible for their individual and departmental needs. For many offices, a furlough in the spring and summer when we have few students on campus (particularly as summer programs are online or canceled) may make the most sense.
Furlough time by administrators taken now through the summer will be counted toward any measures that individuals might be required to take later in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2021. As with the SEIU members, furloughed administrators are eligible for unemployment benefits, and sometimes there is a delay in the state payment of these benefits. To help people through that delay, the College will make an interest-free loan available to furloughed employees. Repayment of such loans would take place over pay periods upon returning back to work.
As I have mentioned in recent communications, we are still facing uncertainty about factors that will substantially affect our finances: student enrollment, the scope of financial aid needs of our students, and the effect of the economic downturn on our endowment. We do not expect to have a full picture of those factors until later this summer. We will therefore not know until that time whether additional furloughs and/or pay cuts will be necessary. Again, whatever time an employee is furloughed now will be counted toward any measures that individual employees might need to take later in fiscal year 2020-2021. Our hope is that furloughs taken at this time will enable the College to take less drastic measures to recover from the deficits related to COVID-19.
I want to personally thank the SEIU and the entire Vassar community for helping the College through this very rough time. Many employees have been on the front lines addressing the needs of the College since this crisis began. I am sincerely appreciative of the steps they have taken to help us address the financial uncertainty we face as we navigate the impact of the pandemic on our students, faculty, administrators, and staff.
Thank you everyone for your ongoing support and understanding. Although we cannot say when, I have deep faith that we will get through this, and get through this together.
Elizabeth H. Bradley, President
Poughkeepsie, NY 12604