Statement from President Skorton

Members of the Cornell community:

I write to update you on our handling of the current financial situation and to invite you to a series of public fora to discuss our way forward.

The recent meeting of the Cornell University Board of Trustees and subsequent meetings of university and collegiate leadership have focused on the effects of the current economic crisis on the university community. While we cannot be certain about the dimensions, depth and duration of the difficulty, we are confident Cornell is in a good position to adjust operations and budget to address a loss in revenue in the wake of the financial crisis, relying on the institutional expertise and commitment of faculty, staff, alumni, students and friends.

Cornell University will remain focused on the need to attract and retain the best and brightest students, faculty and staff. To this end, we will maintain our commitment to our students and their families by strengthening our financial aid programs; sustain competitive market-based faculty and staff pay programs; make critical and cost-effective capital and infrastructure investments; and support our land grant mission for the State of New York.

In addition to actions already begun in response to State budget cuts, we will also take careful, collegial and substantive actions within the contract and endowed colleges and the central administration to streamline operations and redirect resources to those programs that will contribute to Cornell's future success. While there will be no across the board cuts or layoffs, we will institute, effective November 3, 2008:

  • A hiring pause, through March 31, 2009, on non-professorial hiring from outside the university. The purpose of this pause is not to suspend all hiring. Rather, it is to reduce costs this academic year and to preserve employment opportunities for our high-performing employees who might be dislocated in the near term and, using attrition, to identify unoccupied positions that can be eliminated as the best way to minimize the need to lay off staff in the future.
  • A 90-day construction pause to re-calibrate the university's capital budget in order to align funding sources and uses more realistically. Hence, for the next 90 days:
    • Projects that do not have construction contracts will be put on hold.
    • Projects that are in design will be permitted to complete that phase of work they are in and then will be put on hold.
    • Projects where no design contract has been let will be held for review and prioritization.
    • All physical infrastructure projects that have not been initiated will be put on hold.
    • All information technology capital investment projects that have not been initiated will be put on hold.
    • Local transportation and housing projects that have not been initiated will be put on hold.
  • A rigorous 45-day university-wide review of operational effectiveness, financial policies and procedures to identify specific actions to contain costs, streamline operations and protect the institution from unintended financial exposure, while optimizing the use of university resources, to be incorporated in next academic year's budget.

The university will host public fora in the weeks ahead to discuss evolving plans and solicit ideas. To begin this effort, we have set up a "suggestion box," at CUinfo for students, faculty, staff and alumni to submit recommendations. We will also provide regular progress reports about plans and changes. The first forum, open to the entire community, will be on Wednesday, November 5 at noon in Bailey Hall; the second will take place on Thursday, November 6 at 4 P.M. in the Statler Auditorium.