Memo to faculty and staff from Bill Bell, Vice President for Human Resources
One of the earliest actions the university took in response to the COVID-19 pandemic was to ensure that its faculty and staff were paid—and their benefits protected—through at least June 30. Almost immediately, the most frequent response to this announcement was: “What happens on July 1?” The concern about job security is understandable. As of the end of May:
- There are over 21 million unemployed workers in the U.S.;
- The unemployment rate nears 17 percent in the State of Indiana; and,
- Local business along with many colleges and universities have been forced to impose significant layoffs and furloughs, including Johns Hopkins, Stanford, University of Arizona and the University of Kentucky
Despite these concerning trends, Purdue has no plans to impose furloughs or mass layoffs for faculty or staff on the West Lafayette campus. Thanks to the efforts of all departments and units, we prepared a university budget, to be approved June 11 by the Board of Trustees, that avoids across-the-board reductions in force and fully funds tens of millions of dollars in new costs to safely resume campus operations.
While we cannot continue to provide blanket assurances to all staff going forward, we remain optimistic that the overwhelming majority of our workforce will remain secure, particularly if they can be flexible, creative and are willing to contribute in new and different ways. As has been stated many times, the single most important way to preserve jobs is to safely and successfully resume campus operations in the fall as outlined by the Protect Purdue Plan.
As our discovery and learning missions return to operations, the pandemic will of course bring changes to the ways in which we conduct our business. In addition to the “all hands on deck” efforts for our discovery and learning missions, the university has identified several areas where additional employees likely will be needed due to the pandemic, such as contact tracing (case management and data analysis), maintenance and custodial services, health services, instructional design, environmental safety, dining/catering for food takeout/delivery and IT support to accommodate greater remote work.
Our plan for filling these needs will begin with current staff who may be available in cases where the area workload has been slowed or paused or fewer jobs are needed. For instance, decisions to delay capital projects, restrict travel, dramatically reduce events on campus and shift to more digital forms of communication will result in the need for fewer jobs in certain areas. It is our goal that those who are impacted in this way can be reassigned to areas of highest need, permitting us to both retain employees and meet our workforce needs. I have charged my talent acquisition and dual career teams to assist in these efforts. The Purdue Together: Talent Share Program can be accessed here.
For most, July 1 will bring no significant employment change. Staff will continue to telework or work on campus as necessary for their positions; though the return of students and restart of research will bring more faculty and staff to campus for at least a part of the week. Area and unit leaders and managers will make decisions that are appropriate for their workforce needs, as they do every year, whether due to operational changes resulting from the pandemic or the regular and ongoing evolution of university operations. If necessary decisions result in the elimination of some jobs, the university will take the following measures to assist workers whose positions are eliminated and who cannot be reassigned to other work within the university:
- Extend healthcare benefits for a period of 180 days;
- Continue tuition remission benefits at Purdue University and Purdue Global for a full year; and
- Extend priority consideration for a period of one year for open positions if and when new employment opportunities within the university arise.
We ask that all staff remain flexible to changes affecting their current jobs, whether permanent or temporary, be open to new opportunities when they present themselves, and encourage all staff to work closely with their manager and human resources business partner to ensure clear communication around expectations, circumstances and needs.
It is our hope that the same diligence that has gone into the Protect Purdue Plan will result in the protection of most campus jobs.
Thank you all for your tireless efforts thus far and for all the work yet to come.
Vice President for Human Resources