July 9, 2020
Dear Knox Community,
As promised, I am writing with a biweekly update on our reopening plans and other College matters. As you recall, the College formed four Reopening Fall 2020 Advisory Groups to create detailed plans for this fall and outline the steps that we must take between now and then. The four groups are:
Each of these groups is meeting regularly to address questions and make crucial recommendations regarding the reopening. All the groups continue to review on a real-time basis the latest guidance from the CDC, other public health entities such as the American College Health Association, and the state of Illinois. They are also collaborating with campus constituents as they work their way through the many decisions necessary to help safeguard our campus community. In my communications over the coming weeks, I will provide an update on the work underway in each group. In addition, we will shortly share the web address for a new COVID-19 webpage in which you can find gathered together all the decisions flowing from the four groups. If you have thoughts, concerns, or questions about the reopening, please send them to email@example.com.
Student and Employee Wellness Advisory Group (Co-chairs: Anne Ehrlich, Vice President for Student Development, and Abby Putnam, Director of Health Services)
Educational Delivery Group (Co-chairs: Executive Committee co-chairs: Mike Schneider, Provost and Dean of the College, and Jonathan Powers, Economics and Executive Committee)
Facilities Advisory Group (Co-chairs: Paul Eisenmenger, Vice President for Finance, and Debbie Steinberg, Director of Sustainability Initiatives)
Finance and Legal Considerations Advisory Group (Co-chairs: Paul Eisenmenger, Vice President for Finance, and Teresa Amott, President)
International Students / ICE Regulation. I’m sure that many of you heard earlier in the week that the Department of Homeland Security announced plans for a regulation that will place severe restrictions on international students studying in the U.S. According to the current information, international students enrolled in online classes only for the fall will have to change their schedules to include either hybrid or face-to-face classes or leave the country. If enacted, this short-sighted and cruel ruling places both students and institutions in an untenable situation and has caused much anxiety among our international student community. As you know, at Knox we have committed to offering in-person classes in the fall, so rest assured that our international students who are on campus should not experience any adverse consequences as long as they are enrolled in at least one in-person course, and we will work with them to help ensure that. International students who are overseas and unable to enroll in person will still be able to enroll at Knox through online classes. I have already been in touch with our Senators and Representatives urging them to take action against this proposed regulation, and I promise you that we will do everything we can to protect Knox students. We are hoping that the lawsuit just filed by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) will produce a permanent injunction against finalization of the regulation. I will keep you posted
Homecoming. We recently sent an email to our alumni, letting them know that we made the difficult decision to move our 100th Homecoming celebration online for 2020. We reluctantly made this decision to protect the health of our family: students, faculty, staff, and alumni. We will develop online activities for this year’s Homecoming. We want to be sure that our Reunion classes have the opportunity to connect with each other face-to-face, so we’re inviting them to return in the fall of 2021 to celebrate their Reunions along with the 2021 Reunion classes. If you have any ideas, feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org to share your ideas for a virtual Homecoming with our alumni engagement team.
Advancement. On June 15, Knox was announced as a recipient of a CARES Act economic stabilization grant in the amount of $126,399 from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The grant will help fund the salaries of three of our full-time librarians and one part-time archive assistant to support undergraduate humanities instruction and research. The NEH awarded 317 grants out of 2300 applications. We also received a grant from the Ellen Browning Scripps Foundation for $30,000 to purchase a portable photosynthesis system for the biology department. Students in Stuart Allison’s courses will use this equipment to measure photosynthetic rates on a wide variety of plants.
The Knox community responded to Knox’s appeal for support during the pandemic, resulting in the largest Knox Fund total for the College that we’re aware of, at $5,971,742 against a goal of $3,657,000. Over $225,000 was raised for the COVID-19 Relief Fund in support of the College, students and employees, in particular international and DACA students who are not eligible for federal government COVID assistance. Donor participation among Knox graduates increased by 2% to 28% and I am especially thankful to our faculty and staff whose giving participation increased 5% to 45%.
Admission. We have received enrollment deposits from 333 new students for the fall, including 303 first year and 30 transfer students. This includes 30 international students and 119 recruited athletes. We normally see some melt over the summer--students who submit deposits but later withdraw them. Given all that's happening in the world, we had expected to see significant summer melt, but so far just 10 students have withdrawn their deposits. We are still receiving new applications for the fall from students who are reconsidering their college plans, and we will continue to make additional offers of admission to offset some of the summer melt.
FY20 and FY21 Budgets. The current operating budget deficit projection for FY20 is $5.3 million, but we continue to complete our year-end accounting, and we are hopeful that there may be additional savings that will be documented. While the Board had approved a deficit of $4.5 million last fall, COVID-related revenue losses in the spring were substantial. I am very proud of the campus response to the deficit, which included increasing fundraising and making difficult choices to reduce spending. Clearly, those efforts have paid off in the form of a FY20 deficit that is much lower than we feared last spring. The Board will take action on the FY21 budget in a special August meeting and I will update you on their action at that time.
The past four months have been difficult, and I know that many of you are concerned about the reopening of the College. I can certainly attest that I find the uncertainty of this time stressful. In the absence of a functional crystal ball, we are planning for contingencies so that we can keep our campus community as safe as possible. As you can see from this update, the advisory groups are working hard so that all of us can resume our life as a College community in “the new normal.” I will continue to keep you informed and updated, and of course, feel free to email me with any questions or concerns.
Take care of yourselves and others,