The university’s Board of Trustees gathered virtually in mid-May for the last regular meeting of the academic year. The meetings of the full Board and its committees focused on the COVID-19 pandemic—its impact on Tufts, higher education, and our local communities, and the university’s response. The meetings opened with a comprehensive overview of Tufts’ response to the pandemic by the President, who also discussed the planning efforts already underway to help position Tufts to thrive in the “new normal” for higher education in the wake of the pandemic.
The Board’s committees addressed specific ways in which Tufts is affected by, and addressing, this unprecedented public health crisis. Provost Aubry shared with the Academic Affairs Committee a report on academic continuity, highlighting the positive results of the transition to remote instruction in the spring, and discussed the enrollment outlook for the fall semester in academic programs across the university. Continuing its focus on mental health and wellness, the Student Affairs Subcommittee discussed how services have been modified to respond to the COVID-19 crisis.
COVID-19 has challenged all the university’s major revenue streams, and in April the university had announced initial actions to mitigate its financial impact. In May, the Administration and Finance Committee reviewed projected operating results for FY20 and the budget for FY21 and discussed additional mitigating actions under consideration by the administration. At the recommendation of the administration, the Committee endorsed, and the Board then approved, an increase in the endowment payout in recognition of the extraordinary circumstances. This action and additional mitigating actions were announced to the university community in late May.
The Committee for University Advancement reviewed communications efforts with respect to COVID-19, including efforts targeted at both internal audiences of faculty, staff, and students, and those that tell the story of Tufts’ response to a broader external audience and the urgency for support for financial aid and student hardship relief. The committee also discussed the impact of the pandemic on fundraising, noting that while the environment for philanthropy is uncertain, the Brighter World campaign has passed the significant milestone of $1 billion in total achievement.
We are fortunate that our trustees bring to both formal deliberations and informal conversations their perspective as active and engaged civic leaders, with outstanding experience in business, higher education, not-for-profit organizations, and public affairs. I am deeply grateful for their thoughtful advice and support for our response to the pandemic, and their abiding commitment to Tufts.