By Benjamin Pontz, Editor-in-Chief
I sat down with Bob Iuliano, President of Gettysburg College, earlier today via Zoom and Facebook Live to discuss the college’s response to the coronavirus. Here are some key takeaways from the conversation.
1. He is working from home.
Almost all Gettysburg College employees are working from home at this point, and President Bob Iuliano is among them. He joined me via Zoom from the study at the president’s house on Broadway Street. The only staff still working on campus, he said, are those supporting the 70 or so students approved to continue living there.
2. The financial ramifications of the coronavirus are significant.
Iuliano did not have any projections about the impact on the college of refunding 50 percent of the semester’s room and board charges to students, but a back-of-the-envelope calculation — which, given various financial aid packages, is probably an overestimate — shows that the figure could exceed $8 million. That would be consistent with taking 25 percent of the college’s expected revenue of $33.3 million from room and board, a figure gleaned from a presentation to the faculty in January. Overall, the college expected to take in $133.1 million in revenue this fiscal year, making the $8 million figure about a six percent hit to the total budget, according to The Gettysburgian’s calculations.
2500 students x ($3610 average semester room charge +$3120 average semester meal plan) x 0.5 semester = $8.4 million
While not having students on campus lowers a few incidental expenses such as on food and building utilities, it does not come anywhere near offsetting the lost revenue, Iuliano said. He pledged transparency as the college works through the financial ramifications in the coming weeks, but he said that it is too early to know exactly what might be required and that many variables — such as whether the semester will be able to begin on time in the fall — are still unknown.
3. Employees will be paid through next Friday. Beyond that, it’s unclear.
Iuliano described the college’s decision to do payroll as normal next Friday as a way to help the college catch its breath before making any decisions about how to proceed. From there, again, he said it is too early to know whether layoffs will be required.
Dickinson College announced last week that it will pay its employees as normal (after they exhaust any accumulated leave) through the end of the fiscal year on June 30.
The college has rolled out a plan that calls for student employees to receive a stipend based on the number of hours worked during the first half of the semester.
4. News on pass/fail courses is coming.
5. President Emeritus Janet Morgan Riggs is apparently enjoying retirement.
She has not inquired about assuming a position as Interim President, though Iuliano did not sound opposed to the idea …
6. Iuliano has been heartened by the college’s “scrappy” response to the changing circumstances.
Iuliano seemed genuinely gratified by how the Gettysburg campus community has responded to the coronavirus crisis, noting that he sees faculty, staff, and students alike rolling up their sleeves to confront new challenges. He juxtaposed the Gettysburg community’s response with that of his former institution, Harvard. He said he had spoken to former colleagues about how that community has responded to the coronavirus and was reminded how how much appreciates Gettysburg.