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Black: ‘We will work through all of this together’

Dr. Kevin Black, interim dean of Penn State College of Medicine, sent the following email Friday to faculty, staff and students:

Dear Colleagues,

By now you’ve likely seen Penn State President Eric Barron’s message to faculty, staff and students late yesterday afternoon, outlining the university’s next steps in addressing the mounting financial impact of COVID-19. The workforce measures announced yesterday will extend from May 4 through June 30. I continue to work with Penn State and College of Medicine leadership to fully understand the specific impact on our college and our people, but I will share what I know so far.

Additionally, we are hosting another College of Medicine town hall at 4 p.m. Monday, April 27. This town hall will include presentations and discussion related to returning to work and the role for, and limitations of, testing for COVID-19 virus and COVID antibodies. I encourage you to join the town hall, and you’re welcome to submit your questions ahead of time so that we can try our best to have answers for you.

Here’s how Penn State’s announcement yesterday affects us in the short term, which is May 4 through June 30, 2020:

  • If you are a College of Medicine employee and are able to work remotely, you are not impacted. This is the vast majority of our faculty and staff.
  • If you are a College of Medicine employee and cannot perform your core job duties remotely, you will receive 50% of your pay from May 4 through June 30. You will continue to be eligible to participate in Penn State’s benefits plan, based on your current elections. Penn State’s Human Resources Department will be issuing further guidance regarding pay and benefits for those who are affected. Additionally, you may be eligible for unemployment compensation and/or federal stimulus funds.
  • Employees who are paid from sponsored funds (such as external grants) and cannot do their work from home will have their salaries charged to those funds at the reduced 50% rate.
  • The university and College of Medicine will continue to reassess our financial situations and communicate any further actions before June 30.
  • All colleges, including our College of Medicine, must reduce FY21 budgets by at least 3%. In addition, I have asked all departments to submit three budget scenarios for FY21 reflecting reductions of 5%, 10% and 15%. Additionally, the College’s Finance Task Force has been asked to approach the 5%, 10% and 15% budget reduction scenarios from an institutional perspective.

Our revenue is predominantly generated by tuition, external research funding, gifts and endowments, and the academic support payment from Penn State Health. We anticipate a significant reduction in our academic support payment for the current and next year due to the impact of the pandemic on revenue to Penn State Health.

In response to a suggestion made at the town hall on April 17, we have created a submission box to allow faculty, staff and students to contribute their ideas for reducing our expenses. Thank you to those who have contacted me directly. Your thoughts are much appreciated and all are being evaluated.

We discuss on a daily basis the process and timing for fully reopening our College of Medicine. This includes students returning to clinical rotations, resuming laboratory and clinical trial research, and our University Fitness Center. These are complex decisions for which we will need to consult with our infectious disease experts, state leaders, and our university and professional societies. We continue to explore opportunities for virus and antibody testing and how they might contribute to the safe resumption of operations within our College of Medicine and health system that have been curtailed due to the pandemic.

I thank each of you for your countless contributions. We will work through all of this together. I look forward to talking with you at the town hall on Monday as we navigate and overcome this challenge. In the meantime, take care of yourselves and your families, and take time to do things that are important to you. And, to our Muslim colleagues who are observing the holy month of Ramadan, Ramadan Mubarak. 

Kevin Black, MD
Interim Dean

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