McGraw Tower

McGraw Tower at Cornell University.

Cornell University has announced a slew of new financial reforms intended to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the school. 

The most significant implementations are a hiring freeze, which will mean a university-wide stoppage of staff and temporary workers (academic hires will be evaluated through deans). Additionally, in a move sure to affect a vast array of workers, the school announced a salary freeze that applies to nearly all increases due to take effect for the fiscal year starting July 1, 2020, that aren't collectively bargained through a union. 

"There will be no increases to existing salaries through bonuses, promotions, acting rates, changes to time status or additional pays without the approval of the respective dean or vice president and the vice president and chief human resources officer (for staff) or the provost (for faculty)," said the letter, written by Provost Michael Kotlikoff and Executive Vice President Joanne DeStefano. "Any salary change requests already in process will be reevaluated. Salary increases related to faculty promotions are excluded from this freeze."

Staff is being given an additional 10 "health and personal days" off to support them. 

The school normally employs about 7,500 non-academic workers and staff members. Cornell has a $7.33 billion endowment. The letter, sent Monday morning, also notes that certain members of the leadership of the school have volunteered to take "salary reductions" for six months.

"Every dollar of these recaptured funds will be used to help meet the financial aid needs of our undergraduate, graduate or professional students," the letter stated. "Should additional faculty and staff wish to pursue this voluntary avenue to support student financial aid, please contact Kim Babuka ( in Human Resources."

Included in the letter is the statement that through these financial reforms, they hope to continue full current pay for all staff and handle any financial change that students may undergo as a result of the outbreak, presumably preparing for an influx of student loan or financial aid requests. 

Beyond the above moves, the school further reiterated its travel ban (All Cornell-related travel is currently restricted to reduce the spread of COVID-19) and said that when travel is allowed again it will be limited to only essential travel, such as essential academic travel or that sponsored by research money. All summer programs that were scheduled to start before July 12 will either be canceled or transferred to all-online. 

Finally, the letter said that all capital projects are being reevaluated for their efficacy and whether or not they should proceed considering the new landscape, and that all discretionary spending would be suspended immediately, including the hiring of outside consultants or any expenditure "not critical to the operation of the university."

"We fully appreciate that these steps are significant," the two wrote. "But until we can better understand the full impact of COVID-19 on the economy, financial markets and the university, these steps are essential to our being able to sustain our commitment to our employees and our students and to ensuring that Cornell has the funds necessary to continue to be a world-class university."

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