Chancellor shares update on Vanderbilt and the economy
To the Vanderbilt Community:
With Commencement behind us I write to you about the economy and how Vanderbilt is meeting its mission.
While the economy continues to present tremendous challenges, I am extraordinarily proud of our university’s progress in the face of this uncertainty and disruption. I want to thank you for the extraordinary role you have played in maintaining Vanderbilt’s strength even as our world faces an economic downturn of historic proportions. Your shared sacrifice and coming together as a community allowed us to move forward, avoid large layoffs, and ensure that all, including those who would be most vulnerable to and adversely affected by economic dislocation, could continue to devote themselves to Vanderbilt.
I continue to be profoundly inspired by your support and for your commitment to our community. As I interact with faculty, staff and students, I find a great sense of cooperation and a genuine desire to help each other and our university. This spirit of partnership and shared sacrifice, built on shared goals and values, is what makes Vanderbilt such a special place.
When signs of economic turmoil loomed large, our faculty, staff, and students led by example, engaging each other and advising me that we must do all we could to avoid major layoffs and to minimize hardship. A commitment to shared sacrifice, a caring for all, and a real desire to see Vanderbilt through this time have resonated throughout our campus during this challenging year.
Vanderbilt’s financial decisions have been based on these values, and through diligent and ongoing monitoring of the condition of the economic landscape, and careful consideration of available options, layoffs have been avoided. In addition to freezing salaries and most staff hiring, we reduced the risk to our balance sheet and operations, helping to ensure that the university has ready access to cash in this unpredictable climate.
Various departments throughout the university have reduced their budgets five percent for the remainder of this fiscal year with another three to five percent for next year. All new major construction projects have been delayed with three exceptions, which include the renovation and relocation of many clinics to One Hundred Oaks, and the hospital’s Critical Care Tower, which is scheduled to open in the fall, as well as a parking garage to provide the accompanying necessary parking for patients and staff.
These are extraordinary times with extraordinary challenges, to be sure, and we cannot predict how long this crisis will last. But amid the uncertainty, I take pride in the work that each of you does every day to make Vanderbilt one of the best universities and medical centers in the world.
Indeed, consider our many successes that would be remarkable in any year, but are even more so during this year. A record number of more than 19,000 students applied for admission to Vanderbilt, leading to an admit rate of 18 percent, which ranks among the most competitive in the country. Our research funding is very strong. Our hospitals are full. Our faculty continue to be recognized and awarded for their research and discoveries. Our philanthropy is up 15 percent to date, and we are ahead of schedule on our $1.75 billion Shape the Future Campaign. We have eliminated loans for our undergraduates. And we were the first-ever university to be included on FORTUNE magazine’s top 100 Companies to work for list.
Even amid all of the news of uncertainty, we have much to celebrate. Let us remember, too, that universities are among our oldest, strongest institutions. Think of Vanderbilt’s establishment in 1873 and all that it has gone through and endured. We must continue to focus on what is essential and the vitality of our mission. Our work continues – and must continue – in every economic climate, and I am deeply grateful for your commitment as together we steward this great institution to new heights of excellence.
Nicholas S. Zeppos