Best Optimistic for Future
State of the University Addresses COVID-19, Diversity and Inclusion
UCM President Roger Best gave the 2020 State of the University Address in the Elliott Student Union auditorium Aug. 27. The speech focused on diversity, inclusion, as well as the coronavirus and how it has affected UCM.
The speech demonstrated the major impact COVID-19 has had on the university. During the final quarter of the 2020 fiscal year, the university lost approximately 12% of its state appropriations, which was budgeted for the year, which was higher than expected and spent $4.3 million in COVID-19 response expenses in the fourth quarter of the fiscal year.
UCM is facing a final 2021 fiscal year deficit of $10,750,000. The university is being allowed two fiscal years, with the support of the Board of Governors, to fully resolve the current deficit.
The university plans to make up almost $9 million of the deficit this year through revenue generation, cost containment and cost reduction. Best acknowledged the challenge this presents and admitted tough choices will likely be made to the budget. “In case you have thoughts otherwise, this work will not be easy,” he said. “And I have to be open and honest with you, we can’t leave any area, nor any program unexamined.”
The address also included the university’s phased plan for a response for potential COVID-19 outbreaks on campus and in the community. The plan ranges from phase zero, the university’s current operating phase, to phase four, which Best said is the worst-case scenario and would move all courses to online-only learning for the remainder of the semester.
Despite the concerns, Best said there is reason for optimism at UCM. A video was played at the address, highlighting the accomplishments of faculty and students during the past 12 months.
“I think when you start with a base of faculty and staff who not only have that level of commitment, but also have that level of expertise and passion for what they do and what we do, then it’s hard not to be optimistic for the future of this institution,” Best said.
Another significant part of the address was on diversity and inclusion. Best discussed university goals to improve the Center for Multiculturalism and Inclusivity, as well as adding more gender-neutral bathrooms. Best also said diversity and inclusion are major focuses of his job and said he believes inclusion leads to diversity.