The following message was sent to Barnard faculty and staff on May 21, 2020:


Dear Faculty and Staff,

Let me begin by conveying my gratitude and admiration for all you have done over the past two months on behalf of Barnard and the well-being of our community. Faced with the very real threats of the pandemic and uncertainty at every step, you have approached your work with determination and good will, and I am personally grateful to each of you. 

Today I write to update you on Barnard’s financial situation and the next steps we must take to ensure we are best prepared for a robust 2020-21 academic year. These steps include restructuring at the leadership level, staff furloughs, and other cost controls.

As I have written and spoken about to our community before, the decisions being made at this uncertain and difficult time are guided by three main principles:

  • Maintaining Barnard’s steadfast commitment to academic excellence;

  • Assuring that Barnard will continue to fulfill its unique and critical mission for the long term; and

  • Supporting the physical and mental health, as well as the financial well-being, of our students, faculty, and staff, especially those who are the most vulnerable.

In addition to the unexpected costs we have already incurred, we have experienced losses to our endowment and major reductions in summer revenue. At the same time, we have increased our commitment to support students with the greatest financial need this summer and expect increased demand for financial aid next year. Finally, there is no clear answer about how the pandemic will play out, which infuses uncertainty into our budget for the coming academic year. This uncertainty necessitates that we significantly reduce spending now if Barnard is to continue to thrive beyond this crisis. 

Starting July 1, and carrying through the next fiscal year, my own compensation will be reduced by 20 percent, and Provost Bell will be taking a 15 percent reduction to her compensation. The rest of the College’s Senior Staff will also see their compensation reduced. 

In addition, I have made the difficult but necessary decision to streamline College operations and will be eliminating three Vice President positions, in Communications, Human Resources, and IT, as well as a small number of other administrative positions. 

In light of the above, there will be a reorganization of the report structure for several areas. Communications will report to Vice President for Enrollment Jennifer Fondiller; Human Resources will report to Vice President for Legal Affairs, General Counsel & Chief of Staff Jomysha Stephen; and IT will report to Vice President for Operations Roser Mosier. You can read more about the organizational changes in our FAQ. I hope you will join me in thanking Catherine Geddis, Carol Katzman, and Gabrielle Simpson for their leadership, their many contributions to Barnard, and their graciousness in connection with today’s announcement. 

As you know, we were able in March to make the promise to our staff to maintain their full compensation through May 31. Given the scope and duration of the pandemic, however, we simply cannot afford to continue paying the full costs of operations that have been reduced, paused, or discontinued. As such, beginning June 1, a number of furloughs will be instituted across the College. Furloughs will give employees the opportunity to return to their jobs as soon as their work is needed and financially possible. Until then, furloughed employees will continue to receive their existing health and dental insurance through Barnard, with premiums being paid by the College for the duration of the furlough. Furloughed employees will retain tuition benefits for themselves and their families. Furloughed employees will also be eligible for unemployment benefits and special payments through the federal CARES Act. In addition, where possible, the College will participate in New York’s Shared Work Program, which allows employees to share the available work on a reduced work schedule while being eligible to receive unemployment benefits for the percentage of hours not worked. 

Different roles will require different kinds of furlough arrangements, ranging from full-time furloughs to reductions in hours or number of days worked. Discussions with employees who will be furloughed will take place May 26-29. 

For those staff members who will be on furlough, please know this: A furlough isn’t a reflection of your work or how much the college appreciates and values you. You are a member of the Barnard community, and we look forward to having you back on campus soon.

Finally, the College will also be making significant across-the-board reductions in departmental operating budgets in FY21. Smart, rigorous, and creative planning will help us deploy reduced resources in the most effective ways possible.

These reductions will make new demands on all of us. And while I do not anticipate further large-scale changes to our budgetary plans this summer, none of us knows for certain all that may lie ahead. What we do know is that on September 8, whether we are physically on campus, virtual, or some combination of the two, it will not be business as usual. To fulfill our academic mission, we will have to adapt in ways that will require more from each of us. You can read about our ongoing planning for the fall here, and we will continue to update you as we reach major decision points.

As difficult as all of this is, I remain hopeful. Our unremitting focus on academic excellence, together with the strategic efforts underway to connect students’ Barnard experience to life after graduation, position us well to offer the kind of education that will be more important than ever as the world emerges from this crisis. I have seen what is possible when we direct the extraordinary talent and spirit of the Barnard community to the most difficult challenges. I am proud to be a part of this community, now more than ever.


Sian Leah Beilock