Report from USM Chancellor Jay A. Perman to the USM Board of Regents on Sept. 18

Baltimore, Md. (Sept. 21, 2020) -- Thank you, Madam Chair. Before I get into my remarks, let me thank Dr. Locascio for updating us on the COVID Research and Innovation Task Force. This is a critical initiative. The fact that we’re applying our collective assets and expertise, our partnerships, to finding solutions to our greatest challenge—to me, that’s the power and the promise of our University System. Thank you.

I echo Chair Gooden in formally welcoming our two student regents: Nate Sansom and Aaliyah Edwards. We’ve already benefited from their contributions to this board.

I also join in congratulating the winners of our Regents Staff Award, and I add my congratulations to our four recipients of the Elkins Professorship:
  • Dr. Julius Davis at Bowie State, who will use his award to expand a center focused on recruiting and supporting Black men in teaching.
  • Dr. Mortimer Seller at UB, who’s developing an expansive Law and Justice Program.
  • Dr. Kesslyn Brade-Stennis at Coppin State, whose award will support outreach efforts advancing social justice and community empowerment.
  • And Dr. Don DeVoe at the University of Maryland, College Park, who will involve university and high school students in groundbreaking cancer research.
I need to acknowledge some changes in leadership. You heard Chair Gooden mention Dr. Bruce Jarrell’s appointment as president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore. I’m thrilled with this selection. I know Bruce is the right leader for UMB—during this public health crisis, certainly. But more than that, he’s the person who can take UMB forward and advance a mission of education, research, care, and service—a mission that touches virtually every person in Maryland. Congratulations, Bruce.

Additionally, I’m delighted to welcome Dr. Anne Khademian as the new executive director of the Universities at Shady Grove. Dr. Khademian is a nationally known scholar in inclusive management and organizational change, and I know she’ll build on USG’s record of success in higher education access and quality.

I must thank Dr. Stewart Edelstein for his 18 years of transformational leadership at USG. Stew’s agreed to do the University System one last favor and stay on at the center for a few weeks longer than originally planned, until Dr. Khademian can take over in October. But his virtual celebration is still on for the end of this month.

Finally, in terms of leadership announcements, I’ll share that we’ve appointed the presidential search committee for the University of Maryland Global Campus. Javier Miyares has given UMGC and the University System eight years of visionary leadership, heading the country’s largest public online university. And now he tells me he’d like to retire. I can’t say I blame him. I’m grateful to Javier and to all the members of the search committee, but especially to Regent Sam Malhotra for agreeing to chair the group.

Our search continues for the executive director of the University System of Maryland at Southern Maryland. I had the great fortune of visiting the campus in July and speaking with the center’s board of visitors. I saw the new academic and research building that’s going up. I toured the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site that’s on campus. I visited the TechPort incubator. I was so impressed with everything that’s going in Southern Maryland, and I know we’ll find a leader who can capitalize on this innovation and excitement.

As you know, fall marks an onslaught of higher education rankings. And, every year—even though we say that rankings aren’t the true measure of an institution—it’s nevertheless gratifying when the System fares so well in the nation’s “best of” lists. Among the big hitters—like U.S. News, MONEY magazine, Washington Monthly, and the Times Higher Education—you’ll find every single eligible USM institution.

I can’t go through all the rankings. There are—literally—too many. So I’ll refer you to our formal report, which you have and which we’ll post online.

Of course, these rankings do reflect the innovative teaching, research, and service that form the core of our universities’ missions. I’ll share just a few highlights, and refer you again to the written report.

UMBC researchers are collaborating with MxD, a national digital manufacturing institute, to develop a curriculum and online platform helping manufacturing professionals enhance their cybersecurity skills. This is entirely new content they’re creating together, as there are no platforms now focused on the intersection of cybersecurity and manufacturing.

The Renewable Natural Resources Foundation—a consortium of science, education, design, and engineering organizations—awarded UMCES President Emeritus Don Boesch its 2020 Sustained Achievement Award for his lifetime of work in conversation and environmental science.

USG has partnered with Montgomery County businessman David Blair to launch the Lab for Entrepreneurship and Transformative Leadership, bringing together students, startups, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists to grow local business development.

UMES has welcomed a charter class of 17 students to its new graduate-level physician assistant program. The students will spend the next three years preparing for health care’s front lines at a critical time in our history.

The School of Medicine at UMB has begun Phase 3 clinical trials of the COVID vaccine candidate developed by Moderna and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The trial is part of a multi-agency collaboration to accelerate development and distribution of COVID countermeasures.

UMGC partnered with Facebook to develop and launch an online certificate program in digital marketing.

Coppin’s annual STEM Day Science Trivia competition went virtual this year, attracting students from around the globe.

And despite a challenged economy, System universities have enjoyed fundraising success. Towson University surpassed its FY20 fundraising goal of $12 million, and $100,000 of that goes directly to student emergency relief.

At Salisbury, Bob Clarke and Glenda Chatham—longtime supporters of the University—announced a $1.5 million planned endowment to benefit the Honors College.

At UB, a scholarship named in honor of our dear friend and former regent Katrina Dennis, whose death we still mourn, is nearing its $100,000 goal. The scholarship will benefit students at Ms. Dennis’s alma mater, the UB School of Law.

Bowie enjoyed a record year in grant funding, primarily supporting retention programs and research, including research aimed at better understanding COVID’s disproportionate impact on minority communities.

The University System of Maryland at Hagerstown will host its second annual University Spirit Run later this month, with all proceeds benefiting the USMH Scholarship Fund. The event is virtual this year—in which case, sign me up for the half-marathon.

The Maryland Momentum Fund added two more investments: an additional $250,000 in NextStep Robotics, a UMB-affiliated early-stage medical device company that’s developing robotic therapy to improve walking function; and $250,000 in miRecule, an early-stage biotech company affiliated with College Park that’s developing RNA-based therapeutics.

We’ve talked often about acknowledging our nation’s history of racial injustice, our own role in perpetuating it, and how to begin the hard work of healing. College Park announced several steps toward creating a more inclusive environment, including the university’s first honorific naming of an academic department—the Harriet Tubman Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.

And last month Frostburg dedicated the Brownsville/Park Avenue Monument to commemorate the largely Black community displaced as Frostburg’s campus began growing 100 years ago. The university also broke ground on its $80 million Education and Health Sciences Center, where future healers and future teachers can prepare to meet the challenges ahead.

Of course, COVID remains front and center in so much of our work. Since we last met on August 26, every USM university has begun its fall semester. I’m well aware how much effort this has taken. I know many employees are working six, seven days a week to keep students on track in the midst of a semester like no other; to establish policies and procedures protecting the safety of their communities; to chart a path forward that assures our fiscal health.

I see their dedication, and I hope they’re able to take advantage of some restorative time when the opportunity comes.

I mentioned the work we’re doing to chart a fiscal path forward, and I do want to comment on our financial outlook. As you know, the University System has seen significant constriction in every one of our revenue sources: tuition and fees, auxiliary services, grants and contracts, our state appropriation.

We’ve also spent a considerable amount of money readying our campuses for fall instruction. We’ve invested in technology infrastructure and faculty training. We have significant costs associated with COVID testing and symptom monitoring. We’ve provided personal protective equipment, and modified residence halls, classrooms, and offices.

Taking these two things together—our drop in revenues and our increased costs—we’re looking at a bottom line that’s at least $500 million short of our original FY21 budget. And we know right now that that number will grow.

And yet—as strange as it sounds—FY21 might be the least of our worries. By all accounts, the outlook for this fiscal year is far worse than the year completed June 30, and the outlook for next fiscal year, FY22, is worse than this one. In fact, we’re looking at a scenario where we don’t begin our financial recovery until FY24.

And so we have to plan accordingly. We have to plan across a multiyear horizon, and commit to making some very difficult decisions. By that, I don’t mean to imply that we haven’t made difficult decisions already. Our universities have cut spending, deferred construction and maintenance, frozen hiring, used their reserves.

But, of course, the most difficult action—by far—is the temporary pay cuts and furloughs we’ve announced. I commend our university leaders for upholding a principle we agreed to months ago: protecting, to the extent we can, those who can least afford a reduction in pay. All universities that are taking personnel actions are taking a tiered approach to them, meaning employees at the highest salaries get the biggest share of the cut.

I’m proud that we’ve done this. I think tough times show your character—your dedication to keeping the promises you make. And I’m glad we’re keeping ours.

I had the opportunity on Wednesday to update the Senate Education, Business, and Administration Subcommittee and the House Education and Economic Development Subcommittee on the painstaking preparations we’ve undertaken to protect our students and employees; our plan to prevent, control, contain, and manage this disease; and our financial outlook in the years ahead. I was joined by three USM presidents: Darryll Pines, Heidi Anderson, and Ron Nowaczyk.

For my part, I shared why we chose to resume some in-person instruction this fall, and how we’ve done so safely. At the same time, I recognize that this crisis—and the way it’s affected higher education—is unprecedented; that conditions are changing constantly; that guidance is in flux as we learn more about the virus and how it spreads. We’ve had to be extremely nimble, responding to data in real time and making a number of pivotal decisions based on it.
And so it makes sense that—even as we plan for next week, next month, next semester—we take time, as a System, to reflect on what we’ve learned, and what lessons we can apply to our immediate and long-term efforts. We’ll prepare a full after-action report—but, in the meantime, we’re continually evaluating what’s working and what can be improved, so that we’re assured every day that we’re doing everything we can for those we educate, employ, and serve.

In describing our fall plans to the legislators yesterday, I said they’re thoughtful, they’re deliberative, they’re guided by the safety of our students, faculty, and staff. But I also said that doesn’t mean they’ll work.

As you know, each university has an escalation path regarding the steps officials will take should COVID cases grow on their campus or in their community. You’ve seen these plans in action. College Park kept classes online for the first two weeks of school. Confronting a number of positive cases among students that contact tracing couldn’t explain, Towson University pivoted to an online-only semester.

Just this week, Salisbury University has reported an escalation in cases. Officials there have been transparent in their communication, and they’re managing the situation in coordination with the Wicomico County Health Department. I’ll invite Salisbury President Chuck Wight to update us on the university’s decision-making as it stands now—unless, of course, the regents have any questions for me.

Chair Gooden, this concludes my report. I’ll ask President Wight to comment.


Contact: Mike Lurie
Phone: 301.445.2719