Letter Regarding Economic Crisis

A Message from Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.
President, University of Notre Dame

December 1, 2008

Dear Members of the Notre Dame Community,

The difficult economic conditions that have emerged over the past several months have significantly and adversely affected many aspects of the global economy, restricting growth and resulting in personal loss to people around the world. In considering the ramifications of these events for our own community, we are mindful of our many blessings and we pray for those who are now suffering loss or hardship.

Throughout these troubling times, please know that first and foremost on my mind are all members of the Notre Dame community. Notre Dame’s promise resides in its students, faculty, and staff. Without your presence, dedication, and contributions, Notre Dame’s traditions would not be carried forward and its potential as a preeminent research university would not be realized. I expect that many of you, especially faculty and staff, have questions about your own future. It is a priority for the University that our current employees remain part of the Notre Dame community. While we cannot guarantee there will be no changes to our workforce, our current assessment of the economic situation—which we will continue to monitor closely—does not lead us to anticipate any such changes.

In times such as these I am grateful to my predecessors who adopted sound and far-sighted fiscal policies that my colleagues in the administration continue to apply. Our conservative financial philosophy and the diversified nature of our revenue have allowed us to experience great success and growth in recent years. Because of this responsible approach toward University finances, we are well positioned to weather the current storm and to maintain our unwavering commitment to Notre Dame’s core mission.

Nevertheless, the storm will affect us. Thanks to the wonderful generosity of many donors and our strong investment program, Notre Dame’s endowment is our most significant financial asset. However, like all institutions, we are still subject to market volatility that has reduced the overall value of the endowment. At present, this reduction has been significantly less than the average experienced by other universities. In addition, we are very much aware that economic pressures on some of our dedicated benefactors may limit their current ability to support our efforts.

While responsible stewardship of the University’s resources is necessary at all times, it is critical in these grave economic conditions. I ask our academic and administrative leaders to do more with existing resources in order to reduce expenditures. We need to identify and implement all reasonable operating efficiencies. I have also asked our budget office to develop contingency plans in the event that economic conditions worsen.

I ask each of you to contribute to this effort – no contribution is too small. Provost Tom Burish has asked the deans to work with faculty to identify savings where possible. Executive Vice President John Affleck-Graves will work with our Procurement Office to reduce the costs for purchases, university travel, and other expenses. We will seek to conserve and reduce our energy costs. In these and other ways, we can together increase efficiency, minimize extraneous spending, and prepare Notre Dame for yet unforeseen developments.

By doing so, we will be able to maintain our focus on the strategic priorities of the University and emerge from this crisis even stronger. Here are some of the specific things we remain committed to as we navigate through these difficult times:

  • Financial Aid. Offering an affordable education for talented and committed students is a key priority. We continually monitor tuition and other costs, and remain committed to maintaining our need-blind admission policy while also meeting the full demonstrated financial need of all our students, even as family circumstances change. Our goal is to accomplish this without increasing the overall debt burden for our students.
  • Research. We will continue to focus on and fund our research projects. This is critical to our future success and a key component of our long-term vision for the University. We will proceed with the next round of investment in research efforts through the Strategic Academic Planning Committee. 
  • Graduate Students. We will continue to strive to make graduate student stipends more competitive and improve health-care support for our graduate students.
  • Library. The library is fundamental to our core mission of promoting scholarship and providing excellent undergraduate and graduate education for our students. We will continue to make funding our library a priority. 
  • Faculty and Staff Salaries. We know that the University cannot achieve excellence without top-notch employees. Our goal is to keep our salaries competitive so that we retain and attract world-class faculty and superb staff in the future. 
  • Construction Projects. Current construction projects will be completed. Our conservative capital funding policy requires 100 percent of funding be pledged and 75 percent of funds be in hand before construction begins. Because of strict compliance with this policy over the past five years, we can continue all current projects without incurring additional debt. These projects will provide the infrastructure and equipment to continue advancement in research and teaching. As has been our practice, future projects will begin only after the construction funding policy is fully met.

My sincere thanks to each of you for your hard work and dedication. I know I can count on you and your best efforts to help see the University through these troubling economic times. Together, under the protection of Our Lady, we will ensure that future generations are able to benefit from a Notre Dame education, one committed to the mind and heart.

In Notre Dame,

Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.