COVID-19 Update: University of Denver Set to Make Tough Staff Decisions in Spring

Sources are telling LetsGoDU that the University of Denver has made a decision to pay all full-time employees at least through the end of April. No firm determination has been made on an extension, furloughs, or cuts past that point. As we reported previously, DU is highly-dependent on tuition revenue for operations (about 78% of operating revenue came from tuition in 2019). The University is currently shuffling underutilized staff to other departments, or not filling open roles with a few exceptions (as approved by the Chancellor’s office).

Denver paid non-benefitted employees who worked for DU through March. However, this will cease in April and those employees who are unable to find work hours for the University are eligible to file for unemployment compensation.

With the start of the spring quarter, appointed benefitted faculty working remotely will continue to receive full pay.

The cost-cutting is also moving beyond employee compensation. A number of projects have been paused and DU’s financial team is looking at options to address a $20 million dollar bond payment due in 90 days, a time when summer revenue may be reduced from what was originally projected.

Student Commons 3
Photo: Construction continues on the Denver campus.

The timing on the current construction of new buildings (new residence hall, student union & career center) comes at a particularly difficult time but administrators could hardly be blamed for not anticipating a global pandemic. Construction continues and as far as we know as of now, plans are still in place to complete the projects in the fall. However, DU must certainly be exploring ways to reduce final construction finishing costs. One such example in the past can be seen in the current Anderson Academic Commons (formerly Penrose Library). When funding ran short in 2015, the decision was made to not reclad the exterior stucco on the east end of the building.

Currently, all staff at the University with the exception of personnel designated as “essential”, are working from home, per the City of Denver’s and the State of Colorado’s “stay at home” orders.

Spring quarter room-and-board charges for those DU students who have already moved out are being refunded while fewer than 300 students still remain in DU residence halls.

As anticipated, a number of students have withdrawn from the Spring Quarter as instruction has moved online. One-on-one student-professor interaction is being managed through Zoom and Canvas learning management systems and email, providing a secure environment for online class materials.

There have been a number of concerns raised by students in those majors where specialized equipment and/or ensemble performances are required and cannot be sufficiently replicated online, particularly in music, theatre, art, and science labs. Other colleges and universities are facing many of the same challenges.

We’ll keep you posted as we learn more about how DU is adapting to this changing environment.

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