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President Robbins announces delay of furlough plan

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Amy Bailey | The Daily Wildcat

The University of Arizona has sent out several statements about coronavirus and how the administration plans to prevent a widespread outbreak on campus.

University of Arizona President Dr. Robert C. Robbins announced late Tuesday via email that the start of the furlough plan will be delayed until August 10. 

The decision follows UA's General Faculty voting on Friday, June 27, to officially recommend delaying the start of the plan.

"I received a letter from the Committee of 11 requesting that I strongly consider the recommendation from the Faculty General Assembly. I thank each and every one of those who engaged and shared concerns, and I appreciate the desire to delay these tremendously difficult decisions," Robbins said in the email.

RELATED: Arizona Athletics pauses student-athlete reentry plan after rising number of cases in Pima County

The furlough plan, which was originally intended to start July 1, drew steady criticism from the Coalition of Academic Justice at UArizona. In early June, CAJUA held a press conference in which they said the UA's plan would negatively impact a large number of staff and faculty and proposed their own alternate furlough plan with a 20-30% for the highest paid administrators. 

On Thursday, June 25, CAJUA held a Zoom meeting with an independent professor of accounting who reviewed the university's current financial state and determined that, while the UA will experience financial loss as a results of COVID-19, it is not enough to justify furloughs and layoffs.

The review also referenced a primary reserve ratio, which Professor Howard Bunsis of East Michigan University, said could be used to cover months of expenses. On July 1, Chief Financial Officer Lisa Rulney said the university does not have a reserve fund via email.

"The erroneous $806 million reference originated from a presentation by an outside individual who was asked by a group of our colleagues to review our Fiscal Year 2019 (July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019) audited report," Rulney said in the email. "The calculation to which the presentation referred, labeled 'Unrestricted Net Assets,' represents our total available operating cash – the funds we use, day-to-day, to pay for the expenses of the University such as payroll; benefits; utilities; facilities maintenance; operations; travel; and equipment for faculty, staff, and students."

Rulney said the university cannot be insulated from financial loss as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and while the furlough plan is larger in scale than other universities of a similar size, the university does not have "a larger problem to solve than other campuses".

"While this move will cost the University approximately $4 million, it will allow us to come together and have meaningful and transparent discussions regarding the tradeoffs we must consider for all faculty and staff who will be impacted," Robbins said. 

Editor's Note: This article has been updated to include new information from UA's Chief Financial Officer Lisa Rulney.


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UA COVID-19 Test Tracker

Daily (9/27)
1,051 36 3.4%
Total (8/4)
36,634 2,291 6.3%
Includes tests since August 4, 2020
Data from https://covid19.arizona.edu/updates
Updated September 27, 2020