The following is the text of an e-mail that was sent to faculty, students, and staff on October 28, 2008.
To: University Community
From: Robert J. Zimmer
Date: October 28, 2008
Re: University response to economic environment
The current and rapidly evolving financial and economic situation has created significant new challenges and uncertainty for organizations and individuals. The University of Chicago is no exception, and I am writing to offer some indication of how the University is responding and planning. As we consider some of the specific financial issues we are confronting, there are two aspects of our overall approach that are important to keep in mind.
We have been engaged in a number of efforts, at various stages of development, that reflect a high level of broad-based ambition for the University. These efforts have been focused on supporting the work of our faculty, students, and staff, and enhancing the University's distinctive academic culture. Most of these projects reflect the long-term nature of the University's fundamental activities, with full implementation sometimes requiring several years.
We have undertaken these efforts precisely because of their long-term importance, and we remain committed to them. There will inevitably be delays in some efforts and possibly some need for setting further priorities. However, it is essential that we remain focused on our ambition for investment in the long-term excellence of the University and the ongoing planning and execution that this entails.
In addition, we have made very specific commitments to our current students for the quality of the education they will receive and the financial support we offer to help them succeed. These commitments remain a priority.
The current financial situation may affect the University in several ways. Among the most salient issues are returns on investment in the endowment, potential impact on fund-raising, and the availability and cost of borrowing money. In each of these cases there are mitigating factors, and we may find that some of our costs, such as construction costs, decrease in the short term. There are numerous other potential impacts as well. At this point, it is very difficult to predict with much certainty just how pronounced the net financial impact will be over the next few years and beyond, so we are examining many possible scenarios.
It is inevitable, however, that we will need to make significant efforts to reduce costs in the near term. I and others have been working regularly with the Trustees, and the provost has begun working with the vice presidents and deans, to come to thoughtful conclusions about the precise steps we should take. We welcome your ideas and I encourage you to share them with your dean or vice president. While some steps we take will be difficult, we need to remember they will be key to putting us on a firm base from which we can continue ambitious investment in the University's future.
I thank you all for your commitment to the University of Chicago.