Dear Colleagues –

As you know, in recent months the MBL has taken significant steps to protect the health and safety of our community in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the decisions to cancel MBL courses, ramp down resident research, and move to a remote working platform are unprecedented in MBL’s 132-year history, this institution has evolved through change in the past and together, as a community of dedicated staff and faculty, we are working to get through this difficult time as well. Each of you has contributed in your own way, many while balancing health concerns and caring for family members, to ensure that our important work continues despite these challenges.

While the health issue continues, the global, national, and local economic impact of the pandemic is already profound, and likely to become more so for some time. While it is too soon to determine with precision the magnitude of disruption, it is clear that this global health crisis will have severe consequences on MBL finances. We, of course, are not alone in this situation: Universities, businesses, and nonprofit organizations around the country are facing similar difficulties.

While much remains uncertain about the current crisis and when we will be able to resume normal operations, we are planning for the future to the best of our ability by conducting a comprehensive and strategic review of our finances and evaluating how COVID-19 impacts relate specifically to MBL programs and operations. This includes the potential impacts of decreases in financial markets, philanthropic contributions, and uncertainties in private and federal research funding opportunities.

The MBL has applied for funding made available to small businesses (less than 500 employees) by the recent economic stimulus package, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The funding applied for is under the Paycheck Protection Program, which provides forgivable loans to enable small businesses, including non-profits, to pay their employees during the COVID-19 crisis.

We will also be taking a series of cost reduction steps to mitigate the financial challenges we currently face. It may be necessary to continue some of these adjustments into the future as we gain clarity about the trajectory of the pandemic and the resulting national and global economic implications. Cost reduction measures include:

Salaries: We are suspending the planned two percent cost of living wage increase for all employees for this fiscal year. This includes positions covered under the collective bargaining agreement.

Hiring: We are carefully managing staffing levels to sustain and protect our current workforce. All new full-time hiring will be frozen with the exception of those fully supported by external grant funding, previously made commitments, or openings that are critical to the MBL’s core mission and if left unfilled would cause unacceptable risk.

In addition to the above measures, hiring of all part-time (mostly summer) positions will be frozen. Part-time hires that are (1) funded by grants or other external sources and (2) are critical to program work will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Any offers will be contingent on a change in MBL’s status.

Spending: The MBL will be asking all budget managers to make significant non-personnel spending adjustments for the duration of this fiscal year. It may be necessary to continue some of these adjustments into the future as we gain clarity about the trajectory of the pandemic and the resulting national global economic dislocations. Specific actions include:

  • Halting all discretionary non-personnel spending. That is, all spending that need not occur in the current environment or that can be deferred to a later date with no fundamental harm to MBL’s facilities, programs, or mission. Financial Services will be working with departments and centers to articulate and implement financial adjustments.
  • Reducing capital spending which includes projects or items that are part of the MBL’s annual capital program approved each year by the Board of Trustees. We are currently completing all projects that were already underway in FY20 and those for which commitments were already made. Moving forward, only those capital expenditures that address critical risks to Facilities and Information Technology will go forward. Exceptions include capital equipment or projects funded by grants or other external sources.

These measures will be difficult for all of us, but the financial actions we take now will give us greater flexibility to support our core priorities as the long-term economic picture becomes more clear. Everyone can contribute to reducing costs by identifying and then notifying your manager of areas where we can save. All ideas are welcome, and no amount of savings is too small for us to pursue.

As we continue looking across the MBL for cost reduction opportunities, our focus will remain on ensuring the health and well-being of our faculty, staff, and students; restoring our research and education activities to normal operations, safely but as soon as possible; and retaining and supporting our talented workforce.

A virtual Town Hall for MBL faculty and staff has been scheduled for Wednesday, April 22 from 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM. In this meeting, leadership will provide updates on MBL’s COVID-19 response and staff will be given an opportunity to ask questions. An invitation and meeting details will be sent later this week.

Thank you all of you for the hard work that implementing these steps will entail, and for your continued commitment to the mission of the MBL.

Nipam H. Patel

Paul Speer
Chief Operating Officer