McCann talks $8 million cost of COVID-19 at BOT meeting

Paul McCann addresses the Board of Trustees on April 24.

Paul McCann addresses the Board of Trustees on April 24.

Hannah Shillo, Associate News Editor

Paul McCann, the interim vice president for business affairs, estimated Eastern’s COVID-19 related costs to be around $8 million at the Board of Trustees meeting Friday.

Joyce Madigan, finance and audit committee chair, said while it is “disheartening” coming out of the 2015 Illinois budget impasse to see the unexpected virus’s effects on the university’s budget, the cash flow will still continue and the university will not have to borrow any money.

McCann said the single largest expense was the $3.9 million in room and board refunds from March 23 through the end of the semester.

Some refunds have already been sent out to students, and McCann said the rest should be sent out by the end of the month.

In addition to the room and board refunds, McCann said there are also some guidelines in the COVID-19 federal response that requires the university to cover certain costs for employees.

Any employee who has contracted the virus, thinks they might have been exposed to the virus or are worried they could be exposed will be covered under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

Additionally, any employee with children who cannot attend school or daycare will be paid 66.67 percent of their wages for up to 12 weeks.

Student workers have been or will be paid for the remainder of the semester as well. McCann said the university is still in the process of sending those checks out, too.

All of these costs are estimated as McCann said it is still too early to know a definite amount.

Also at the meeting Friday, the board postponed items regarding tuition, room and board and other fees until its June meeting because Eastern President David Glassman and his team wanted more time to consider options.

The board voted to approve nine tenure recommendations:

· Mark Bayer, assistant professor, School of Business

· John Cabage, assistant professor, School of Technology

· Nicole Hillier, assistant professor, Department of Health Promotion

· Nichole Hugo, assistant professor, Department of Hospitality and Tourism

· Toqeer Israr, assistant professor, School of Technology

· Claudia Janssen Danyi, assistant professor, School of Communications and Journalism

· Alan Pocaro, assistant professor, Department of Art and Design

· Barbara Bonnekessen, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, professor of anthropology in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminology

· Laretta Henderson, Dean of the College of Education, professor in the Department of Teaching, Learning and Foundations

The board also voted to approve all purchase approvals of

· library books, periodicals and electronic resources for Booth Library

· group health insurance contribution

· membership, data and database through Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois

· O’Brien Field’s victory suite remodel

The purchase of items for Booth Library includes books, journals, databases, abstracts, indexes, yearbook and newspapers in both print and online formats. McCann said the purchase is not to exceed $500,000.

The group health insurance purchase is for Eastern’s share to former Gov. George Ryan’s 2002 request for higher education facilities to contribute $45 million to Illinois Department of Central Management Services. Eastern’s contribution will be $1,713,300.

The approval of membership, data and database through CARLI will provide students and faculty with research resources from July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021, and the cost is not to exceed $400,000.

The victory suite remodel will include upgraded heating, ventilation and air condition systems, upgraded electrical service within the space, removing the risers for seating to make the floor one level and updating finishes. The cost for the remodel will be $299,708, with a contingency of $27,000. McCann said this project will be totally funded by donor funding, with $92,708 coming from in-kind donations from the contractors.

The board also approved a temporary construction easement for sidewalk repaving on Lincoln Avenue in front of Old Main. The City of Charleston is planning to widen the sidewalk from six feet to 10 feet in order to make room for a bike path, McCann said.

The board also elected officers for the 2020-2021 academic year.

· Barb Baurer – chairperson

· Madigan – vice chairperson

· Chris Hicks – secretary

· Phillip Thompson – member pro tem

Public comment included protests about cutting out graduate assistantships in the mathematics department.

“A stable program requires stable, consistent, reliable funding,” said Charles Delman, mathematics professor. “It requires commitment.”

Jay Gatrell, provost and vice president of academic affairs, said he has no plans to cut the program.

“I want to emphasize no proposal has been brought forward, and I do not anticipate bringing any proposal forward to eliminate any program,” Gatrell said. “The reality is high-quality academic programs are not optional, they’re expected at Eastern.”

Hannah Shillo can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].