UPDATE (9:55 a.m., April 30, 2020): The Observer has received feedback from students who are concerned about this editorial. We based our editorial on factual reporting of the university’s complicated financial situation; however, we did not intend to discount the very real experiences of students, professors and members of the Fordham family that are financially affected by this crisis. We encourage anyone who feels strongly about this topic to share their perspective by submitting an article or a letter to the editor to our Opinions section.
The switch to online classes has been a stressful time for the Fordham community as teachers, students and administrators juggle the demands of a digital education. While Fordham’s financial struggles directly impact the student body in regard to tuition and auxiliary costs, it is important that the Fordham community take the time to understand the financial repercussions caused by the virus and be compassionate in their requests from the university.
For the 2020 fiscal year, Fordham proposed $3.5 million toward on-hand money in the event of an unplanned expense, just as they would any other year. However, the outbreak of the virus could never have been foreseen, so understandably this money is not nearly enough to appropriately respond to this large-scale emergency.
In a November 2017 budget presentation, Martha Hirst, senior vice president of Fordham and its chief financial officer and treasurer, wrote that Fordham had “little cushion for unplanned costs” if it had an on-hand fund of $5 million or less. Hirst went on to explain that, ideally, Fordham should set aside around $6 million dollars or more to be kept on-hand.
Fordham also received $8 million from the CARES Act, of which 50% will be given to students. This money, while a great benefit to Fordham, will not alleviate all the financial strain that the school is under. Although it may seem like Fordham has an abstract, large sum of money to fall back on, that money is not easily accessible and not a viable plan for handling the financial losses caused by the pandemic.
While Elite Ivy League universities such as Harvard rejected the federal money, they benefit from some of the largest endowments in the country. Fordham does not have that luxury — it depends on this aid to help soften the heavy financial blow of this pandemic.
Many colleges and universities will not be able to survive the financial turmoil of this year due to their inability to liquidate enough money, and the Fordham community should be grateful that the university is in a relatively stable position compared to many small colleges.
Although students have begun to petition for tuition refunds, the reality is that the university is not in a financial situation to do so while continuing to pay and look after all the people who make Fordham Fordham.
Students, professors and faculty need to practice empathy and assist each other in transitioning to the new reality of the pandemic. Of course, financial issues are a serious concern that need to be addressed appropriately and promptly, but students and the Fordham administration need to recognize that everyone in the world is struggling right now.
In a time when we are encouraged to be empathetic to neighbors, family members, health care workers and many others, have some empathy for the leaders of Fordham University, too. We’re all going through a tough time right now.