Letter to Boston University Faculty and Staff, Spring 2022

May 6, 2022

Dear Colleagues,

We have reached the end of the spring semester and a successful academic year; only finals and Commencement separate us from summer. Although the twists and turns caused by COVID have complicated the University’s operations and our personal lives, I hope you take pride in the collective progress we have made under very difficult conditions. Although each of us may assess Boston University in diverse ways, I believe we can all take pride in the accomplishments of the 7,454 students who will graduate on May 22. Their accomplishments are built on the collective work of our academic community.

As we have returned this spring to a more typical semester on campus, we have all been appalled by the conflict in Ukraine that has claimed tens of thousands of lives and displaced millions. We have a working group, assembled shortly after the invasion, with a charge to help our Ukrainian students continue and complete their studies at Boston University. These students are, of course, deeply concerned about relatives and friends in Ukraine and encountering disruptions and uncertainties.

As we make the transition to summer, it feels as if we may finally emerge from the pandemic. Because of the conscientious and sustained adherence to our policies and protocols, we are stronger than we might have anticipated and have greater institutional momentum than we could have imagined two years ago. Our educational and research programs are vibrant. We have reached the end of the undergraduate admissions cycle for fall 2022. The students who accepted our offers of admission are academically stronger than ever; their average high school GPA is 3.88, and their SAT scores average 1462 (for those who submitted scores). These admitted students are more diverse and represent a greater variety of high schools and socioeconomic backgrounds than ever before. We are on target to enroll a class larger than our expected number of 3,100 because the yield on our offers of admission has increased again. Increased undergraduate financial aid is helping make a Boston University education accessible to a more diverse student population.

Because of the pandemic, we have focused these past two years on the health of our students, staff, and faculty. As we plan for the summer and the fall semester, we remain vigilant, but our assessment is that with our vaccination and booster requirement, which we are maintaining, the number of cases and severity of infection will continue to be moderate. We are not dismantling our testing laboratory, but integrating it into our research infrastructure under the leadership of engineering professors Doug Densmore and Cathie Klapperich. We are also retaining a number of key Healthway personnel to respond to residual COVID issues and other infectious diseases that may affect the campus. We hope that the fall semester will mark the return to “normal.” But we are prepared if that hope isn’t realized.

In addition to planning for COVID as an endemic infection, we are also focused on other aspects of student wellbeing, especially mental health. Significant additional resources for both in-person and telehealth consultations were deployed this year. With the promotion of Dr. Carrie Landa to the recently created leadership position of Executive Director of Student Wellbeing, we are expanding resources for student wellbeing programs and initiatives.

The focus on student wellbeing is part of a broader set of commitments described in our 2030 Strategic Plan. As we move into the implementation phase, resources for priorities in the plan are included in the University’s FY2023 budget. These include additional resources for:

  • Undergraduate financial aid to fund our initiative to meet full demonstrated need for all first-time domestic students;
  • Faculty and staff salary increases;
  • Funding for Development & Alumni Relations in preparation for our next capital campaign;
  • New Student Information System (SIS);
  • Student Wellbeing;
  • Other academic initiatives that are commitments in our 2030 Strategic Plan;
  • Faculty hiring on the Charles River Campus and joint hiring between the Charles River and Medical Campuses. This is the largest application of discretionary funding in the budget;
  • Expansion of the activities at the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL) and support for centers and institutes on the Charles River Campus.

We are also including funding for pandemic preparedness in the budget. While it is not an explicit priority in the strategic plan, we are building on what we have learned during the past two years to ensure that we can meet the next broad-based health challenge.

Expanded funding for Development & Alumni Relations is critical to maintaining our momentum in securing philanthropic support from alumni and friends. You will recall that last year was our best fundraising year in the history of the University at $225 million. We are on course to exceed this.

By far, my greatest immediate concern is the impact of inflation on faculty and staff, our students, and the University. We have increased undergraduate tuition 4.25% for the coming academic year, our largest increase in 14 years, following an increase of only 3.0% last year. This increase does not keep pace with the current national rate of inflation and cannot fully offset the increased costs of University operations or fund salary increases that would fully mitigate the effects of inflation on the families of faculty and staff. I also am mindful that our students and their families are affected by our increases and by inflation. We are caught in an inflationary vise between the institutional pressures and the impact on our students and their families.

In the last year we have seen unprecedented upheaval in our staffing patterns, starting with the lifting of the hiring freeze approximately a year ago, the implementation of our new remote work policies in August of 2021, and the “great resignation” that is occurring nationally as people have reimagined their professional lives and priorities. Today, approximately 45% of our staff work remotely some fraction of the workweek. During the last 12 months (May 2021 to May 2022) we have hired 1,598 staff members compared to 1,380 for the period April 2019 to April 2020 (the closest comparable period). We still have an above-average number of open positions. I recognize that for those of you seeking to fill positions in your units it is frustrating that it can take longer than we would hope to recruit employees, but we are, I believe, making progress.

Even with the challenges I have mentioned, we have many reasons to be optimistic about our future. We all have seen the campus tours for prospective applicants led by our enthusiastic Admissions Ambassadors. The striking angularities and distinctive façade of the Center for Computing & Data Sciences are now visible. This amazing facility is emblematic of our commitment to lead in research across all our disciplines. And our newly promoted faculty members inspire us with their commitment to leadership in research and to educating our students.

I hope everyone enjoys Commencement two weeks from now and that it marks the beginning of a summer season that is both renewing and relaxing for you.

With abundant appreciation for everything you do for Boston University,


Robert A. Brown signature
Robert A. Brown