Administrators discuss endowment, fall at Faculty Assembly meeting


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Northwestern President Morton Schapiro. At a Wednesday faculty assembly, Schapiro said the University plans to increase the amount of money utilized from the endowment from 5 to 6 percent.

Isabelle Sarraf, Development and Recruitment Editor

At a Wednesday faculty assembly, Northwestern administrators explained recent developments in the University’s COVID-19 plans, including the six-phase re-opening plan and usage of the endowment.

Faculty members submitted questions for top University administrators at the event, moderated by Feinberg Prof. and Faculty Senate president Lois Hedman.

University President Morton Schapiro discussed the decision to tap into the endowment to pay for room and board subsidies and some COVID-19-related financial costs. He added the University plans to increase the amount of money utilized from the endowment from 5 to 6 percent, but will not draw any further than that.

Several faculty criticized the University, asking why money wasn’t taken from the endowment to mitigate the contribution to retirement plans and the furloughing of 250 staffers.

“The idea that you can take money from the endowment and use it for whatever you want is sort of a fission,” Schapiro responded. “There’s no way in hell I would recommend to the board (that we) go above 6 percent.”

Faculty also expressed concern about the lack of faculty involvement in the University’s plan to reopen the campus.

Vice President for Research Milan Mrksich said there have been many discussions with the chairs of the science and engineering departments on research. He said the faculty in those departments had “quite a substantial input” in the University’s six-phase plan announced on Friday.

After the event, political science Prof. Jacqueline Stevens told The Daily she was hoping the University would provide specific information faculty have been requesting for weeks. Stevens added she was frustrated by administrators’ inability to give a complete response. She added the University hasn’t been transparent with its handling of the endowment.

“There’s a big conflict of interest when the decisions being made about how much to go into the endowment are made by people who are benefitting directly from the size of the endowment, because it’s going into their own pet projects,” Stevens told The Daily.

While many questions concerned the uncertainties around Fall Quarter, Schapiro said the University has yet to make any plans official and is still weighing “all the possible options.”

One advantage of being on the quarter system, Schapiro said, is that Northwestern has more time to announce whether classes will be held entirely remotely and can learn from the successes and failures of its peer institutions.

Interim Provost Kathleen Hagerty said she recently met with the deans of NU’s individual schools. There, she said they discussed the fact that other institutions are considering finishing fall classes before Thanksgiving. She said this option would prevent students, faculty and staff from going home and bringing the virus back to campus.

“We’re thinking it through, I think there’s a lot of appeals there,” Hagerty said. “As you recall, in the spring we started a week late, so there is some flexibility in terms of the length of the quarter.”

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