Schapiro, senior administrators talk vaccines, admissions in ‘Conversations with the President’

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Graphic by Carly Schulman

University President Morton Schapiro. In his annual “Conversations with the President,” Schapiro addressed key issues regarding the current state of the University.

Diego Ramos-Bechara, Assistant Arts & Entertainment Editor

University President Morton Schapiro and senior administrators discussed vaccinations, finances and social justice initiatives in Tuesday’s ‘Conversations with the President.’

The annual event was co-sponsored by the Northwestern University Staff Advisory Council, the Faculty Senate and the Office of the President. Schapiro was joined after opening remarks by Provost Kathleen Hagerty, Craig Johnson, senior vice president for business and finance and Robin Means Coleman, vice president and associate provost for diversity and inclusion.

Schapiro said the University has already administered about 2,000 vaccines to community members and hopes to distribute more, but Northwestern’s ability to vaccinate faculty, staff and students is dependent on supply.

According to Hagerty, about 50 percent of University faculty and staff have either received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine or are fully vaccinated. Administrators have yet to decide whether to enforce a vaccine mandate prior to students’ return to campus next Fall Quarter.

Hagerty said the University hopes to offer in-person classes next fall, dependent on pandemic safety regulations.

“I’m just really excited to start energizing the campus again,” Hagerty said. “I’m really looking forward to having students back and having them be much freer to be themselves and to do the kind of things students love to do.”

Schapiro said the University’s work in mitigating COVID-19, research growth and rise in rankings have led to an influx of alumni donations and a surge in undergraduate applications. Donations this year passed the University’s initial goal, he added.

The University also saw 8,730 more first-year applications this year, he said, and accepted a historic low of 6.8 percent of applicants into the class of 2025 and transfers.

“We’re proud to be one of the most selective institutions in the world,” Schapiro said.

Johnson shared updates regarding the University’s finances, explaining how NU ended fiscal year 2020 with an $83.4 million surplus when they had initially anticipated a $90 million deficit.

He said the original estimated deficit came from analysts who predicted the University’s “worst case scenario,” accounting for revenue losses in athletics, tuition, COVID-related expenses, on-campus housing and fundraising. But that worst case scenario resulted in hundreds of dining and service workers furloughed without compensation for months.

Johnson said the estimated deficit was proven false because of market stabilizations, increased fundraising and Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s quick reactivation. The University now plans to use some of those surplus funds to increase the amount of need-based financial aid granted to students, he said.

“We had to make a lot of difficult choices,” Johnson said. “Now we’re positioned to start to reinvest in our people. That’s the first thing we want to do out of the gate.”

Chief Diversity Officer Coleman spoke on the University’s plans for equity and social justice, confirming that the Black House will reopen as scheduled. She added that it plans to host graduating seniors for a walk-through of the renovated building in June.

Coleman also affirmed her commitment to anti-racism training. She said most senior administrators have already undergone a few modules of training, and she’s planning for faculty to have completed initial training modules by August 31.

“This work has been going on for nearly 170 years (of University history),” Coleman said. “We want to ensure that those who come here stay here and thrive.”

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