August 3, 2020
Dear BCCC Faculty and Staff:
I hope this message finds you well, safe, and healthy. These past 18 weeks of being away from campus and operating remotely have tested us all. This period has also been an opportunity for BCCC to become more operationally efficient and innovative, as well as improve the services we provide to our students in a remote environment. All our efforts are being done with an eye on student success and towards the College’s Realignment, which every faculty and staff member plays an important role.
At this time, I can share with you that we will operate in a remote environment for the Fall 2020 Semester. We are exploring safe options for our students that have clinicals and labs, however, we expect that there will be very few on campus options. Classes will continue to be taught remotely and online; staff will continue to work remotely. There may be a need for some faculty and staff to make periodic visits to the campus to retrieve resources or respond to requests where such cannot be done remotely. Each visit results in the need for additional cleaning and possible increased exposure to others. Cabinet will work with supervisors in this regard to make the appropriate arrangements.
As I discussed during the recent Virtual Town Hall, Fiscal Year 2021 began on July 1 with extreme challenges for the State of Maryland and BCCC. COVID-19 has had a severe impact on the fiscal condition of the state, and in early July, the Board of Public Works (BPW), Maryland’s administrative and spending body, reduced the state’s FY 2021 budget by $413 million. Included in these cuts were $3.2 million from BCCC’s budget as well as an additional $500,000 that was allocated to improve our facilities. These cuts are drastic compared to our peer institutions; I strongly advocated for BCCC and against this action to members of the BPW and other state officials.
We are evaluating our budget to determine how to make adjustments that will do the least harm to the College operations, and best support faculty, staff and students. Unfortunately, the budget cuts will not allow BCCC to provide salary adjustments during this fiscal year and we will likely need to consolidate in some areas. No decisions will be made lightly, and I will continue to advocate for the restoration of our funding while keeping the BCCC community informed about budget constraints and impacts.
Professional development for faculty and staff will remain a priority. Physical travel will be curtailed but web-based professional development opportunities will be supported. The President’s Forum will be held on Wednesday, August 12, and the Faculty Academy will occur on Friday, August 14. In collaboration with the faculty, institutional working (virtual) sessions will be scheduled (August 17-19) on topics including Title IX, program review, curriculum, data management, assessment and Middle States accreditation. Additional sessions on remote work and teaching will also be scheduled. Fall classes begin on Monday, August 24.
COVID-19 positivity rates for the City of Baltimore continue to increase and troubling trends remain in much of the state. The Governor has now mandated that everyone older than five must wear a mask inside all public buildings, and in the City of Baltimore, the Mayor has required everyone over the age of two to wear a mask inside all public spaces and outdoors when social distancing is not possible. Additionally, the Governor issued a public health advisory to discourage travel to and from states that have a positivity rate of 10% or higher.
We continue to monitor COVID-19 rates in our city and remain in regular contact with our state and city leaders. I want you to know that each decision for the College is being made in a deliberate manner to plan for our eventual return to campus. We have completed campus walk-throughs with Cabinet members and groups of faculty and staff to determine what health and safety modifications are needed. Faculty specifically joined the visits to the BioPark, the computer rooms, the nursing building, and the health science areas in the main building. This information along with local and national resources and the College community will be used to inform our return to campus along with consultation and support from the Baltimore City Health Department.
While our fall enrollment is not yet stable, I am pleased that our summer enrollment is up over 19%. This is a result of improved course offerings, added sections, and the commitment of faculty and staff. To support our students, BCCC provided summer textbooks at no cost, including workforce course textbooks, by utilizing federal CARES Act funding. To make this process as easy as possible, the Bookstore mailed textbooks to our students at no cost to them. This initiative provided over 2,000 textbooks and saved our students more than $270,000. While the College will not be able to assume the cost of books in the fall, we will cover the cost to mail textbooks to our students. And, we will promote other cost savings for our students.
Recruitment efforts are targeted at our demographic through the new “Your Move” campaign. One of our greatest assets as a college is that students receive a quality education at an affordable cost, and depending on the situation, no cost at all. BCCC is also the only community college in Maryland that has the same tuition rate regardless of which jurisdiction a student resides. We are telling our story, sharing our programs and student support, so that prospective students can make the right move to BCCC.
We are excited to celebrate our graduates during the Virtual Commencement to be held on Saturday, August 22. Our graduates will be mailed a College branded box with their regalia, diploma with the diploma the cover, and BCCC swag. Graduates will be asked to take a picture of themselves in their regalia and submit it to be included in the Commencement video. As well, faculty and staff have also been invited to submit celebratory messages, pictures, and videos. Our Commencement website is being updated regularly to include this information.
In lieu of a Town Hall and to keep lines of communication open, I will be meeting with groups of faculty and staff over the next week as we prepare for the coming academic year. With all that we have endured, there are better days ahead.
Stay Safe and BCCC Strong!
Debra L. McCurdy, PhD