2020 Presidential Address

On April 8 President Ali Malekzadeh addressed Roosevelt University with recent news as well as faculty and student successes. We also honored the winners of our Presidential Awards for Social Justice.

The transcript follows below.

Michael Ford, Chief of Staff:

Welcome to the 2020 State of the University Address. If you had an opportunity, you should have been able to see the agenda for discussion today. If not, I’ll go over it really quickly. We’re going to have a quick welcome, which I’m doing right now. Then we’ll hear from Ali to talk about the Auditorium Theatre. We’ll hear about COVID-19, teaching and learning, the integration, the contingency plan for the University for return to campus, the Presidential Awards for Social Justice, the Fulbright scholarship winners. And then we’ll have a Q&A section and we’ll have a conclusion. There will be a Q&A function at the bottom of your screen where you can submit questions. I will then read those questions out to the community, that everybody could hear those questions. Ali will answer those questions at that time.

What will be helpful is if you wait until we get to the part where we’re talking about the return to campus or the social justice awards to make sure that you’ve given us an opportunity to address all of your concerns. That will be questions that will be addressed as a part of his discussion topics today. Then we’ll open up the Q&A for the community. Without any further ado, welcome to the 2020 State of the University address. Ali, I’m turning it over to you.

President Ali Malekzadeh (01:41):

Good afternoon everyone. I want to continue thanking every one of you for all of the hard work you are doing around the clock: teaching, maintaining the operations of the University, and all of the students who have adapted to the virtual course work and classes. And how quickly everyone responded and stepped up immediately to get our virtual university up and running. I want to use the analogy of moving mountains today. As we were getting ready for the integration of Robert Morris University, we knew this was a high mountain and we had to move it to make sure the integration goes well. As we were moving that mountain, the global pandemic happened and in the middle of moving the first mountain, now we’re all busy moving the second mountain.

I also want to thank our COVID-19 task force and emergency management operation team that is working collaboratively, day and night, overseeing the decisions that have been made as well as anticipating the future and possible further impacts to our University folks. Our teams are working really day and night to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible, understanding there will be glitches. Now we do not know exactly how long this emergency might last. What we will be able and ready to adjust and act accordingly. And thank you for all of you for your patience and your diligence. Information technology, residence life, finance, HR, legal, academic affairs, advancement, facilities, campus safety and my office are working together in unison for the betterment of the University during this health crisis.

Obviously, communication is a key component of our success around business continuity. You have been receiving daily updates from our marketing communications team, Nicole’s team, and I’m very grateful for that. The website and the Q&A that we have on the website for COVID-19 also provide vital information in order to make sure the community is well informed. Communications are sent out daily to update you — the students, faculty and staff — and helping all of us to understand the contingency plans that are being put in place as a result of COVID-19. Tutorials have been developed and taught online. We’ll get back to those, including training for new employees on Inside Roosevelt as well as Zoom meetings, something that is now the new normal for all of us. Raise your hand if you love Zoom. Now raise your other hand if you hate Zoom. Alright, there we go.

Can you believe that it’s only been three weeks since the state announced its strict mandate around staying at home and self-quarantining whenever possible? It feels like it’s been months now. The situation has only been escalating, and we expect that to continue. We must continue to address and adapt as this happens. Getting direction and updates from the government and higher education community is what we’re trying to do almost daily and perhaps hourly. This puts a lot of pressure on everyone — personally, professionally, socially and mentally. I recognize that, and I want to really say kudos to each and every one of you for being patient and dealing with this emergency. Plus we’re one of few industries that must continue to operate in order to maintain a pathway for students to succeed and earn a degree.

The road to a degree must continue no matter what. I think it’s also important for us to continue to operate because as a place of higher learning, we provide a balance, a certain level of stability and distraction, when everyone’s concern is staying healthy and keeping everyone around them healthy. Learning, studying, connecting with peers and students virtually is healthy for the mind and the spirit at this moment. Now, as you all know, our campuses are closed except for essential personnel. These include maintenance, campus safety, building engineers, human resource staff, residence halls, advisors, payroll and mailroom staff. All of you who would like to receive your payroll, raise your hand. I thought so.

So special thank you for those people who are able to come to work and maintain the operations of the University because it’s absolutely essential for all of us. Now in the three weeks that we have essentially been staying at home, there has been a lot of progress on many fronts, including how we maintain the facilities of our University as a safe and healthy place to be. Now dean of pharmacy Melissa Hogan, who chairs the COVID-19 task force, will be presenting today during my address to provide you with a high-level summary of things that have been happening and what to expect as it relates to Roosevelt from a clinical perspective. you will hear from her shortly.

This is roughly the outline of what I will be covering: Auditorium Theatre updates, teaching and learning, integration topics, contingency planning as it relates to summer courses, graduation, and also returning to our campus, which we all plan to do. And the announcement of the 2020 Presidential Awards for Social Justice, as well as two recent Fulbright recipients among our faculty.

Let me talk briefly about remote learning and instruction as we have been making proactive efforts to train and invest in technology to help our community. Our investment in technology is crucial as we shift to virtual scenarios, not only for academics, but also for remote working operations as well. Now my regular meetings are happening by Zoom several times a day. And I know all of you are doing the same thing, except now I can’t share the chocolate in my office with you. I apologize for that. But Michael Ford has promised to send each of you a piece of chocolate as if you were meeting with me today, correct Michael?

Now, of course, you are not teaching in a classic face-to-face classroom environment. This is a huge, huge shift. Now, we were lucky that we had many faculty who had gone through training in online instruction in the past couple of years. those people were able to shift relatively easily, but others as well. Now, the shift is important to stay competitive, retain and continue to recruit students. I can’t emphasize that enough. I’m very grateful for the faculty and the staff who make this possible. Many universities, including Roosevelt, have been pursuing online options and degrees for quite some time because it reaches a larger audience. It is more efficient and uses a channel that most generations are now more comfortable with and sometimes prefer.

However, I want you to know that face-to-face classroom instruction will never go away at Roosevelt and will always be the core mission of the University. Now, however, we must adjust to this new environment and be as creative as we can be.

Some of the decisions that we have made have not been easy. We all make hard choices and sacrifices the good of the community and others within the University. These are unforeseen events and not something we expected or any individual company or university planned for. Again, as we were integrating Robert Morris University, the pandemic happened and here we are, moving the second mountain. As a University, we must continue to be sure that we are academically and financially stronger for our students, faculty and staff. I am truly grateful for the trustees of the University for supporting administration and supporting the students financially, as well as encouraging all of us to continue our good work. Thank you much, trustees.

We make decisions based on yes, finances to run the University, but more importantly opportunities for our students and for what fits with the social justice mission of the University. We are a University that truly cheers for and supports our students. And an example of this is the current campaign for the student emergency fund. In just two and a half weeks, I’m happy to announce that we raised over $50,000 for the student emergency fund. Now this money goes directly to our current students who are being, who are facing sudden hardships and are in financial need. As of this morning, we had granted $23,000 to those students for laptops, for rent, for food, for all their needs. And the committee that is granting these awards is meeting three times a week to review the applications. thank you much for that.

Again, thank you to our trustees who contributed over $15,000 to the student emergency fund. The Executive and Dean’s Council leadership of the University participated 100% and also contributed $9,000 to the emergency fund. I’m proud of the way our community has come together and responded to student needs. Thank you all for all your contributions. But before I turn it over to Melissa again, I want to tell you a little bit about the work of the Auditorium Theatre. As a performing arts theatre, the performing arts part has to close down. Meanwhile, Rich Regan, the CEO of the Auditorium, is actively looking for ways to bring the community together, even when the theatre is closed. For example, they have recently launched two online video series focusing on the Auditorium and the artists who perform on our stage.

The first is called At Home with the Auditorium, a weekly performance series featuring singers, musicians and dancers. You can view this every Sunday at 6 p.m. #AudTalk is the video version of the theatre podcast series, highlighting artists that theatre works with. These video chats are posted every Wednesday at noon.

Beyond these initiatives, the team at the Auditorium is working to reschedule all of the shows that were impacted by the closure, reaching out to ticket buyers and donors who are affected by these changes. There are many ways to support our national historic landmark Auditorium Theatre during this time. One example of the change was the Bolshoi Ballet that was coming later on in June this year, but six months before that time, they had to ship their stage and all their equipment to Roosevelt. And obviously we had to postpone that. Rich and his team were working on rescheduling all of them.

With that said, now let me hand it over to Melissa Hogan, who has been steering our University with this pandemic, and it has not been easy. I want to commend her and the team on a great job far. Melissa, welcome and thank you for talking with all of us today.


Dean Melissa Hogan, College of Pharmacy (17:02):

Thank you, Ali. I appreciate the opportunity to provide an update to the University on the work of the coronavirus task force and the University response to this health crisis. The task force, which is comprised of representatives of all areas of the University as well as faculty with clinical expertise, began its work the first week of March. It was charged with addressing the emerging threat of coronavirus as it affected students, faculty and staff, and communicating regularly with the University community. The task force began by reviewing and updating relevant policies and by developing an infectious disease response plan. All of this work incorporated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The task force adheres to the guiding principles of supporting the health and wellbeing of the entire community while ensuring that the academic enterprise continues without interruption. In the past six weeks, the coronavirus task force has made several key recommendations that are documented on the University COVID webpage and summarized in the FAQ that are on the page.

Earlier efforts were designed to ensure that employee and academic policies permitted and encouraged faculty, staff and students to stay home if they had any signs of infections, if they were potentially exposed or if they were high risk for complications if infected. Furthermore, all employees and students were required and continue to be required to report any confirmed cases of COVID-19 to Toyia Stewart or to Jamar Orr. This is to ensure that we can notify the public health department and inform direct contacts, as well as the community at large, if the person has been on campus in the previous 14 days.

As was announced previously, we have had one confirmed case that was on campus and in contact with members of the Roosevelt community. Fortunately, that person is recovering and none of the known contacts have subsequently developed symptoms of coronavirus. IT and academic technology began in early March to prepare faculty and staff for the possibility of converting classes and operations online. Likewise, deans and department chairs worked closely with faculty to prepare for this possibility.

Then on March 12, the University decided to extend spring break by one week and to convert all classes online starting March 23, which enables students to stay home rather than return to campus. Importantly, the residence halls remain open so that students who need to remain on campus can do so. This approach requires significant additional planning and resources, but it’s the right thing to do for our students at the time of the move to online delivery. Campus offices and operations remained open.

However, coinciding with the governor of state home order on March 21, all Roosevelt campuses were closed and remain closed to all but essential personnel and those students who are staying in the dorms because they cannot return home. IT and academic technology continue to support all of us as we carry on working remotely, and the provost office continues to work closely with deans and chairs to support online course delivery.

I want to take a moment to share some of the ways that Roosevelt is supporting our community in this time of need. College of Pharmacy faculty are right now in the front lines caring for critically ill patients in our Chicago hospitals. One of our graduates is a COVID tester. Other graduates are volunteering to staff in the McCormick alternate care facility to care for the upcoming surge of patients, and about half of our class of 2020 are on rotations in community pharmacies serving as frontline health care providers.

Finally, Mount Sinai, a critical access hospital in Chicago, is a strong partner of the College of Pharmacy as well as the Robert Morris clinical programs. After providing needed personal protective equipment to essential Roosevelt staff, the College of Pharmacy donated all of our remaining lab supplies to the pharmacy department at Mount Sinai. Likewise, Robert Morris clinical supplies were donated to the nursing department at Mount Sinai. In all, hundreds of gloves, gowns, masks, and other supplies got into the hands of those who need them the most.

We can all be proud of how our University has supported its community at this time. With what we know about the course of this pandemic, we can expect continued disruption to our normal practices for at least several weeks to come. We will continue to monitor and follow city, state and federal mandates in addition to CDC and public health guidance. As we are able to transition back to opening the campus, we will create reasonable timelines for changes to give everyone time to adapt. I’m proud of the response of our University to the challenge, and I look forward to the time when we can gather together again. Thank you.

President Ali Malekzadeh (22:23):

Thank you, Melissa, for your leadership during this difficult and emotional time. And I will also like to mention that this state has asked all licensed pharmacists to be on call. And of course, Melissa and some of her faculty members are on call and they may be asked to serve. Again, thank you much for your leadership during this difficult and emotional time.

Let me now turn to teaching and learning. I would like to talk a bit more about what’s going on in classrooms with this crisis. All universities unexpectedly change their mode of delivery. I want to take a moment and emphasize the critical importance of all faculty adjusting your syllabus to the online format. This was not easy. I acknowledge that, but it had to be done.

This is also an opportunity to not only continue your courses, but to rethink what it would look like as we compete against other universities with online. To that point, I know there are many creative and unique things that all of you are doing in your classes. I ask you that you share your stories with me, with Provost Becker, with your deans, so that we can share it with the larger community and we can all learn about the best practices.

I have some highlights of the way our staff has mobilized to meet the rapid changes we’re facing. Library and Technology Services has quickly scaled up its services to students, faculty and staff in an unprecedented manner. The library has moved all of its operations and access online and has seen a significant rise in online interactions, including a 30% increase in extranet and interlibrary loans, a 59% increase in online chat sessions, and a 75% increase in online database usage.

Academic technology solutions partners with faculty to move, let me emphasize this, over 600 courses online in two weeks. 600 courses moved online in a matter of two weeks. They have continued to support these with virtual office hours and training sessions every day, including evenings, of which more than 300 faculty have attended at least one of these sessions. ATS also developed a remote teaching guide for faculty and a remote participation guide for students, each of which has been viewed more than 1,000 times, while also responding to more than 350 support requests.

ATS also manages Zoom, which saw a 358% increase in meetings and a 672% increase in meeting participants compared to this same time last year. In addition, ATS has begun offering a 24/7 help desk with a 300% increase in support ticket submissions.

Behind the scenes, our infrastructure team was able to virtualize our inbound customer service call centers, so that our financial aid, HR, ATRU and our IT help desk could continue to receive phone calls from their constituents and has kept up with a more than 2,100% increase in VPN use. All of our colleagues can have access to vital University systems safely from your homes. Thank you to all of our staff members who have been instrumental in providing critical support that we continue our good work.

Back to the movement of the first mountain: the integration of Robert Morris University and our colleagues from Robert Morris. It was just about a week before the stay-at home-orders came in that we announced the integration of Robert Morris University was finalized. I do not want this historic milestone to go unnoticed, and I want to thank everyone who made this happen for months and months. We planned how to do this as we sought approval from all their accrediting agencies and governmental agencies.

The actual work of the integration has resumed after the approval. And I have the good news to share with you that that integration is proceeding extremely well. Faculty and staff have worked tirelessly on the ongoing move of Robert Morris into Roosevelt buildings. I want to especially thank Dr. Michael Ford and Nino Randazzo. Working with approximately 40 faculty and staff and colleagues, they were able to make the move from various Robert Morris facilities to Roosevelt facilities. One other volunteer — who had nothing else to do, by the way, these days — called Michael Cassidy also volunteered on a couple of Saturdays to go in and help people move. Michael, thank you much for volunteering and all of you for doing this good work.

I should mention Jeff DeBrizzio, our amazing engineer who not only keeps our buildings safe and operating, but also was incredibly instrumental during the move. Thank you, thank you for all you and your team’s good work as well as our security staff.

Overall, the new University welcomed approximately 1,300 new students into its doors on March 10. In cooperation with IT and HR staff, employee files were transferred over and IDs were provided — a task that may sound easy, but it was complex, with several layers of work that had to be completed. Hundreds of faculty and thousands of students received their support and were able to sign up for classes.

Let me go back to the 35 task forces that we have. Admissions, human resources and finance systems have already been integrated now, to a large extent. Several task forces are still meeting regularly and will continue to work towards better integration of our two universities.

A good example of this is a cross-functional task force that is focused on the student life cycle. Think about that: student life cycle. This is the administrative work, a behind the scenes, if you will, of when a student goes from admission to financial aid to advising registrar student accounts, and progresses through their classes to graduation. This task force meets weekly to explore integrated processes and systems to make us much more efficient and effective. A lot of work still remains to be done to merge financial aid, student registration, Blackboard and many other systems that we have. This work is expected to be completed in early July. There’s a long list of people that I need to thank for all this work, but allow me to highlight all of the offices working together to ensure that we create the best possible experience for our students.

Because of COVID-19 contingency plans, many if not most Roosevelt events have been canceled, rescheduled and or now virtual, including, unfortunately, events tied to the 75th anniversary of the University, Commencement, and other academically related lectures and symposia. All spring and summer term 1 classes will be offered fully online. By the end of April, Provost Becker will determine if the remaining summer terms that begin July 6 will be offered in a face-to-face or online format. Stay tuned for that. An updated schedule with the remaining summer courses and updates will be available on Friday, May 1.

As most of you have heard, we had to make a difficult decision to postpone our May 8 Commencement a month from now; obviously we couldn’t get into the Auditorium Theatre to have the Commencement ceremony. This is undoubtedly a very emotional situation for our graduates and their families. And we did hear from the student government.

We will attempt to reschedule this event — we have sent out a survey to their graduating class asking them what are the most convenient times where we may hold an alternate graduation events or some other way to celebrate their graduation. The results of their survey, along with guidance from local and state authorities, will guide the decision to reschedule this ceremony.

Please emphasize to your students that while Commencement has been postponed, graduation of students and conferral of degrees has not been postponed. Those students graduate once they finish their work — they are still getting their degrees on time at the end of this semester.

We realize that any rescheduled date may not accommodate everyone, but we’re hopeful to see that by the end of this pandemic or the easing off of the pandemic, if the state allows us, we can get together again. Also, by that time, these graduating students will be proud alumni of the University that we look forward to working with.

At the same time that the pandemic is going on, we’re putting together a contingency plan to return to campus. I should mention that we have a subcommittee focusing on our return to campus, specifically the timing of return, logistics, the building cleaning, overall facilities readiness, and of course, any celebration we need to have to get together. Again, we will share this information as it becomes available and it’s appropriate, but please be patient because it changes every day, especially with the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois making announcements on a daily basis.

On a positive note, even the mayor has said Lollapalooza has not been canceled, and this event is of course in our backyard. We’re looking forward to that.

Now to some very, very good news. I’m truly honored to announce this year’s Presidential Awards for Social Justice. This is the second annual awards to recognize those individuals among us that have gone beyond the call of duty as a student, faculty or staff member through their ongoing commitment to and demonstration of social justice. Today we celebrate the leadership and accomplishments of the following award recipients for serving as advocates for change.

Our first award winner is Barbara Anderson, nominated by Estevan Montano. Barbara Anderson is the head of instruction and learning in the Roosevelt library. She led the development of an academic library curriculum that centers on social justice and has created an online research platform and teaching our students about information literacy. Barb has also championed a research learning outcome rubric to help faculty, students and research mentors understand expectations for student research. One introducing social justice topics. Congratulations to Barbara.

Our second award winner is Jackson Newsome, nominated by Dr. Susan Torres-Harding, professor of psychology. Jackson Newsome is a student in the clinical psychology doctoral program. In his academic clinical and research work at Roosevelt, Jackson has greatly contributed to a more fair and accepting climate for gender and sexual minority individuals. As a teacher, Jackson sought to provide an inclusive and respectful environment for students. He chaired the All-Gender Restroom Task Force at Roosevelt, which has expanded restroom access for students on campus. Through his clinical training, he also provided culturally affirmative and responsive clinical services to many populations in the Chicago area. Congratulations Jackson.

Our third and final award winner is professor Ray Frewen, nominated by student Parker Morley. Ray Frewen is an associate professor of theatre as well as the director of the Theatre Conservatory and associate dean of the Chicago College of Performing Arts. He is a constant advocate for transgender students and fights to ensure that their identities are recognized and supported. According to Parker Morley. Professor Frewen “will not hesitate to fix wrongdoings that affects his students.”

Overall, congratulations to Barbara, Jackson and Ray. I look forward to recognizing all of you in the fall once we get back together.

This past week, we heard that two of our colleagues were honored with the prestigious Fulbright Scholar awards: Professor John Fountain, professor of journalism, and Dr. Margaret Rung, professor of history and director of the Center for New Deal Studies.

John will spend a year in Ghana with his Fulbright award, a combination teaching and research scholarship, and a reflection of his leadership and his contribution to our society. Congratulations, John.

Margie has received a Fulbright to the People’s Republic of China for the spring semester of 2021. This is Margie’s second Fulbright: she spent the 2000–01 academic year as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Latvia. Congratulations to John Fountain and Margaret Rung.

With that, I will take questions for those who are watching and then I will have very brief concluding remarks.

Michael Ford, Chief of Staff (40:54):

It looks like we only have one question at this time and that question is, Have there been any new talks about implementing a pass-fail grading system?


Provost Lois Becker:

The University is not going to universal pass-fail. Students should speak with their faculty members if they’re having difficulties, and they have the option then of perhaps taking an incomplete, or whatever sort of arrangement they work out with their faculty member. The faculty know that we are being quite liberal in these of incompletes if necessary, et cetera. But the University as a whole will continue. There will be no asterisk by the spring semester 2020.

Michael Ford, Chief of Staff (41:53):

Now the question: What measures are being taken to protect the essential RU workers who have worked on campus from the virus? Are RU workers who are at higher risk being allowed to stay at home and continue to be paid and receive benefits? Are RU workers, including at the Auditorium Theatre, continuing to be paid and receive benefits?

President Ali Malekzadeh (42:18):

All right. let me address that. Yes, that the answer is yes. At this moment, we haven’t made any announcements as far as nobody receiving their pay. And just like all of you who are working remotely, everybody else is in the same stage. As we move forward, we’ll make some decisions on a weekly and monthly basis.

For those essential workers who are coming to campus, we are maintaining very cautious protocols for those workers. And for those colleagues who come to campus again, payroll staff need to be on campus. Mail staff need to be on campus, but they are coming one by one by one. I was talking to Toyia yesterday and she’s making sure only one person is in the office at a time. And even then, if a second person shows up, they’re keeping their distance. We’re abiding by the distance protocol as much as possible and making sure the community is safe.

Michael Ford, Chief of Staff (43:31):

Can Robert Morris students take advantage of the student emergency fund?

Jamar Orr, Vice President of Student Affairs (43:45):

Yes. The emergency fund is open to all students and that includes our Robert Morris students as well. any student that you know who’s in need of support, agree to send them the link. Okay.

President Ali Malekzadeh (43:57):

I will also add that, remember as of March 10, everybody is a Roosevelt student.

Michael Ford, Chief of Staff (44:09):

Are there any plans to increase the newfound online class options permanently?

President Ali Malekzadeh  (44:22):

This is an academic issue that maybe Lois can answer, but we have to look at this and consult with the faculty, with our Senate leaders, with the deans, with the leadership of the departments and all faculty. We have been on the trajectory to increase online options, and my guess is the demand will come not only from the students but also from the faculty. Maybe Lois can address this a little bit better than I can.

Provost Lois Becker (44:54):

I think that was an excellent answer. I’ll be as, as you said, we have been developing more and more online programs, online certificates. The MBA is going to be online starting in the fall, but it will follow if we continue to do more online. I mean this is something that we will discuss and we will determine whether or not it makes sense for everyone.

Michael Ford, Chief of Staff (45:23):

Will federal student workers continue to receive pay throughout the closure, even if it’s extended through the summer semester?

Andrew Harris, Chief Financial Officer (45:39):

Yes. We are continuing to pay our student employees on federal work-study. all of that money is available and is being used to support those students for as long as the funds the federal funds remain.

Michael Ford, Chief of Staff (45:56):

Are all Laker grant applications being approved? If not, what are their criteria for their approval?

Jamar Orr, Vice President of Student Affairs (46:29):

The answer is no, not all applications are being approved. The criteria that we look at are: A, is it a current Roosevelt University student? Some students are putting in requests for things for their family, but not necessarily them. The other ones that are being denied are those that don’t have any documentation. For example, if the student writes in saying they need help supporting the cost of a light bill. What we would require that light bill. And with those students, we are following up and asking them to submit the documentation that is needed to push their application to approval.

Michael Ford, Chief of Staff (47:18):

How many full time and part-time RU faculty have been integrated into the University?

Toyia Stewart, Vice President of Human Resources (47:30):

Over 200 and numbers will continue to change with more course offerings for adjunct employees. Okay.

Michael Ford, Chief of Staff (47:46):

What provisions will be made for cleaning the University prior to our return?

Andrew Harris, Chief Financial Officer (47:57):

I can take that one. We have an ongoing contract with ABM custodial. They have been working throughout to maintain our facilities and as the task force that the president mentioned about returning when this is done. We will consider the necessary lead time to bring ABM in before everyone returns, to make sure every facility is addressed one last time before we all come back. Everything will be clean and sterilized and ready for our return en masse.

Michael Ford, Chief of Staff (48:35):

Are you looking at recruitment efforts relative to all the Illinois students back at home— the students that have left the state for higher education but are now back?

President Ali Malekzadeh (48:48):

Just an anecdote I’ll mention, and then I’ll turn it over to Mike Cassidy. The feedback that we’re getting nationally in various surveys is that many students are indicating that they want to remain closer to home. And in effect, that is an advantage for us, being in a major metropolitan city. As you know, we have been losing many Illinois students and Chicago students to other states. This would be a very good opportunity for us to ask the students to come back home, and of course to Roosevelt University. With that said, Mike Cassidy, would you like to respond to that, unless you’re busy volunteering for some other work that I can’t see?

Mike Cassidy, Vice President of Enrollment and Athletics (49:41):

I’ll just echo what you said. Yes. The national kind of surveys that have gone out have shown that students are reconsidering their college. Those new students, high schoolers are reconsidering their college search. And those continuing students are reconsidering where they might attend in the future, especially out-of-state students who want to be closer to home. We are actively working in connecting with our marketing office to put together a campaign to make the outreach to students to let them know that in a time of uncertainty, the one certainty is the great education that can get at Roosevelt close to home.

Michael Ford, Chief of Staff (50:20):

Great. Mike, this one’s for you as well. Will student-athletes who rely on their athletic scholarships to attend RU be able to still receive their scholarships even though they’re not physically able to participate in this sport?

Mike Cassidy, Vice President of Enrollment and Athletics (50:35):

Yes. we are honoring all athletic scholarships and we’ll do so moving forward, even in a scenario where public health guidelines do not allow us to come back immediately in the fall. Should any of the fall seasons be impacted the way our spring sports seasons were, we would continue to honor all athletic scholarships.

Michael Ford, Chief of Staff (50:59):

Are there any major financial or operational concerns for the University that are the direct result of COVID-19, such as the collection of tuition revenue limited during the services, etc.?

President Ali Malekzadeh (51:14):

I will again give a broad commentary on that and then maybe Andrew, you can be a bit more specific. The good news overall is that as we move to an online environment, we didn’t lose many students. There was no wholesale leaving of classes and abandoning their degrees and forth, which was great news. Our business has continued on, operation has continued and so far, we haven’t heard anything regarding any red flags regarding tuition, payments and other things. Now of course, as we go forward, chances are the students who are not able to work may have a harder time meeting some of their obligations. etc. But at this moment that hasn’t happened.

Mike Cassidy, Vice President of Enrollment and Athletics (52:15):

Thank you, Ali. What I’ll add to that is in the areas where you might expect us to have taken a decrease in revenue, obviously we have. Particularly we’re looking at summer conference services and things that we’ve had to cancel because of the citywide and statewide orders.

Everything else the president said is true. What I provide as context, though, is that there are aid programs that will bear some fruit for the University. The organization that advocates on our behalf, us being an independent college, is securing resources from federal and other grants that will help blunt some of the lost revenue conference service and other areas. But by and large, our business model remains intact. We are in constant contact with our lenders and others who provide us financing. And so far, everything looks stable. That’s the good news for now.

Michael Ford, Chief of Staff (53:21):

Are there financial aid implications for students if they received than one incomplete for their classes?

Provost Lois Becker (53:30):

I do not know the specific answer to that. And it certainly depends upon the student’s financial aid. If it’s a scholarship, whether it’s Pell, et cetera. And this is why actually one of the reasons why we’re not going to universal pass-fail, because that would impact the financial aid of veterans. It would impact financial aid for students with specific types of scholarships or if they’re getting some of their funds from employers. Students really need to check that out with financial aid before going to an incomplete.

Michael Ford, Chief of Staff (54:17):

What effect does the significant stock market decline have on our financial picture? Especially with regard to bond covenants.

Andrew Harris, Chief Financial Officer (54:29):

The most direct impact of the decline in the stock market comes to the endowment of the University. The total value of the University, of course, has decreased as the stock market has decreased. We draw 4.5% of our endowment to fund various activities within the operating budget, but that is on a trailing three-year average. We have no negative effect on the bond covenants. We are in full compliance with all of our lending agreements and, as I indicated earlier, we’re in constant contact with our bondholder representatives, are meeting all covenants and we’ll continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Michael Ford, Chief of Staff (55:23):

Okay. Many colleges and universities throughout the US and here in Illinois have moved their decision days from 5/1 to 6/1 or even later. Where are you in this discussion?

Mike Cassidy, Vice President of Enrollment and Athletics (55:40):

Yes, we have moved our decision day priority deposit deadline to June 1, kind of in line with what many of our peers were doing, but really to speak to our population, specifically wanting to give them the necessary time they need to make that right choice for them. But it also speaks to what we were talking about prior, in terms of additional outreach we’re making to those students who might be reconsidering their college choice, to give them the time to attend now one of our virtual tours or virtually meet with one of our counselors, and really give them the chance to explore Roosevelt and consider Roosevelt as that right place for them in the fall.

Michael Ford, Chief of Staff (56:27):

Will students get back any fees, CTA U-Pass, et cetera? Are we planning to refund any students who had to leave the dorms as well?


Jamar Orr, Vice President of Student Affairs (56:39):

I can take the question as it relates to the CTA U-Pass. We are not in charge of those refunds with these gays and they have by then at this point I issued a report on the cost of the CTA. you’ve had, um, as it relates to real plants. Last Thursday we issued a statement out to all of our residential students that outlined our meal plan credits. Um, they will be receiving up to a $400 credit if they were a traditional Roosevelt student or up to $443 if they were a former Robert Morris student. And there is additional information on the COVID-19 website outline is the specifics of that plan.

Michael Ford, Chief of Staff (57:22):

This looks like a question from a student, President Ali. If you could say one thing to students in these trying times, what would that be?

President Ali Malekzadeh (57:33):

Persistence, persistence. Some of us who are little bit older than the students understand that there are cycles in life, that there are ups and downs and recessions and unfortunately pandemics. Please persist. You will succeed. Some of you attended many of our Commencement ceremonies, and our message as a University has always been: You will succeed if you persist, and all of us are here to help you do that. It will be hard. These are all uncertain times. But at the same time, if you have the will to succeed and you have the patience, and also remember our social justice mission. Be kind to your fellow students, to your faculty, to the staff of the University. if we’re kind to each other as a community and persist, we will succeed. So hang in there. Is that three words or one word? Is that three words or one word?

Michael Ford, Chief of Staff (58:49):

I will take one more question here and it says, Oh, will RU still be using Pearson’s platform of Robert Morris for student assignments? And then in parentheses, it says: not recommended.

Neeraj Kumar, Vice President for Technology (59:22):

I think that’s a discussion that we have to have with the Robert Morris Experiential College. It’s not a decision that I think we can make centrally. I will have that discussion and they can consult the group back. I’ll take a note of the person who posed that question and I can respond back to the individual.

Michael Ford, Chief of Staff (59:35):

Okay. That concludes our Q&A portion, and I’ll turn it back over to Ali for his closing remarks.

President Ali Malekzadeh (59:50):

As Mike Cassidy mentioned, fortunately enrollment is upholding. We are just slightly down for summer enrollment, but the picture for fall looks stable, and there hasn’t been a wholesale drop out or students and not signing up. That gives me optimism going forward. We’ll have all of our students returning and many additional students joining us.

I started my remarks by mentioning that now we’re moving two mountains. We will get to the other side of this challenge to COVID-19, and we will be academically and financially stronger once we get to the other side of it.

I want to thank everyone for “attending” this address. Thank you for your hard work and increased efforts during this pandemic. Now, I do have an overwhelming sense of pride as your ambassador because of the amazing work that each and every one of you does.

You work hard and you work diligently in this time of crisis. Now let’s join the governor in his All-In Illinois campaign and pledge our commitment to do our part for the greater Chicagoland community. This will only speed up the time for us to return to our campus, our normal, and job environment will be on campus. We’ll look forward to that. Most importantly, to seeing our friends, family, and loved ones. I urge you again to visit the COVID-19 site, a repository of all the information and updates and FAQ that we have on a daily basis.

Be safe, be well, protect yourself, and protect your neighbor. Good luck to all of you. Thanks everyone for attending and have a great rest of your day. Take care.