Brendan W. Clark ’21
In late October, President of the College Joanne Berger-Sweeney authorized this disbursement of $600,000, including apportioning $730.00 bonuses in December to all full-time staff, after the College projected a “positive budget forecast of $1.5 million,” according to an email from Acting Dean of the Faculty and Vice President for Academic Affairs Sonia Cardenas and Vice President of Finance and Chief Financial Officer Dan Hitchell obtained by the Tripod.
Cardenas and Hitchell noted that they will “direct approximately $600,000 of our projected surplus to staff and faculty” in recognition of their “contributions and dedicated hard work.” The $600,000 will be split “equally among faculty and staff members” and the new disbursements will exclude “Cabinet-level administrators” at this time.
Chief of Staff to the President Jason Rojas confirmed that the remaining $900,000 realized in the forecast, as outlined in Cardenas and Hitchell’s email, will be allocated exclusively to the College’s “COVID contingency” fund in “anticipation of planned and unexpected expenses in the spring.”
The disbursements come several months after the eleven employees were laid off by the College as part of a series of administrative decisions to offset the adverse financial impacts brought on by the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, which in April had resulted in a projected deficit of between $14 and $22 million. Trinity ultimately reported a loss of only $1.3 million for FY 2020 in mid-October.
Previously, Berger-Sweeney and division leaders had “cut about 15 percent of their budgets” and, with respect to Academic Affairs, there were more than “$6 million in cuts,” which included a “progressive cut in the salary of all faculty and several administrative staff earning more than $105,000.”
Faculty and academic administrative staff salaries have been reinstated effective Oct. 1, 2020, according to Hitchell and Cardenas, though “reductions made between July and September will not be affected.”
Staff working more than 30 hours per week will also be awarded bonuses of $730, “subject to federal, state, and local taxes,” as part of a “fair, albeit imperfect, way of expressing [the College’s] gratitude” for their work during the pandemic. Staff had realized monetary losses by divisional compensation reductions of $2.5 million, which took the form of “a combination of furloughs, frozen positions, and eliminated positions.”
Rojas told the Tripod that the decision to award these bonuses was to “recognize the contributions of our faculty and staff who have gone above and beyond to provide a safe and engaging learning experience for our students during these challenging times.”
Trinity did not consider extending additional compensation to those personnel eliminated earlier this year following the positive forecast, Rojas added, noting that the College “offered severance packages to the employees affected” and that Trinity “had an obligation to help the affected employees to the best of our ability at the time and we did that.”
Faculty and staff had previously started a crowdfunding campaign to support the eleven employees whose positions were eliminated. At the conclusion of the campaign in late August, $14,625 had been raised to support those impacted.