There’s no easy way to say this: I have made the difficult decision to eliminate many of your positions. In the past year, we have achieved huge wins together. But unfortunately, the macroeconomic environment has shifted in ways none of us could have foreseen, from an economy in which I did feel like paying you, to one in which I’d rather not.
In 2021, things looked different. Interest rates were low, and my enthusiasm for bankrolling your children’s insulin was high. Given every available forecast, it was the perfect time for the university to spin up some original streaming content, start another capital campaign for the Bloomington campus, announce a multimillion-dollar rebranding campaign for the Indianapolis campus, and give me a a $160,000 bonus for preventing a graduate worker strike. Who could have known that in just a few months, despite all our operational velocity, the world would pivot so dramatically? Staff attrition has stalled. Inflation has risen. And suddenly all your salaries and dental work hang like millstones chafing the supple neck of my compensation package.
I wish this weren’t the case. But we cannot avoid the externalities of today’s market, which is influenced by complicated global factors like the collapse of Chinese real estate, the war in Ukraine, and my desire for a marble kitchen island with a waterfall edge. As we all know, our competitors are relentless. Even as we speak, they’re streamlining, optimizing, and booking the best adjuncts in the Midwest for the next academic year. If I could want to pay you, I would. I just simply can’t.
This was not an easy decision to make. It’s weighed heavily on me for the past year, keeping me up at night and nearly causing me to cancel the special class sessions on inequality, even though Nikole Hannah-Jones’s $101,700 appearance fee was only 50 percent refundable. Let’s not mince words, though; the accountability for this decision rests with me. The consequences, on the other hand, rest with you, but so does a pretty generous COBRA package.
Ultimately, this decision was made out of an abundance of confidence in our mission and all the work you’ve put into it. The fact is, our fundamentals are sound. The university’s tuition revenue is growing. Our endowment fund reserves are high. We are not going anywhere (except for a few hundred of you, but you’ll be going there with a free login for LinkedIn Learning). The fact is, if I wanted to pay you, I could. I could even give you raises. But once again, that is not the economic reality we face. And so we must make hard choices.
For those of you we are losing, I’d like to say thank you for all the work you have given us, but there’s a good chance you’ve already been locked out of your computer before this email arrived.
For those of you who are staying, I look forward to touching base at the town hall next week (forgive the early start time as I’m dialing in from Cinque Terre). In the meantime, please take a moment to reflect, refocus, and visualize the bright future ahead: one in which we double down on executional excellence, and I feel interested in paying you again.
Shout with questions,
President, Indiana University
(parody of Macroeconomic Changes Have Made It Impossible for Me to Want to Pay You)