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Board of Trustees approves budgets and talks coronavirus impact at quarterly meeting

The coronavirus pandemic loomed large over the first-ever online meeting of the Board of Trustees.

At its quarterly meeting, which concluded Friday, the board approved operating and capital budgets for the University—including the School of Medicine and School of Nursing but excluding Duke Hospital and other clinical components of the Duke University Health System—for fiscal year 2020-21, according to a Monday news release. The meeting also featured discussion of the resumption of campus activity and the financial impact of the pandemic.

The operating budget for 2020-21 came out to $2.8 billion, and the capital budget is $218 million, according to the release. 

“The financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic remains uncertain and is therefore largely not reflected in this budget,” the release notes about the operating budget, though it does include a $67 million transfer from reserves. The release also mentions that Duke has announced measures to reduce spending, including freezing hiring and suspending most new construction. 

The release states that, beyond these measures, “further actions are anticipated to protect academic and student priorities.”

President Vincent Price led a discussion with senior administrators about ongoing planning for a return to campus activity, the release states, including “teaching, student life and research, as well as updates on patient care in Duke’s hospital and clinics, the ongoing advancement of strategic goals and the financial effect of the pandemic.”

The trustees also reviewed the financial challenges that the pandemic poses to Duke. These include “significant, projected declines in philanthropy, support from clinical operations, and auxiliary revenue,” as well as an increase in costs for operations and student financial aid, according to the release.

In other business

The board approved the awarding of undergraduate and graduate degrees, according to the release, even though this year’s commencement ceremony has been postponed. The release states that Duke plans to hold an on-campus celebration of the Class of 2020 next year. 

The board reviewed and ratified progress toward a strategy for better commercializing research. The new strategy will aim to bring more research-oriented business activity to the Triangle area through “collaborative efforts, space, marketing, financing and talent development," the release states.

The meeting also saw the board establish three strategic task forces to focus on the University’s 2024 centennial, Duke-Durham collaboration and Duke’s environmental and sustainability efforts. The task forces include trustees, faculty and students and will advise administration on these subjects. 

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