President’s Operational Excellence Initiative

May 4, 2020

Dear AUC Community,

Over the past six weeks, our community has demonstrated AUC’s characteristic resilience, determination, agility and spirit of collaboration in the face of the global pandemic. We can take pride in having achieved the twin goals we defined at the outset of protecting the health and safety of our community and saving the spring term for our students. Thanks to effective crisis management by the Covid-19 Response Task Force and the swift shift to online learning and remote working — a heroic effort by our faculty, staff, and students — we have successfully navigated the first phase of this public health emergency. 

Confronting the persistent operational and economic effects of Covid-19 will continue to challenge our former assumptions about how we work, study, teach, and conduct research.  It will require us urgently to address long-standing structural resource management sustainability issues that we can no longer defer. Our ambition is not to merely navigate the challenges of the next phase, but to use them to propel AUC’s continued pursuit of excellence. 

Hence, at Thursday’s Campus Conversation, I announced the establishment of the President’s Operational Excellence Initiative. Seven interdisciplinary committees will replace the Covid-19 Response Task Force, working within AUC’s standing strategic plan, coordinated by the Office of Strategy, Management Information, and Evaluation. Each committee needs and warmly invites expertise, ideas, concerns, and focused effort from anyone outside their immediate offices and disciplines.  Please reach out to them if you wish to share in the responsibility and opportunity to turn our confrontation of the pandemic into fresh energy for AUC’s renewal at this historic start of our second century. Click here to watch the video of the last Campus Conversation with each of the committee chairs. Click here for a list of the committees and their mandates.

The committees will steer the planning for our physical return to campus and alternative scenarios for the Fall 2020 academic program.  They will aim to optimize all operations and streamline our bureaucracy.  They will address the financial impacts of the global economic crisis on our faculty and staff, our students’ families, and hence on AUC’s budget. Like most organizations and universities, AUC faces a budget deficit in the current and next fiscal year and possibly beyond. We project drops in fundraising, some revenues, international students and our endowment returns, as well as increased need for student financial aid. Nevertheless, we remain confident and resolute in our commitment to preserve the finest educational experience available in Egypt and the region, at the certified global standards necessary also to continue to attract students from around the world. 

To sustain AUC’s continuous drive for excellence in the face of increasing resource constraints, we have instituted a hiring freeze on staff positions; suspended salary increases and merit bonus payments for the next fiscal year; eliminated overtime assignments;  frozen travel, hospitality and other discretionary spending; and reviewed all pending capital expenses for deferrals. The committees will welcome all proposals for other measures to cut costs, increase revenues, and improve delivery of our services — including still higher standards for a clean and hygienic environment.  I have also urged all senior faculty and staff to follow the example of the many who quietly have made AUC a primary focus of their own personal charitable giving over the years. 

The coming months will bring more challenges as we tackle the budget deficit and the operational uncertainties imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. The best universities relish problem-solving as the portal to discovery, creativity and the most impactful education. We must seize this moment to accelerate and sharpen our focus on the reforms already underway in our relentless pursuit of sustainability and excellence in everything we do. I am confident that AUC will emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic stronger, more agile and even more widely recognized for setting the highest standards in our educational mission.

Francis J. Ricciardone