Policy Changes and Updated Guidelines for Staff Travel and Purchasing

To: All Staff
From: Ivan Samstein, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
Subject: Policy Changes and Updated Guidelines for Staff Travel and Purchasing
Date: November 2, 2020

As University leadership continues to focus on the long-term financial health of the University and respond to the immediate fiscal needs resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, I am writing to share updates on cost-saving best practices and staff policies related to travel and purchases. Additional information will be provided on our year-end 2020 financials and trajectory for the current fiscal year in the coming weeks

The financial challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic have been significant. While travel and entertainment expenses remain very limited in the current environment, additional non-personnel cost-savings steps are required. After thorough review and deliberation, the following cost-saving measures will take effect immediately for staff. Please refer to the University’s updated Policy 1202: Business Expense Management page and corresponding FAQs for more details. Unit leaders may implement similar guidelines for their entire unit (i.e., applicable to staff, faculty, and others) as required for budgetary purposes.

Policy Changes and Updated Guidelines for Staff:

  • Obtain Pre-Approval for Travel – In light of the pandemic, the University has suspended most University-sponsored international and domestic travel until further notice. Essential staff travel for University business now requires prior written approval from the unit Associate Dean, Associate Vice President, or equivalent for the President’s or Provost’s Offices, and review and approval by the Pandemic Travel Review Committee. Approved travel should be limited to critical University needs, such as education, research, and critical administrative activities only.
  • Discontinue Use of Livery Transportation – Staff should seek the most cost-efficient means for work-related reimbursable transportation. Use of livery vehicles is not permitted (e.g., black car service, including rideshare black car service).
  • Limit Meals and Catering – Reimbursement for staff meals and catering is limited to $30 per person and requires prior written approval from the Associate Dean or an Associate Vice President of the unit.
  • Use University-Issued GEMS Cards – For staff with a GEMS credit card, this card must be used for University travel expenditures and small-dollar purchases whenever possible, as opposed to using a personal credit card. Usage of the GEMS credit card by faculty and staff for University business expenses is considered a best practice.
  • Change to University-Issued Phones and Stipends; Increase Use of Collaboration Tools – Where possible, staff members should leverage tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams for collaboration rather than traveling to meetings or using personal phones. University-issued mobile phones will no longer be supported unless specific criteria are met. Staff members with existing phones will be contacted with guidance to cancel or migrate to personal paid plans. Approved mobile phone stipends for business needs will be standardized at $30 per month.
  • No New Individual Printer Purchases – Purchases of new individual printers for staff members are no longer permitted via any payment method (e.g., BuySite, ePayment, or GEMS).
  • Obtain Prior Approval for Certain Contracts – Engagement of search firms and recruiters for staff hiring will require prior approval by the Associate Vice President of Human Resources. Professional services consulting contracts of more than $50,000 will require prior approval by the Vice President and Chief Financial Officer.
  • Extend Use of Staff Laptops and Desktops – The refresh lifecycle for staff replacement laptops, desktops, and monitors should be extended to at least four years across campus. Whenever possible, monitors should be reused rather than buying new ones. In limited circumstances, where there is a new hire or in the event of hardware failure, new computers may be purchased outside these parameters. Exceptions must be approved by the unit Associate Dean, Associate Vice President, or equivalent for the President’s or Provost’s Offices. (Note: Purchases using external funded grants are excluded.)
  • Extend Use of Administrative Computing Hardware – The refresh lifecycle for administrative computing systems (e.g., servers, switches, routers) will be extended to at least seven years for the University. Vendor or third-party warranties should be extended as needed to cover the extended lifecycles. Exceptions must be approved by the Associate Vice President and University Chief Information Officer, Kevin Boyd. (Note: Systems directly used for research and research computing are excluded.)

Best Practices for All Academics and Staff:

  • Book Travel Through the University’s Preferred Travel Agency – Using the University’s preferred travel agency provides many benefits, including data for negotiating lower rates and communicating with travelers during the COVID-19 pandemic. While we encourage all members of the University to book travel through the preferred travel agency; for staff, this is a requirement.
  • Book Travel in Advance – While we understand this may not always be possible, any necessary travel should be booked at least 14 days in advance through the University’s preferred travel agency. Travel data indicate an average savings opportunity of 30% per ticket through advance booking.
  • Limit Use of Meals and Catering During Meetings – Meals and catering should be limited to meetings that exceed two hours and include attendees from outside the University.

Additional information on these policy updates and best practices are available here.

Thank you for your continued support to help the University meet its financial targets in the fiscal year 2021 and beyond.