COVID-19 has ‘placed enormous stress' on UP

Acting president's convocation acknowledges financial and staff problems and diversity and inclusion challenges

By William Seekamp | August 28, 2021 2:09pm
Acting University President and Provost Herbert Medina giving the annual convocation address.
Media Credit: Brennan Crowder / The Beacon

Acting University President and Provost Herbert Medina gave the annual convocation address, Tuesday, highlighting the state of the campus.

This year’s speech was focused on how UP has been affected by, and is recovering from, COVID-19, as well as the financial situation, staff shortages and increased communication between staff and administrators and diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.

Financial outlook

The new student enrollment for the class of 2024 and 2025 is the lowest it has been in the past seven years.

In the fall of 2020, the new student enrollment was 809 students and in fall 2021 it was 935. This coupled with new student discount percentages growing nearly 10% from the 2018-19 academic year, from 46.5% to 55.1%. 

“Due to the ever more competitive higher ed environment, we also are having to offer more financial aid to recruit students,” Medina said. “This means that we’ll have to continue to exercise budgetary discipline for the foreseeable future”

The low enrollment numbers will not only affect UP over this year but over the next several years. 

“While we took the steps necessary to protect UP’s financial standing,” Medina said. “We’re still reliant on tuition and room and board revenue.”


With 10% of staff positions unfilled, UP is rewarding full-time staff, earning less than $75,000, with $1,000 bonuses and providing $1,000 hiring bonuses, which will be paid out over several months, for new staff hires.

“Recent months have made clear to me that greater attention is needed when it comes to supporting and recognizing our staff colleagues,” Medina said.

The 11% retirement contribution and the employee home loan benefit program, in a revised format to account for higher real estate prices and future market changes, were reimplemented.

Medina announced that he, the president’s leadership cabinet and the provost's council support the efforts to start a staff senate, which would provide staff with a platform to voice comments, criticisms and concerns about the university.

“I believe that our university would benefit from clearer channels of communication between administration and staff,” Medina said. “Further, I feel that staff deserve enhanced opportunities for collaboration, dialogue and community-building.”

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

The class of 2025 is 54% students of color, making it the first class in UP’s history to be majority students of color. 16% of the 2004 freshman class and 39% of the 2014 freshman class were students of color. 

“This is super exciting, and it makes our DEIJ work ever more pressing and important,” Medina said. “We have a very different student body than we did just a few years ago, so we need to be asking ourselves ‘How do we best serve our students in 2021 and beyond?’”

Medina said that initiatives suggested by the Board of Regents after their investigation into the DEI concerns raised by Sandy Chung in her 2020 Beacon op-ed are currently in progress or starting soon.

This includes:

  • “First, increasing and enhancing DEI trainings at the University, especially for supervisors, senior leadership, and members of the Board of Regents.”

  • “Second, retaining an outside consultant to conduct a 360-degree review of the University’s DEI efforts.”

  • “Third, refining the reporting process for individuals who have concerns about unequal treatment, especially at the leadership level.”

  • “Fourth, conducting DEI climate surveys and sharing the results with members of the community”

  • “Fifth, establishing a set of inclusive hiring guidelines. We already have such guidelines for faculty positions, but we’re creating new guidelines for staff positions and all divisions on campus. Doing so will help us to attract qualified and diverse candidates for each and every position at the University.”

Medina said he is working closely with senior leaders on campus to carry out the initiatives. 

“DEI work is hard work,” Medina said. “Progress doesn’t just happen overnight. We can’t simply flip a switch. Rather, it requires commitment, transparency, and the collective effort of each and every community member.”

William Seekamp is the News and Managing Editor of The Beacon. He can be reached at