Office of the President

May 26, 2020

Washington’s universities are anything but discretionary

Ana Mari Cauce

I spoke recently with the Seattle Times for a story about the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic crisis on students and universities in Washington. Those impacts are significant as they threaten to put the health and prosperity of Washington, the United States and the world at risk.

Research universities like the University of Washington affect countless lives in ways that might not be as obvious as how we serve students and develop the workforce. Universities across the country, including here in Washington state, have led the fight against COVID-19, working at record speed to provide testing for communities, find and test new vaccines and treatments, and provide patients with life-saving, state-of-the-art treatments in our hospitals and clinics.

Alongside this life-saving research and care, universities continue to educate students despite the limits of stay at home orders. We have found innovative ways to educate and train future health professionals, researchers and technology workers who are providing the infrastructure that allows our work to continue from home across the globe. The same is true for the future lawyers, engineers, artists, public policy and financial experts, teachers and the full range of professionals that our society and economy will need through challenging times.

We have and will do everything we can to bring down operational expenses because we know that state government is hurting, and we must do our part. But if our state and nation want to build a strong economic recovery and remain prepared to deal effectively with future crises or pandemics, it is important that we minimize the damage to institutions that contribute much more to the economy — and this recovery — than they cost. So, regardless of how we are classified in the state budget, if you care about health and prosperity for our people and our nation, Washington’s universities are anything but “discretionary.”