Prof. Boaz Golany
Executive Vice President and Director General
The 2019-2020 academic year will be recorded in the Technion history books as the “Corona Year.” The Corona pandemic started casting its shadows on our operations in China in late 2019. As the situation deteriorated, we acted swiftly to evacuate all our staff members from China and by January 9th the last staff member was safely back home.
Here on campus we faced an increase in restrictions imposed by the Israeli government that led us to reduce the presence of staff members on our campuses first to 30%, and at the height of the first wave to 15%.
In the week before the opening of the spring semester we switched all our classes to online mode and continued to teach this way throughout the semester. A week before the exam period started, we were ordered to switch to online examinations which were also implemented successfully.
Maintaining Technion operations throughout this chaotic period has proven somewhat challenging. We are proud to report that Technion has become a role model for Israeli universities on how to “keep the ship on course” while sailing on the high seas of a pandemic.
The pandemic has led to a significant reduction in several of our steady sources of income, including philanthropic support, and rent from student dormitories and commercial facilities on campus. There is a significant increase in expenses, such as additional scholarships and student loans, additional multimedia equipment for online teaching, and additional security personnel to enforce health regulations. In response, we explored every possible way to cut costs on utilities, part-time employees, etc. We identified reserves that can be used to cover the deficit which is likely to become the highest in our history. The Technion investment portfolio was hurt like all such funds during the January-March 2020 period in which financial markets plummeted. However, we have seen a remarkable recovery of our fund which is almost back to where it was when the crisis started.
In response to the government Corona regulations, over 1,000 part-time employees were obliged to take leave of absence during the first wave. During the height of the pandemic over 70% of our administrative staff had to take forced vacation. To help those that encountered severe personal financial difficulties, we established a solidarity fund and asked our academic staff to donate 5% of their salaries to this fund. Over 1.6M NIS was raised and allocated to needy employees and students, the largest amount by far among all Israeli universities.
Following a fatal explosion in October which took the life of Prof. Elazar Gutmanas ל״ז, the President established a committee to evaluate safety measures in Technion labs. The committee, headed by Prof. Yachin Cohen, submitted its recommendations in early 2020 and since then we have worked to implement them. The budget of the safety unit was increased by 20%; a five-year budget totaling 12M NIS was designated.
Before the pandemic outbreak we completed the installation of new security equipment at Technion gates. During the pandemic we hired additional staff to monitor the temperature of all people entering the campus and to patrol the campus and dorms to ensure compliance with health regulations.
Computers and Information Technology
Before the outbreak the unit handled a dramatic increase in cyber threats. We hired a sub-contractor to identify “holes” in our firewalls and fix them. The unit has also launched an effort to expand the Technion High Performance Computing (HPC capability) through the purchase and installation of state-of-the-art core computers. During the pandemic the unit was mobilized to support the move to online teaching which was done flawlessly to the satisfaction of both students and faculty. The unit has also helped us meet the health regulations by installing a digital health statement and QR codes in all our buildings. Everyone entering the campus is required to comply with health ministry regulations. The unit stores all this information on a secured server to enable epidemiological investigations while protecting the privacy of the users.
Construction and Maintenance
Several large-scale projects were launched in 2019 and continued into 2020. Among them are two dorm towers (16 stories each, $46M), a new research building for the EE Faculty ($18M) and a new sports arena to be named for Amos Horev ($7.8M). Once the pandemic arrived and teaching went online, we expedited the pace of construction since the campus was in lockdown. As a result, several of these projects are ahead of schedule. The unit is now preparing to launch more major building projects – a new research building for the Faculty of Medicine to be named after Bruce and Ruth Rappaport ($46M), a new research building for the Faculty of Materials Science and Engineering to be named for Sami Sagol ($9.5M) and a new teaching building for the Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning to be named for Andrew and Aviva Goldenberg ($5M).