At the “We Are One” gathering on the National Mall yesterday, Barack Obama observed that “Only a handful of generations have been asked to confront challenges as serious as the ones we face right now.” President-elect Obama wasn’t referring only to the economic crisis—his administration confronts plenty of other problems—but the recession, like the Iraq war, has touched many Americans directly, and so it’s hard, given the turmoil of the last six months, not to think of the fiscal challenges first.
These challenges resonate broadly, and speak to our own efforts here at Middlebury to contain costs. Though the comparison breaks down at the level of scale, certain ideas or themes join our efforts to the larger national challenge. One of these themes is the notion of sacrifice: what are we willing to give up in order to uphold and sustain the College’s educational mission?
In answering this question, we must first address the basic question “what is central to our mission?” This is easier said than done since the education we offer at Middlebury is a multi-faceted experience. Academics are at the center of this education, but surrounding that core are the many other experiences that constitute the liberal arts—the arts, athletics, student orgs, social activities, and the list goes on.
So, given our need to make budget cuts and trim back programs, how should we determine what is critical to our mission and what is marginal? What—and on this point, I would especially like to hear from students—are we willing to let go?