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Last week, the Trenton Times published an article describing budget cuts at Princeton, where the endowment dropped 24% in fiscal year 2009—a significant loss, especially since 48% of Princeton’s operating budget comes from the endowment.

The piece makes a couple of interesting points.  For one, while the budget cuts that Princeton has made thus far—closing a dining hall, imposing print quotas on college printers—haven’t significantly affected the student experience there, the cuts are not simply short-term measures.  According to Princeton’s provost, they are meant to be permanent.  That is, they are signs of the “new normal.”

The article also suggests that students are not following these budget conversations very closely.  For instance, only a handful of students showed up at a town meeting that the Princeton administration sponsored to discuss the budget-cutting process.   A similar situation has unfolded here.  While President Liebowitz has hosted several meetings for students to discuss the economic crisis, few have shown up.

Any thoughts as to why?  Or have I already answered my own question by implying—via the Princeton article—that the reductions we have made so far really aren’t worth discussing?  Or are we going about this conversation the wrong way?

3 Responses to “Signs of the Times”

  1. Pat says:

    A general feeling of student apathy has arisen as individuals have come to recognized that the school is not really interested in their input. When you matriculate at Middlebury you are signing yourself over to a kingdom. Sure, its a good time, but you just have to face the fact that you don’t really have a voice in how the college is ran. Enough decisions over the past few years have simply come down from the top, that there is little reason to put forward an effort to improve the college through the bureaucracy. The voices coming out of old chapel are purely political. Throughout the financial crisis we’ve received emails telling us how great the college is doing, only to hear of cuts coming a week later. This is not to say that these cuts are unreasonable, but it is unreasonable to think the student body can be treated like that. In conversations with Liebowitz it has become clear to myself and many others that he loves to tell you what you wish to hear, only to pass the blame for the failures to implement those wishes on to others. The student body’s “voice”, the SGA, is also completley powerless, which is probably why only 33% of students vote in their elections. Students at this school aren’t stupid. They recognize that college cares little about their ownership here. So don’t mind of if we go spend our time working towards causes that we can actually influence, instead of serving as political props at your “discussions”.

  2. Janet says:

    Pat — you sound like my parents and their friends complaining about their College days.

    I am of the days of commons being pushed on from high (’99), and I know the feeling. But that kind of top-down, in the students’ face, change-the-school kind of act was over the top, and it was done in days of plenty, when there was $$, and the best ideas should have won out — not one person’s view of the world. Thus we got commons, which our class and students in all others, opposed. And the college is still trying to reduce the impact, 10 years later.

    Today, due to the financial circumstances, it is a whole new ballgame. Listening to input in good times is easy; that it didn’t happen with commons is too bad. During financial cutbacks, one might listen to students or faculty or staff or alums, but in the end, choices need to be made and someone, perhaps a lot of someones, will be disappointed, angry, and felt un-listened to. We often mistake being not listened to for decisions that had to be done for other reasons.

    You may think student opinion doesn’t matter, but the administration altered the grandiose commons plan due to student input/persistent pushing, beginning in 2006. They opened up jr and sr room draw at student request (ending the four-year residential requirement for students in their commons). They preserved Winter Term due to student input (98% supported it). They kept the Feb program in 2006 amid a big push to end it in the strategic planning process. These are big victories for student wishes.

    Some of the things happening due to the budget cutbacks are inevetible and some are more entitlements than anything else. Everyone will have to give a little on those.

    Don’t believe student opinion is not important, or listened to. Some things will happen in times of cutbacks, even when students diagree with them, but whatever you do, don’t pull back. At least send e-mails to the administration, the president included. Maybe your SGA is not the best venue for getting your opinions across, but in this wired world, why go through that group? Pepper these three with your ideas and opinions; I guarantee you will be “heard.”

    spears@middlebury.edu (dean of the college)
    liebowit@middlebury.edu (president)
    byerly@middlebury.edu (dean of the faculty)

  3. Joey says:

    Try the president’s office hours. Or grab him at lunch in Ross or Proctor.
    Two of my hallmates pitched three different proposals to President Leibowitz in light of the budget changes, including opening Atwater for continental breakfast after it was announced it would be closed except for language tables at lunch, and all three were implemented. Some things will happen at the administration level, but many can happen at the student level. It just takes effort. It is easy to claim nobody is listening when something you want doesn’t happen. At Middlebury, I think it is a cop out. And talk to your friends at other schools. You don’t need SGA for action. Times are hard and we can’t always get what we want and stomp off angry when we don’t. Keep saying what we believe is best for us (the students).

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