Articles by tetchell

You are currently browsing tetchell’s articles.

Like most presidents of colleges and universities, I have been trying to keep a wide range of constituents apprised of how the steep decline in the American economy is affecting the College. This has been a collective effort, as my administration and the Trustees share my desire to be fully open about the current state of College finances. We have circulated memos, held open meetings, and posted as much information as we can on the College Web site describing our economic status. And we began the process of budget-cutting early in this academic year. This has proven to be a good decision since-as I continuously remind people-we do not know whether we have hit the bottom of this global recession.

I will not repeat here much of what I have been saying for the past six months, but I do want to highlight some of the challenges we have encountered in trying to overcome the $20 million deficit we would experience if we didn’t make major cuts now. Our Budget Oversight Committee (BOC), which is comprised of two faculty, two staff, two students, and three administrators, has worked hard to review many suggestions that have come from the College community at large, from members of the president’s staff, and from within the committeee’s ranks. It has done remarkable work in what is an unprecedented economic environment, and it has had to work relatively quickly (for an academic institution) because the sooner we negate a budget gap, the less of an accumulating deficit we will face and need to address two, three, and four years out. Thus, while many would like a slower and more deliberate process than the one in place, doing so would require more drastic cuts in future years.

The big issue for all of us is how to engage and involve students more effectively in the choices before the BOC. I recognize that having two student representatives on BOC does not meet many students’ desire to voice their opinions on options before the committee as it makes its recommendations to me. Acting Provost Tim Spears and I will be meeting with the Student Government Association (SGA) this coming week to see if it can form its own budget oversight committee to recommend cuts in the budget. We will also see whether SGA can develop a process that will get from students a collective sense of what are the most important things to preserve so the BOC and I are better informed about student opinion regarding specific programs and services on campus.

To date there has been less visible student interest in the budget situation than I would have thought. The two open meetings for staff that our chief financial officer Patrick Norton, Tim Spears, and I hosted earlier this month (February 5-6) attracted nearly 500 staff members. Each meeting lasted two hours and included many, many good questions from the floor. The February faculty meeting (February 16), with finances on the agenda, was very well attended, and included, again, good questions and discussion from a wide range of colleagues. The open meeting for students, on the other hand, held at 7:30 p.m. on a Monday evening (February 10), drew fewer than 40 students. The discussion was very good, and there were more good questions, but the turnout was a disappointment. 

I will be holding more open meetings for students this semester-the next will be Thursday, March 5, at noon in McCullough Social Space-and I hope students will attend and participate. In the meantime, I would love to hear any ideas on how to bring students up to speed on the nature and magnitude of the financial challenges before us, as well as finding ways to hear what is most important to them. For starters, they should consult the Web site listed above and try to attend the open meetings in the coming months so their concerns and suggestions will be better informed and placed in a context that reflects these severe economic circumstances.

Congratulations to the Middlebury College students who won this year’s annual “Green Chicken” competition against Williams College last week.

During the same weekend when the Middlebury varsity men’s soccer team and women’s field hockey team defeated their Eph counterparts, and our women’s soccer team lost a tough match (1-0) against Williams’ top-ranked D-III team in the nation, our team of math students won back the Green Chicken in a closely contested competition by the score of 293-288. The win snapped a Williams five-year win streak, and returned the highly prized green chicken casserole dish to Middlebury for at least one year.

The Boston Globe ran a piece on this rather unique and, I might add, not-yet-an-NCAA sponsored competition, on October 13. Have a read.

Kudos to the Panther’s top scorers, Victor Larsen, Ying (Daisy) Zhuo, Shengen Zhai, and Chaoyi Chai, and to other members of the victorious team: Danny Crow, Angelo Fu, David Fouhey, Armaan Sarkar, Kim Ammons, Chester Curme, Nicole Hansen, Jia (Coco) Liu, Casey McGowan, Stephen Jewell, Jeff Leitch, and Gavin Bauer.

If only Williams had a geography program, I would propose an appropriate competition that captured all the positive things the Green Chicken competition generates for our two institutions’ mathematically inclined students. Any other ideas?

To the College Community:

The Board of Trustees met this past week for a retreat and its autumn meeting. As expected, we talked a good deal about the current financial situation and how it is likely to affect the College, including faculty, staff, students, and the families of our students. Members of Faculty Council, Staff Council, and the Student Government Association joined the Board for most of the retreat. The Trustees affirmed the approaches we are taking to address the financial challenges we face, which I outlined in my last memo to the community a little more than one week ago.

We will begin a campus-wide process to engage these challenges when the Budget Oversight Committee convenes this week. In addition, I, along with Patrick Norton, our chief financial officer, will share with various groups what we presented at the trustee retreat, beginning with a presentation to the Student Government Association at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, October 28, followed by one to faculty at the November 3 faculty meeting, and then another to staff at an open meeting in Dana Auditorium from 9:30-11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, November 12.

In the coming weeks we will schedule other meetings at which we will share information and answer questions people have about the current economic situation as it relates to the College. I will also communicate with the campus community via e-mail or postings on the College’s website.

Once again, I encourage all in the community to become informed and engaged as we seek ways collectively to secure the long-term financial health of the College. If you have any ideas, please submit them at our online suggestion box.

Regards,

Ron

The Global Financial Situation and Middlebury

There is little I can add to all that has been written during the past month about the current turmoil in the financial markets around the world.  I thought it might be useful to post the two memos I sent to the campus (on September 8 and October 8), the latter of which includes a “questions and answers” sheet about the financial downturn and how it relates to the College.

With new developments surfacing frequently, I plan to update the campus community, as necessary, as we monitor the impact of the financial crisis on the College.  I have also included a link to an online suggestion box the College has set up to solicit ideas for reducing costs in response to current economic conditions:

As I wrote in my memo, we approach the financial challenges from a position of relative strength.  At the same time, we will need the collaboration of our on- and off-campus communities to meet those challenges most effectively.  I look forward to hearing what you think. Leave a comment here, or use the suggestion box.

The Amethyst Initiative, launched by the non-profit organization Choose Responsibility, headed by my predecessor John McCardell, is attracting much publicity, both positive and critical. This publicity is good and is why I signed on to this initiative.

There is a need for a wider discussion of the problem of alcohol use on our campuses. The Amethyst Initiative is not about lowering the drinking age to 18, as some believe; that is Choose Responsibility’s cause. The 18-year drinking age is not even mentioned in the Amethyst petition, signed by more than 120 college and university presidents. Most presidents who signed the petition may believe an 18-year-old drinking age should be part of the solution to the current problems they see on their campuses, but many, including myself, signed because it was a good way to bring much-needed attention and debate to the broader issue—abusive drinking and its consequences among the under-21-year-old cohort. Through this debate many hope there can come new ideas on how best to address the alcohol issue on our campuses.

I have stated before, most recently in my 2008 baccalaureate address—and will carry this message throughout the coming academic year to students, faculty, and staff—that the issue is more about how one drinks and conducts oneself than about a particular legal age for consuming alcohol. Though I agree that the higher drinking age has had unintended consequences on college campuses, including more binge drinking behind closed doors because alcohol is less available in public social venues, I feel much more strongly that abusive drinking and all that comes with it would be minimized significantly if friends and peers just held one another to a higher standard of behavior, no matter the legal age for consumption.

I am interested to hear your views on this important topic, including ideas on how to deal best with it on our campus.

See Dickinson College President William Durden’s recent piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education on this initiative. (Note: Subscription or Web pass required.)

I gave the following baccalaureate address on May 24. The reactions have been mixed: Many thought the topic was inappropriate for the occasion and said they were offended; others thought it was about time the issue of alcohol use was raised and they believed the core message—that graduating seniors should think about the standards of behavior of the communities they will be joining as they leave college, and the importance of taking an active role in building those communities—was an important one to convey at any college gathering. I certainly did not intend to offend anyone, and I apologize to those I did.

— RDL

« Older entries

Sites DOT Middlebury: the Middlebury site network.