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Taking Requests

Welcome back students!  Or welcome to the new year for those of us who never left.  If this opening salvo sounds a little awkward or self-conscious, that’s because I haven’t posted since the final week of classes last May.  But, having taken the summer off—and returned to the role of Dean of the College after a year as Acting Provost—I am ready to get back in the routine of blogging at least once a week (at least I think I am!).

A lot has happened in a year.  That point is obvious and perhaps I should have marked it as such with the preface “needless to say,” or “it goes without saying.”  But occasionally I hear comments on campus that suggest that some people really don’t understand how much the economic ground has shifted in the last year.   The College’s endowment now stands at $722 million, down from its high of $986 million two years ago.  That’s a significant drop, which becomes even more significant, when you realize that we expected the endowment to grow at a rate of 9% a year during that time period.  Instead it shrank.  And since 23% of our operating budget comes from the endowment, that loss in wealth has pushed us to reduce budgets, reevaluate our financial model, and consider a range of cost-cutting measures, which, if you’ve been keeping up with the news of last year, has been the work of the Budget Oversight Committee and the Staff Resources Committee.

I don’t mean to tell the news again here, especially since much of this information has been archived on the College web site. Anyone looking for an overview of Middlebury’s financial situation should start there.

But what I do want to do in this space is answer any question anyone has about Middlebury’s financial situation and the steps the College is taking to deal with this new economy.  If I don’t know the answer, I will ask someone else.   My responses will appear in the comments section, or as a separate post.

In coming weeks, I also plan to include links to external stories that address the impact of the changing economy on higher education.  Some people are calling the changes that lie ahead “the new normal.”  We shall see.

In the meantime, feel free to ask questions.

8 Responses to “Taking Requests”

  1. Jasques says:

    Dean Spears: any way to have sandwiches and soup, and maybe a mini-salad bar set up in the Ross Lounge or some other area in Ross Dining Hall, far away from the main servery, so those of us who have class until 12:20 and have another at 1:10 can come in and get something on the run? Right now, the servery is packed in both Proctor and Ross and we can’t get food quickly. There is not a space crunch in terms of seats; it is just getting one’s food. Right now, if you don’t get there before 12:15 or after 1:10, forget it.

    As a first-year, I have to wonder whether the crunch at lunch from 12:25 to 1 dies down when people’s schedules get settled, but right now, everyone on campus seems to be eating lunch at the same time.

    Any thoughts? Want to come up and join a bunch of us to see this? We saw President Liebowitz yesterday at Ross and so he must be aware of this. You might want to come, too.


  2. Tim Spears says:


    Good idea. Establishing an alternative “quick” line or serving station that allows students to grab sandwiches and then sit down might alleviate the press of people and cut down on the wait time. I also wonder whether Dining might set up such a station on the Ross or Proctor terrace while the weather is still nice and people can eat outside. That could help with the crowds, and it would be fun. I will pass along both of these ideas to Dining for consideration.

    And I will try to get up to Ross or Proctor for lunch next week to check out the situation for myself. I am teaching a new class this term and have been using the lunch hour to prepare, but after this week I should have more flex time.

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