What's Behind the Door?
Enduring American Arguments
Reversal of (mis)fortune
Work & Play
Passion for the Climb
Life of the Mind
Arts & Culture
New, Noted & Quoted
Get to Know
Alumni Bulletin Board
Marriages & More
Update Member Profile
Message from President Rebecca S. Chopp
Photo by Andrew Daddio
The ability to meet any challenge with clear thinking, determination, and hope is a quintessential Colgate quality. We talk often about how the Colgate spirit distinguishes our students as they pursue their studies, their research, and their interests and lead their lives after graduation. It is just as important, though, to talk about how those qualities manifest themselves at the university in times of turmoil.
The fall term began much like many others before it, but as the semester drew on, pressing issues related to the economy and race came to bear on conversations at Colgate, setting off important dialogues about priorities
and culture on this campus that will continue for some time to come.
Less than one week after Barack Obama was elected as the first-ever African American president of the United States, racist incidents were being reported by colleges across the country. Colgate was among those affected. Racist graffiti was discovered in a student bathroom in Alumni Hall, and
students reported having racial slurs yelled at them. Those events made it clear that the issue of racism must be addressed as we seek to model the best of what an inclusive 21st-century living-learning community can be.
Colgate’s students, faculty, and staff are here with a common purpose: developing — and developing into — wise, thoughtful, critical thinkers and perceptive leaders who value intellectual rigor and respect the complexity of human understanding. This is our mission as a modern residential liberal arts university. Our diversity as a campus, and our embracing of it as individuals, are critical to our pursuit of that mission. We will not allow those who seek to create barriers, put up roadblocks, and foster a culture of negativity
to hinder our progress.
There is much work still to be done, but I was inspired by the ways in which our campus pulled together, showing its true character in denouncing those acts and strongly affirming our commitment to diversity and inclusivity.
Just as we have pulled together to deal with the troubling issue of racism, the Colgate community has shown tremendous resolve and ingenuity as we have begun to navigate this period of global economic turbulence.
As outlined in the autumn issue of the Scene, the costs of fulfilling our mission are significant, and rising. With the ensuing economic downturn, all of Colgate’s principal sources of operating budget revenue (tuition, room and board, endowment support, and annual fund gifts) are under severe pressure. Similar to our peer colleges and universities, Colgate’s endowment has sustained significant investment losses, particularly in recent months. The endowment’s investment return from July 1 through October 31 was minus 15.8 percent. Our best estimate of the market value as of November 30, 2008, is $573.5 million, which is 18.5 percent lower than the endowment’s value on July 1, 2008. Because the endowment provides approximately 22 percent of the university’s annual revenues, a lower endowment market value has a meaningful impact on Colgate’s operating budget. We are deeply grateful to the members of the Finance Committee of the Board of Trustees who are working tirelessly to oversee Colgate’s endowment investment portfolio; fortunately, Colgate’s long-standing endowment spending policy smoothes the impact of a falling endowment market value over a number of years. While this provides the university the time to develop appropriate long-term strategies, it is clear that the Colgate community must also respond to our changed economic environment.
Our response has been guided by our educational mission as we look to reduce costs and think creatively about new forms of collaboration across campus. Immediate measures, already taken in late fall, have included: substantially reducing next year’s operating budget allocation for capital projects; reducing operating budgets by 5 percent for 2009–2010; reviewing and reconsidering vacant administrative staff positions; and tempering growth in compensation expenditures. No doubt, there will be more adjustments to come, but there is one area in particular that we are strongly committed to sustaining: financial aid.
We fully expect that the effect of the troubled economy will increase the need for financial aid for more of our students and their families. Although meeting these new needs will put additional pressure on the university’s budget, this is a commitment that we must fulfill. Financial aid is a critical component in Colgate’s ability to attract and retain the best possible students, particularly at a time of broad economic hardship.
Colgate has made great strides in advancing its strategic priorities, thanks to the hard work of those on campus and the generosity of alumni, parents, and friends. The challenges we face are not unique to Colgate, but the ways in which we respond reflect our mission and project our values as an institution and as a community.
Thank you for your partnership as we maintain our focus on what Alfred North Whitehead identified as the primary task of a university, “the creation of the future.” This is what we do every day at Colgate.