September 9, 2003
Welcome back! It's wonderful to see you walking across the campus and using the new Campus Center! That's the big news, of course. The Campus Center opened on schedule on August 25, and it's already bringing the Smith community together in new ways.
I am writing to provide an update on a few issues that I know will be of interest to you.
At the end of the spring term, the Housing and Dining Task Force issued its report, which can be found on the Web at www.smith.edu/rltaskforce. This year, we will decide how to implement its recommendations. In a very short time, I will be appointing two small groups, one to address the task force recommendations on theme housing and the lottery system, the other to consider changes in dining. The group working on dining will need to develop a plan with careful consideration of cost. In response to student desire, we want to offer more options -- in menu, in hours, in places to eat (like the Campus Center), and in meal plans -- but we have to achieve that with attention to economy.
That brings me to the subject of the budget. Like most colleges and universities, Smith is facing some financial challenges. The decline in the stock market has decreased the value of our endowment, financial aid costs have risen, and health insurance costs for employees have also increased significantly. In order to address these challenges, we are looking very carefully at our operations, trying to determine where we can achieve efficiencies. We have reorganized the Ada Comstock Scholars' office, for example, moving Sid Dalby, the admissions director for the program, into the admission office, and Erika Laquer, the program's director, to the Class Deans' office, where she will serve as Dean of the Ada Comstock Scholars. In the process of making the college's operations more efficient, we will need to eliminate some staff positions, but we are trying to minimize job loss by the use of retirement incentive programs and internal transfers, which will allow opportunities for employees whose jobs are affected to move into other positions. I feel very strongly that we owe it to you and your families to run the college as economically as we can, thereby moderating fee increases and devoting our resources to the areas that I feel are most essential -- the academic program and financial aid.
Some students have asked how we can build wonderful new facilities like the Art Museum and the Campus Center in the context of reduced revenues and budget reductions. Planning for those facilities took place several years ago, when the economy was stronger. They are being financed principally by gifts that are specifically dedicated to those projects. Furthermore, even in the context of budget tightening, Smith must continue to do new things. Like any strong organization, the college continually works to maintain its excellence; this effort requires fresh expenditures and even some reallocation of resources.
This year we will graduate our first class of engineers -- the first engineering class ever to graduate from a women's college. We are welcoming eight new tenure track faculty to campus. Unfortunately, we have one important loss from the faculty and administration. Brenda Allen has accepted a very exciting opportunity at Brown University, and Fletcher Blanchard is replacing her as Acting Director of Institutional Diversity this year, while we search for her replacement. In the area of facilities, the new fitness center, financed by a gift from the Olin Foundation, will open late in the fall. We have lots of exciting events planned, many in the new Campus Center. I look forward to seeing you at them and to a terrific year.
Carol T. Christ