By Lisa Hoehn
Sure, DR sent out a carefully worded memorandum regarding the faculty cuts. But what was she really thinking? Check out the bold.
To: Faculty, Staff, and Students
From: President Donna Randall
Date: February 22, 2010
Re: Important Anouncement from the Albion College Board of Trustees
As I have noted in previous communications (I’ve warned you that what I’m about to say is going to suck, so you can’t get too mad), we are living in economic times that present both challenges and opportunities (I took a pay cut last year — and as a president. It’s a tough life, living on only a few thousand more than $250,000 per year including benefits*). Our state and our nation continue to struggle with the effects of the recession and, as has been widely reported, colleges and universities across the country have been severely affected by this downturn (You can’t get mad because this is happening to everyone, I swear.) While we are seeing signs of improvement in some sectors (I hope no one notices that purposefully I’m being ambiguous about what’s improving…) we still face months—or perhaps years (Better be safe with that estimate! Can’t have people holding me to a time frame) —of economic uncertainty.
Celebrating our strengths
I want to assure you that Albion College is fundamentally strong. (We’re screwed.) We have an exceptional faculty, firmly committed to teaching and to making meaningful scholarly and creative contributions in their fields (I can still say that. They’re not gone yet.). Our students’ talents and achievements make Albion a remarkable place to live and learn; these young people are not only able performers in the classroom but they are avid campus and community volunteers. And our alumni continue to be engaged with their alma mater, faithfully investing in the College’s future (Since I’m not using numbers, The Wall Street Journal can’t say that I’m lying this time) and proudly bearing Albion’s name (Thank goodness for giving away all of those free shirts to first-years) around the globe as they pursue distinguished careers.
On the financial side, our endowment is rebounding as the stock market improves, and now stands at nearly $150 million (If I throw in a big number, people will definitely feel better). To further strengthen the College’s financial position, over the past 18 months we have taken significant measures to increase our revenues (Like hiking up student tuition – mwahaha) and decrease our expenses (Baldwin did go trayless). Our Admission Office has stepped up efforts in student recruitment, introducing a new branding program, expanding our reach in the Midwest and internationally (Is Ohio international?), and we have reorganized the staff in the Institutional Advancement Office for greater focus on fundraising (So after graduation, expect calls from daily phone-a-thons). Last year, we reduced costs by trimming programs throughout the College and eliminating some faculty and staff positions (And since we didn’t hear too much complaining last year, we don’t want any this time around either). Albion’s executive team and I took these latter steps carefully and deliberately (Albion: Always Thinking. It’s just so obvious, sometimes, that I was the inspiration for our slogan), at each point assessing the impact that any cuts would have on the student experience, both in and out of the classroom. Our goal throughout this process has been to preserve those programs that are essential to our operations and critical to educational quality. At the same time, we have also increased our institutionally-funded financial assistance for students (Gotta keep them enrolling somehow).
Tackling the financial challenges before us
Even with the actions we have taken to date, we still have a structural imbalance between revenues and expenses that must be addressed for the long-term financial health (Hopefully, when I say the word health, they’ll think about the threat of H1N1 and washing their hands instead of what I’m actually saying) of the College. At their February 2010 meeting, the Albion College Board of Trustees (Phew – finally, a scapegoat to take the blame off of me for all of this) determined that a realignment of our budget was necessary to address this imbalance. While reaffirming their commitment to Albion’s educational mission and acknowledging the exceptional achievements of faculty and students, the trustees noted that they are also charged with maintaining the College’s fiscal integrity. Based on a review of current staffing levels and anticipated enrollment (Which might be better if we would just keep pushing for these non-native English speakers that we’ve been getting this past year — this letter would be putting a language barrier to good use) the trustees have mandated a reduction of the equivalent of 15 full-time faculty positions from the current level of 162 full- and part-time faculty. These personnel reductions will be accomplished through a voluntary retirement program and elimination of some full- and part-time positions. Tenured and tenure-track faculty may be affected (If I only say one sentence about this, people will skim over it too quick for it to register, right?). Albion is conducting an institution-wide program review to evaluate how best to make these reductions. We intend to complete this process by early summer. I assure you that we will work diligently to minimize the impact on current students (Although I cannot assure you that our work will actually minimize anything at all).
The board’s decision regarding the faculty reductions was extraordinarily difficult (But not as difficult as it was for my letter-writer to make this memorandum as PC as possible), and the trustees and executive team appreciate the impact these moves will have on faculty members and their families. We will work closely with the individuals affected to help smooth their transition (A few pitchers at Cascarelli’s should do the trick).
Responding to a changing environment
Albion College is positioning itself for a vibrant future (Still screwed). To enhance Albion’s competitiveness in the higher education landscape and better serve students, we will soon be launching the Albion Advantage, a new four-year program fully integrating academic and career exploration. Based on our preliminary market research, we believe that the Albion Advantage will prove highly attractive to students looking for an exceptional liberal arts education coupled with the experiential learning (Because we won’t have professors for classroom lecture) and thoughtful mentoring that will enhance career success. With the introduction of the Albion Advantage, Albion will be poised for leadership among its peers. While the Albion Advantage (Yep, I just said Albion Advantage four times without telling you anything about it) begins with the class entering in fall 2010, upperclass students will also benefit from many aspects of this new initiative.
Once our restructuring has been accomplished, we will look to a future marked by increased financial stability and strategic investment in areas of excellence and future growth (Areas like medicine and business, duh), a competitive niche among higher education institutions, and a heightened sense of confidence and pride in who we are and where we are going.
We know you care deeply about Albion College and as we move through this difficult time, we will keep the lines of communication open with you. I am very optimistic about the future of this wonderful liberal arts college as we celebrate 175 years of academic excellence. I encourage you to contact me by e-mail at email@example.com (That way you won’t clog my REAL inbox) if you have questions (And I’ll talk you in circles until you agree with whatever I say).
*According to the Chronical for Higher Education 2009 report.