Faculty meeting addresses growing campus concerns

Posted by Alex Brehm

Acting President Susan Kress addressed her growing concern about alcohol and drug use on campus, and negative anonymous comments on The Skidmore News website, at the faculty meeting on April 1.

Kress opened the meeting by saying that several events associated with alcohol abuse, including Moorebid Ball and a car crash on perimeter road, are worthy of concern. Moorebid, she said sent nine students to the emergency room last Halloween.

She also spoke about the recent death of Alexander Grant, a visiting student from Boston College whose death was linked to an off-campus party and the possible use of drugs or alcohol.

The college is using a "three-fold process" in response to alcohol and drug use, Kress said. The college is examining current policies, increasing programming and examining student cultures relating to substance abuse.

Kress also said she is growing increasingly uncomfortable with anonymity and messages left in various forums, including posters, online message forums and, most recently, a threatening comment aimed at Danny Pforte, a columnist for "The Skidmore News", left on the newspaper's website.

She said she believes that such comments are threatening to the intellectual and social environment on campus.

The meeting continued with a report from Mary Lou Bates, dean of admissions, about the makeup of the incoming first-year class of 2015.

The college selected students from an applicant pool of 5,800, down about 4 percent from last year. Two hundred sixty students were enrolled through the early decision process and 10 were accepted for the first-year London program.

She also said 26 percent of accepted students self-identify as people of color.

Studio art professor Peter Stake, speaking on behalf of the Faculty Development Committee, followed Bates with an announcement that Spanish professor Grace Burton had won the Ralph A. Ciancio Excellence in Teaching Award. The announcement received a long round of applause from the faculty in attendance.

Hugh Foley, a psychology professor, followed with a presentation titled "What I learned on IPPC."

Foley discussed the role of the Institutional Policy and Planning Committee (IPPC), which oversees far-reaching institutional changes to the college, such as construction and land development, creation of new offices, and tuition policy.

Foley said that the college's tuition, if left to increase at a seemingly modest 4 percent annual rate, would push yearly tuition to $100,000 a year in about three decades.

Mike West, vice president of finance, followed Foley with a detailed presentation on the college's current finances and economic challenges.

The college receives about half of its revenue from students' tuition, West said, with the rest coming from room and board fees, interest on the endowment, grants and alumni gifts and other sources.

According to West, the college is facing a decrease in applicants, which makes it more difficult to preserve "quantity and quality" in each year's incoming class.

West also said uncertain financial markets and decreasing federal and state government aid decrease predictable sources of revenue, while requests from students for financial aid is predicted to increase.

These financial pressures make the school consider increasing tuition and fees, West said.

West compared the current financial situation to that of two years ago, when the financial crisis and "Great Recession" blighted many college endowments. At that time, the college's endowment decreased from less than $300 million to about $220 million.

Since then, the college has recouped most of its losses, with an endowment of about $290 million.

West said that compared to the financial situation two years ago, however, the college's current finances are improving.

"I'm glad those days are behind us," West said.

The next faculty meeting is scheduled for April 29 at 3:30 p.m.

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