25 October 2012
Dear Members of the Skidmore Community,
This past week we have received two deeply disturbing reports of bias incidents, both of which are summarized on the web site of the Bias Response Group (BRG): http://cms.skidmore.edu/bias/upload/BRG-2012-2013.pdf. The BRG is actively investigating both reports to determine what happened, who might be responsible, and what the appropriate response(s) might be.
I will not repeat here the racist and sexist language described in these incidents, which is reprehensible and cannot be tolerated. I do encourage you, however, to take the time to review it yourself. I do that because it will take all of us working together to root out this ugliness from our community. The BRG will pursue its work vigorously, fairly, and with all due expedience; but that does not release each of us from our individual responsibility in these matters.
Skidmore College is a special place, a community that stands on a set of educational and personal values that begin by affirming the dignity and worth of each of our members. In many cases, I believe we are that kind of community. These incidents serve as painful reminders, however, that we still have considerable work to do to live up fully to those ideals. Moreover, we cannot achieve our aspiration of being a truly inclusive educational community unless we acknowledge that such moments exist and unless we find the will, both individually and collectively, to expose and reject the attitudes that give rise to such comments.
These incidents are clearly hurtful to those who are their direct targets and those individuals are, therefore, deserving of our strongest support and comfort. But such incidents also do damage to every member of our community. They tear at the bonds that hold us together, and they erode our own basic humanity. When we observe actions such as this, therefore, it is incumbent upon all of us (students and faculty, administrators and staff) to notice, to speak out, and to work actively to ensure that such incidents do not occur on our campus.
In the short term, it is my strong hope that those whose behavior prompted these reports will step forward to take responsibility for their actions and begin the process of making amends. In the long term, I hope that we can as a community live up to the words on the BRG web site: "Give More. Respect More. Skidmore." Those are words that we all need to take to heart beginning now.
Philip A. Glotzbach
Message from President Glotzbach Regarding Alexander Grant
Dear Members of the Skidmore Community,
I write to provide an update on the continuing investigation into the cause of the death of Boston College sophomore Alexander Grant. As many of us will recall, Alex died last March when he was in Saratoga Springs visiting friends at Skidmore. When this tragic event occurred last winter, it deeply touched many students and other members of the campus community, and I know that many of us have held Alexander and his family in our thoughts since then.
This week, this event has again occasioned local news coverage. We have learned from news reports that the Saratoga Springs Police Department has received the toxicology report but has stated that it will “refrain from commenting on specifics of the autopsy report until all reasonable leads have been investigated.” Once that investigation has been completed, we expect the Saratoga County District Attorney’s Office to make “a final determination regarding the status of the case.” In a statement issued Monday, September 19th , to area newspapers, Alexander’s family – parents Ken and Deanna and sister Brianna – said that the autopsy indicated the presence of no narcotic drugs in his system. “We can verify the accuracy” of that report, Saratoga Springs police said, but they emphasized that their investigation is continuing and that they “will not comment at this time regarding any other results.” The College will continue to cooperate with law enforcement agencies as we too await the final results of their investigation.
Alexander’s death was both a tragic loss for those close to him and a traumatic event for Skidmore College and the Saratoga Springs community. At the time, the College did what it could to support the Grant family during the incredibly trying time when Alexander was missing and before his body had been discovered in a wooded area several miles from campus. That week, Skidmore students held a candlelight vigil on campus, the College expressed condolences to the Grant family, and Acting President Susan Kress attended the funeral.
On behalf of the College, I again express our deepest sympathy to the family. We share their grief and support them as they work to honor Alexander’s memory. To that end, the Grant family has established The Alexander Maxwell Grant Foundation “to perpetuate his legacy of intellectual curiosity and deep love of family and friends.” Its goal is to “assist artistically and musically gifted young people from troubled or disadvantaged backgrounds.” Further information may be found – and donations made – at AlexGrant.org.
Philip A. Glotzbach
Dear Members of the Skidmore Community,
Most of you are aware of the tragic events unfolding in Japan in the wake of the powerful earthquake and tsunami that struck on Friday. The loss of life, the widespread devastation, and the growing nuclear emergency are truly overwhelming.
We have been actively reaching out to members of our extended community (faculty, students, alumni, and parents), whom we believe to be in Japan, to ensure that all are safe and unharmed. We are also staying in close touch with members of our community with connections to Japan. Thus far, we have received no reports of injuries or loss of life, although several individuals have been deeply affected by the human tragedy, the extensive damage, and the accompanying disruptions to daily life.
We will continue to monitor the situation and report to you as appropriate. In addition, Associate Dean of Student Affairs David Karp is coordinating plans for events in support of those who have lost their lives and the survivors who will need to rebuild their lives and their communities. Please direct any questions to him (firstname.lastname@example.org; x5779).
These are the moments when we are reminded that we are all part of a global community. Our hearts and thoughts go out not only to those in the Skidmore community who are most directly affected but to all those in the devastated areas.
Message from Acting President Kress Regarding Alexander Grant
Dear Members of the Skidmore Community,
I write to convey the very sad news that emergency personnel yesterday recovered the body of Alexander Grant, a sophomore at Boston College, who was visiting friends at Skidmore this past weekend. While accounts are still emerging, it appears that Mr. Grant had lost his way in the snow following a party at an off-campus location.
The death of a student is a tragic event in the life of any college, and this is a grievous loss for two campus communities. Our hearts go out to Mr. Grant’s family and friends and to the Boston College community. I was able to meet with members of Mr. Grant’s family yesterday and convey to them condolences on behalf of the College. Several of us also have been in touch with members of Boston College, including the President, Father William P. Leahy.
I want to thank Dean of Student Affairs Rochelle Calhoun and her staff, who, over the last few days, have attended closely to the needs of the family and of those members of the Skidmore community most deeply affected by this tragedy. I know Dean Calhoun will be writing directly to our student community. I also want to convey the College’s thanks to the Saratoga Springs Police Department, the Saratoga Springs Fire Department, the New York State Forest Rangers, and all who assisted in the search for Mr. Grant.
At this most difficult moment, I know that we look to each other for support. I ask that each of us be attentive to those among us who might be experiencing this loss with particular pain and help to guide those in need to appropriate sources of support.
January 20, 2011
Dear Members of the Skidmore Community,
I wrote to you on December 22nd regarding an incident that took place in downtown Saratoga Springs at the end of last semester and that resulted in serious charges brought against four of our students. I believe it is important to repeat now what I said at that time: I will continue to resist making assumptions and judgments about the events in question until all accounts are heard and all evidence is presented – and I urge all of us to do the same. As the investigations unfold, we expect the fair treatment of all associated with this incident; that expectation must include the presumption of innocence unless guilt is proven.
I am deeply troubled, however, that over the past several weeks “the presumption of innocence” is being lost in much of the broader conversation around these events. In calling for the suspension of judgment until the facts are gathered, I also challenge each of us to examine critically the generalities about Skidmore students, race, and class, published in various on-line discussion boards and sound-off columns. Some of this commentary is misinformed, but some is uncivil and biased in ways that none of us should tolerate. Even though we recognize that these statements come from a small number of individuals, their impact is nevertheless toxic, diminishing the humanity of us all and creating an atmosphere in which members of our campus and local community may and do question whether they are indeed welcome.
This question of inclusion is an urgent one. As students and faculty return to start a new semester, we must seize the opportunity to reassert the values of our Skidmore community. Skidmore stands by its commitment to building and supporting a diverse community as an essential element of our educational mission. That concept of diversity embraces the different identities we carry with us, including race, ethnicity, national origin and class, as well as gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, ability/disability, and religious affiliation. Goal II of the College’s Strategic Plan calls upon us to recognize the complexities of the multi-national, multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural world we live in and “develop the intercultural skills necessary to affirm one another's humanity, no matter how different we might at first appear, with the ultimate goal of living and working successfully together.”
But it is one thing to espouse these values and another to live them. We have heard too many voices over the years asserting strongly that we are not living up to our ideals of mutual respect and inclusion. It is now time to redouble our efforts and take up some very tough questions: Can we be a community that is truly open and welcoming to all of our members? Can we be a community where all individuals have the capacity to question honestly and forthrightly their own assumptions? Can we be a community that is truly committed to justice and fair treatment for all of its members? Can we be a community whose members are willing to ask the hard questions, willing to listen to hard answers and, if warranted, willing to change?
Various groups and individuals are currently making plans to engage these questions over the course of this semester in a number of settings (both on and off campus). You will hear more about these plans shortly, and so please watch for more detailed announcements. While we need to attend first to the health of our own Skidmore community, we must also reach out to the broader Saratoga community since these issues are not restricted to the confines of the campus but extend throughout our region and beyond.
These conversations will be difficult ones, but I believe they are the right conversations for a campus and a local community that aspires to be open and inclusive.
December 22, 2010
Dear Members of the Skidmore Community,
As many of you know from reports in the media, four Skidmore students were arrested early in the morning on Saturday, December 18, following an altercation off campus at a restaurant in downtown Saratoga Springs. While details about the incident continue to emerge, we have confirmed that three of the students were charged with misdemeanors. The fourth was charged with felony assault and a related hate crime stemming from his alleged use of a racial epithet during the incident.
We do not yet have a full account of the incident and its aftermath, and, as the investigations proceed, I urge that we resist making judgments or assumptions about what happened. These are very serious allegations, and there are procedures in place both externally (the criminal courts) and on campus (our student disciplinary process) to determine what outcomes might be appropriate. It is important that we respect these processes and move forward in a way that allows for the fair treatment of all involved.
Skidmore College values its relationships with our neighbors in Saratoga Springs, and we take seriously the responsibilities we have as an institutional citizen as well as the responsibilities that each of us has as a member of the community. We always regret any incident that threatens to undermine those relationships, and we deeply regret any incident that results in personal injury or property damage.
Thank you for your patience and your understanding, as we all work through this difficult situation in a way that is respectful of the rights of all individuals associated with this incident.
To: Members of the Skidmore Community
From: Philip A. Glotzbach, President
Date: Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Re: A Time for Respect – A Time for Action
The tragic suicide of Tyler Clementi on September 22nd has prompted thousands of people to speak out across our country and around the world. Many have expressed outrage at the homophobic biases and thoughtless behavior highlighted by this tragedy. Others have placed the alleged actions of Tyler’s roommate and his friend in the larger context of bullying, which we know has reached disturbing proportions in our primary and secondary schools, and which all too often occurs on college and university campuses. And some have decried the invasion of privacy that apparently led this gifted young student to take his own life. Regrettably, such violations of privacy are becoming more and more frequent in a world where a damaging email or video can “go viral” in a matter of hours.
Homophobia is not an impersonal or distant phenomenon. It touches each of us either directly or through someone we know – and in many cases, someone we love – who is the target of such abuse. Indeed, Tyler Clementi’s death affects the Skidmore family more immediately than some of us may realize. Tyler’s older brother James is a Skidmore graduate, a member of the class of 2009. So this tragedy really is a personal one for all of us at the College. Our hearts go out to James and to his parents for their loss, which is our loss as well.
In a heartfelt letter to our students, Director of Health Promotion Jennifer Burden speaks of her own outrage at the events that prompted Tyler’s suicide and voices her fervent hope that “the sort of cruelty that Tyler experienced” would have no place on our campus. She also wishes “that Tyler could have felt [the kind of] love and support [that is now being expressed] before he made the decision to take his own life.” All of us certainly share these sentiments. But, as Jen reminds us, we also know that homophobic and racist incidents of intolerance do take place on college and university campuses, in general, and even, regrettably, at Skidmore.
So now is the time to do more. Specifically, now is the time to rededicate ourselves both individually and collectively to making our own campus the kind of place where such actions no longer occur. We are a community founded on mutual respect and dedicated to learning. We seek to foster in our students the skills, knowledge, and dispositions required for them to function as responsible citizens of a democracy. And, in this context, we would do well to call to mind Dr. Martin Luther King’s frequent assertion that the denial of basic civil rights to anyone is a threat to the rights of everyone. If we are to be true to these basic values, we must strengthen our resolve to make Skidmore a community in which abuse directed against someone because of that person’s identity becomes unimaginable.
Many within our community have worked, and are continuing to work, to move us to this place. These include the Bias Response Group (which is focusing this year on issues relating to sexual orientation and gender bias), the Office of Student Diversity Programs, the Skidmore Pride Alliance, the Committee on Intercultural and Global Understanding, Health Services, the Counseling Center, the Center for Sex and Gender Relations, and the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life. Of particular note, the Skidmore Pride Alliance is hosting an event at 8 p.m. on Thursday, October 14, in Davis Auditorium, at which a panel of LGBTQ students will talk about their experiences at Skidmore and in the local community. They also will discuss the “It Gets Better” project – a recent attempt to reach out to young LGBTQ individuals, offering them a measure of reassurance and hope in a world that all too often can be violent and threatening. I urge you to attend, if you can, or otherwise to consider how you can demonstrate your commitment to creating a safe community climate for everyone at Skidmore.
The deepest challenge is for each of us to act consistently towards one another in ways that build understanding and respect. Several years ago, a group of first-year Skidmore students initiated a campaign to remind us of these basic principles by calling for all of us to “Give More, Respect More, Skidmore.” Let us all resolve once again to take this exhortation to heart and let it guide our behavior. In fact, any one of us can be called upon at any time to make a personal choice that will make our community better or worse. Commenting on the events that reportedly led to Tyler Clementi’s untimely death, columnist Cynthia Tucker writes,
This story might have ended differently if Wei had stopped her friend and high school classmate Ravi, when he allegedly came to her room to set up the webcast. What if she had protested fiercely? What if she had had the courage to do what most of us find so difficult: to be a lone voice for doing the right thing?
If we make it our responsibility to take notice of those occasions when an ethical decision is called for and, yes, find the moral courage to act accordingly, then each of us can discover within ourselves that “voice for doing the right thing.” It is too late to reach out to Tyler Clementi. But it is not too late for all us, acting together, to prevent any such actions from ever occurring again – especially on the Skidmore campus.
Give More, Respect More, Skidmore.
Let me repeat here the information provided by Jen Burden at the end of her letter. Please know that you also can seek information, support, and resources at the following campus offices:
Health Services – Jonsson Tower, First Floor (518-580-5550)
Counseling Center – Jonsson Tower, First Floor (518-580-5555)
Student Diversity Programs – Case Center, Second Floor (518-580-8212)
The Center for Sex & Gender Relations – Case Center, Third Floor (518-580-8255)
The Office of Religious and Spiritual Life – Case Center, Third Floor (518-580-8340)
Skidmore College Financial Update
1 February 2010
The beginning of our new semester represents an appropriate moment to update the Skidmore community regarding our financial situation and address an issue that I know has been very much on all our minds.
As you will recall, last May I announced that we needed to achieve an additional $3.25 million reduction in continuing expenses, and in September I informed the community that there appeared to be no way to realize this budgetary objective without eliminating from 30 to 70 positions (approximately 5% of the College’s overall workforce). At the same time, I indicated our determination to explore all possible alternatives for achieving the necessary savings through reductions to the operating budget that did not require the further elimination of positions.
I am very pleased to report that we now are seeing signs of improvement in the College’s financial condition relative to our earlier projections. This positive result stems from a number of factors:
- While our endowment still has not returned to its level of December 2007 (nearly $300 million), improvements in the external economic climate have enabled a significant recovery in the College’s investment assets – from a low of approximately $220 million in February 2009 to approximately $270 million as of December 31st. (As always, we have benefited from the superb management of our portfolio by the College’s Investment Committee.)
- We are seeing hopeful signs of increased financial support by alumni, parents, and friends – particularly in the Annual Fund.
- The campus community as a whole has done admirable work in reducing and controlling expenses.
- We now are planning a smaller increase in the financial aid budget (tuition discounting) in FY ’11 than we previously had modeled. (Financial aid remains the College’s second largest expenditure category after compensation and benefits.)
- Student retention has exceeded predictions, though this situation remains volatile.
- The strategic hiring freeze and restrictions in overtime, in place since October 2008, have yielded savings in personnel costs equivalent to approximately 30 positions.
- The voluntary Early Retirement Incentive Program (ERIP) has yielded savings in personnel costs equivalent to approximately 25 positions, far exceeding our expectations.
These and other factors – most notably the absence of a general salary adjustment (GSA) for the current year with no GSA planned for the following year, and the cost-containment efforts and sacrifices of the entire Skidmore community – have combined to create a stronger financial outlook than could reasonably have been predicted even six months ago.
After reviewing these and other developments with the IPPC and the Budget and Finance Committee of the Board of Trustees, we have determined that it is no longer necessary to seek additional non-voluntary reductions in force (RIF’s) from among our full-time employees as part of the FY ’11 budget planning process.
We will, however, continue to see changes within our workforce. We will maintain both the strategic hiring freeze and restrictions on overtime for at least one additional year. We also will continue to limit the use of parttime and temporary employees. Furthermore, some positions will be restructured (through reorganizations, work reassignments, changes in positions, union “bumping,” etc.), and other positions will have their hours reduced. Those employees who are directly affected will feel these developments acutely, and all of us need to understand that these persons will see reductions in their take-home pay and, in some cases, significant changes in their work. At the same time, these measures will place additional demands on other employees. And the entire community will experience some discomfort as services we came to expect in the past are reduced or eliminated. In short, none of these changes is simple or easy. But we must make them in order to avoid additional cuts to our workforce.
Much work remains to be accomplished as we finalize the FY ’11 Operating Budget, which will be presented to the Board of Trustees for approval in May. Some of the challenges we still face include achieving our enrollment targets for fall 2010, while controlling the growth in the financial aid budget and limiting increases to our comprehensive fee in future years in order to bring our “price” and our perceived value into better alignment.
Overall, and I cannot overemphasize this point, we must remain disciplined in continuing to control and reduce expenses across the College. Each of us must understand that we cannot return to a “business-as-usual” mentality. The changes we have made in our operations – and, most importantly, in the way we approach our work – that were prompted by the economic downturn must remain in force, if we are to continue our progress toward reestablishing a sustainable budget that includes appropriate investments in personnel, programs, and our physical plant, as well as in financial aid.
Going forward, the time has come to shift our attention from budget reduction to making the strategic choices required to meet the needs of our students while addressing the primary challenge before us: improving our ability to continue recruiting well prepared and diverse entering classes in the face of changing demographics, the economic obstacle represented by our high comprehensive fee, and increasing competition for students from schools that are older, better funded, and historically more prestigious. I ask for your support as we continue our work to ensure the strength and quality of our academic and co-curricular programs, access for our students, and affordability for their families.
We will share additional information about the Operating Budget for FY ’11 and answer any questions that you may have at community meetings on February 3 and 4, and at the Faculty Meeting on February 5. But I wanted everyone to have the information presented above immediately.
Finally, let me take this opportunity to thank all members of the Skidmore community for your important contributions throughout this period of adjustment. Our sense of community, our creative problem solving, and our understanding that we must place the good of the College ahead of our individual interests and desires truly make us the special institution that we are.
Thank you for your attention and your good work on behalf of Skidmore.
Philip A. Glotzbach
Statement from President Philip A. Glotzbach, regarding the January 12 earthquake in Haiti
21 January 2010
Along with others throughout the world, the Skidmore College community has been deeply touched by the devastation visited upon Haiti by last week’s earthquake. With 30 percent of Portau-Prince lying in ruins and outlying locations suffering similar damage, the Haitian people remain in desperate need of food and water, shelter, and medical care. Continuing aftershocks have only added to their enormous problems.
Haiti's dire situation poses a profound challenge to the world community. It also serves to remind us of our shared humanity and the underlying bonds that connect all people. Indeed, among the people in Haiti are several alumni of the College. We have attempted to contact all of them and now have heard back from two. One wrote that she had “lived through coup d’états, embargo, hurricane devastation, looting, riots, my husband being shot at, kidnappings, but I have never seen such a tragedy.” Both she and the other alum from whom we have heard have suffered personal losses but now are looking to help their country rebuild.
One of the strategic goals of a Skidmore education is to help our students embrace their citizenship in the global community, and the responsibilities that attend upon that role. When students return at the end of January, we will undertake a College-wide fundraising effort; Director of Community Service Programs Michelle Hubbs and Richard Chrisman, Interim Director of Religious and Spiritual Life, will coordinate this work. The SGA leadership is already considering how to sponsor an event to raise awareness of conditions in Haiti, and no doubt there will be other related activities as well. Then and now, we all can model both intercultural and global understanding and responsible citizenship through our own caring and efforts to assist.
Many within the College community already have contributed to relief and rescue efforts. No doubt, others will do so as well. I encourage each of us to be as generous as possible in offering what we can. In her all-College e-mail of January 14th, Michelle Hubbs provided the following link to a listing of charitable organizations on the MSNBC website:
More recently, President Obama has enlisted the assistance of former Presidents Clinton and Bush, and they have created a new site:
Let me also remind you that the common reading for Skidmore’s Class of 2011, Tracy Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains, described the work of Dr. Paul Farmer in bringing health care to the poor in Haiti and elsewhere. The Haitian hospitals established by his organization, Partners In Health, largely survived the quake and reportedly now constitute the primary indigenous healthcare delivery system in the country. You can support this crucial work through their website:
In the meantime, the people in Haiti remain in our thoughts and prayers as we join with our nation and the entire world to plan, give, and work to support the island-nation's recovery.
Update on economic challenges
16 June 2009
Dear Members of the Skidmore Community:
As part of our ongoing commitment to keep the campus community apprised of budgetary planning and other matters, I write to make the information that Michael West and I presented at the May open meetings more broadly available. Given the challenges ahead of us, I thought it would be beneficial to provide this written summary of steps the College is taking, as well as steps we are considering, to ensure that Skidmore continues to move forward in fulfilling our educational mission.
Because of its breadth and depth, the economic downturn continues to have a negative effect on our students and families, our charitable support, and income from our investments. While the markets improved in April and May 2009, our endowment value is still down roughly 20% from May 2008, which is significantly below what we had expected it to be at this point in time. Even after allocating nearly $3 million in additional funds for financial aid, we have not been able to meet all of the needs of our students and their families. And despite the considerable efforts of the Advancement Office, receipts for the College’s Annual Fund – which directly supports our operating budget – fell by 5% this year from $6.4 million to $6.1 million.
All of these trends have put tremendous pressure on our budget and have led us to take a number of steps to reduce costs. These decisions have been informed by our commitment to maintain the integrity of the educational experience we offer our students while sustaining our commitment to need-based financial aid. They were considered within the context of our Strategic Plan and are intended to minimize negative consequences for both the people and the sense of community that are at the heart of Skidmore. As reported previously, here are some of the key features of the FY ’10 budget that were approved by the Board of Trustees at its May meeting:
- We will maintain current student enrollment levels at approximately 100 over the budgeted number of 2,280 – possibly through FY ’14 – to support the operating budget. This is a short-term decision, and we recognize that we still must answer the question of optimal enrollment size over the long term.
- We have increased the financial-aid budget by nearly 10% or $3 million.
- There will be no salary increases for FY’10.
- We will continue the strategic hiring freeze and restrictions on overtime.
- We have reduced most FY ’10 services and supplies budgets by 10%; budgets directly supporting the delivery of academic curriculum have been reduced by 5%.
- We will continue to reduce travel, entertainment, and related expenses and, where possible, limit or eliminate the use of consultants.
- We have reduced the budget for capital expenditures, including funding for deferred maintenance.
- We will continue to hold on all but a few carefully chosen strategic initiatives.
The members of Cabinet and I now have turned our attention again to the work we began this year of developing budget scenarios to stabilize the College’s financial situation for FY ’11 and beyond. Our current models indicate that Skidmore will need to address major budget shortfalls in those out-years – as much as $8 million by FY ’11. We will continue to work with the IPPC and others as appropriate to ensure that we are able to recommend balanced budgets to the Board of Trustees.
Actions currently being considered for FY ‘11 include the following:
- No salary increase.
- Additional reductions of 3% in services and supplies.
- Additional reductions in personnel costs of $3.25 million.
We expect to achieve some of the additional reductions in personnel costs through attrition; we also are investigating the feasibility of a voluntary retirement incentive program for some members of the faculty and staff. It is clear, however, that non-voluntary reductions in force also will be necessary. These decisions will be made thoughtfully and deliberately, and I expect that it will take us the better part of the coming year to complete and implement our planning. Without a doubt, the consequences of these decisions will be felt by all of us. The Cabinet and I will consult with IPPC over the summer and in the coming year, and I will keep you informed about process and time-lines as further decisions are made.
Let me conclude by renewing my call for all of us to engage fully in thinking of ways in which we can do our own jobs and, ultimately, achieve the College’s highest strategic priorities more efficiently. Such discussions either have already begun or will soon be under way in each division of the College. It is important that everyone recognize that while we will be able to maintain the core of what we do, how we do it must and will change. Certain activities will happen less frequently or not at all, and each of us will need to make adjustments in the way we carry out our day-to-day responsibilities.
Finally, I want to thank each of you once again for your continued support of these efforts. I am heartened by the spirit in which our community has approached our budgetary planning and by the clear desire to develop strategic solutions that will position us to achieve even higher levels of excellence in the future. I assure you that we will weather this economic downturn and continue to make Skidmore a better place at which to learn, live, and work.
Philip A. Glotzbach
Economic update to Community
Dear Members of the Skidmore Community,
I write to update you on several important matters: the Board of Trustees meetings that took place February 19-20, an important vote on the University Without Walls (UWW) program taken at the Faculty Meeting last Friday, February 27, and the ongoing discussions related to the College’s budget planning process.
Board of Trustees update
In an important piece of business, the Board affirmed our budget planning processes by approving the proposed major budget parameters for next year’s (Fiscal Year 2010) budget. Those parameters, as reviewed previously in community meetings and with the Institutional Policy and Planning Committee (IPPC), include a projected increase in the comprehensive fee of 3.9% and a general salary adjustment of 2%; the current FY ’10 projections also include reductions in services and supplies budgets of 10% (or, for budgets that directly support teaching, 5%). The Board also authorized the use of “over enrollment funds” in FY ’09 and FY ’10 to address projected shortfalls in those budget years.
The Board expressed confidence in our budget planning for FY ’09 and FY ’10. Like the administration, however, the Board recognizes that the out years (FY ’11 and beyond) will present much more difficult challenges. I will say more about that below.
In other official actions, the Board approved the elimination of the Economics-Mathematics interdepartmental major; approved tenure, promotions, and sabbatical leaves; and authorized the granting of degrees to UWW and MALS students. The Board also approved the early release of funds to renovate Kimball Hall, and it authorized our moving forward to engage an architect to do preliminary design work for the Scribner Village replacement.
Some of you already are aware that at the Faculty Meeting last Friday, the faculty voted to support a motion offered jointly by the Committee on Educational Policies and Planning (CEPP) and the IPPC to close the University Without Walls program. The vote (106 in favor, 20 opposed, 5 abstentions) was in the form of a recommendation to the administration. I will now take that recommendation under advisement and will forward it with my own recommendation to the Board of Trustees at the May meeting. I will report on my decision to the faculty and the broader community by early April.
A decision to recommend closure of an academic program is not one that any educational institution takes lightly or makes easily. The vote does not in any way diminish the accomplishments of UWW, its graduates, or its staff; to the contrary, UWW has had a distinguished history for over 35 years. I am grateful to the faculty leaders and others on various governance committees who gave their attention to the UWW matter, to the individuals who served long and diligently on various task forces and working groups to consider UWW’s future, and to the administrators who worked tirelessly to ensure thoughtful, deliberate consideration of this important institutional issue.
The motion introduced by CEPP and IPPC was offered with the understanding that “if the decision is made to close the UWW program, the College will be committed to celebrating the accomplishments of UWW and its graduates and to honoring the work of the many longtime and dedicated faculty and staff members who have devoted themselves to the program.” The College also is committed, if UWW is closed, to exploring other options that would allow Skidmore employees to complete credit-bearing courses toward degree completion.
Budget planning update
I recognize that this is an unsettling time for many of you personally, and it certainly is an unsettling time for the College. As you undoubtedly have seen, the national and global markets are off to a very difficult start in 2009. January and February saw further steep declines and, as of March 2, the S&P 500 is down 18% for the calendar year. Although Skidmore’s endowment continues to perform well by comparison to the market, its value nevertheless continues to decline. We will continue to monitor the performance of our endowment and track its implications for our financial situation.
As you know, the budget planning we have done for the current year (FY ‘09) and for FY ’10 has included a strategic hiring freeze but no layoffs of personnel. I remain confident that the planning we have accomplished to date is sound, and I am optimistic that we will be able to retain the assumptions described earlier in this message. We all must be aware, however, that external factors (most notably, ongoing steep declines in the market) could require us to revisit those assumptions.
Moreover, it is now very clear that our budget planning for FY ’11 and FY ’12 must include structural adjustments that will permit us to reduce the College’s expenses on an ongoing basis. We need to understand that many of the financial assumptions under which we have operated for the past five years can no longer guide us for the future. This means that, as we plan for the out years, all programs and operations must be “on the table” for consideration. The members of my Cabinet and I will continue to work with the IPPC and others as appropriate to engage in this very difficult planning work, and I remain committed to updating the community on a regular basis. Toward that end, we have scheduled open community meetings on Thursday, April 2, at 10:00 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. in Davis Auditorium. At this point, I do not expect any major announcements or significant additional information beyond what I have described above, but I will look forward to taking your questions and hearing your thoughts or concerns.
The challenging work that we have ahead of us does provide the opportunity to re-affirm our fundamental mission and to re-examine and articulate our highest priorities. This is critical work that will require every member of our community to be an active partner. I invite all of us to join together in that effort.
Philip A. Glotzbach
President Glotzbach’s Update on College’s Response to Current Economic Challenges
November 25, 2008
To: The Skidmore community
From: Philip A. Glotzbach, President
Date: 25 November 2008
Re: Update on our response to current economic challenges
As you know from recent community meetings and correspondence, I have been working with members of Cabinet to respond to the challenges resulting from an unprecedented confluence of external events. We now believe we have a sufficiently informed view of the situation to begin taking the steps required to address both the short- and long-term issues relating to the economic downturn.
Like our peer colleges, Skidmore relies on four primary sources of revenue: tuition and fees, endowment income, gifts to the Annual Fund, and short-term investments. At this point in time, the last three of these sources are well below projections that have informed both the current operating budget – fiscal year 2009 (FY ’09) – and our planning for subsequent annual budgets (beginning with FY ’10). From January 1, 2008 to September 30, the College's endowment lost 12 percent of its value. October saw additional significant losses across all market sectors, and declines have continued through November. Although our third-quarter investment reports will not be available for some time, it is most likely that the College has experienced further declines in the value of our investments in recent weeks.
In addition, gifts to the Annual Fund presently are running well behind projections, and short-term investments are yielding just a fraction of their returns compared to six months ago. Finally, given the economic realities now affecting so many families, it is reasonable to anticipate that the College will receive new requests for financial aid and that some students may need to leave Skidmore for a semester or longer.
We now project that these trends will result in a deficit for the current fiscal year (FY ’09) of approximately $1 million (roughly 1 percent of our total budget). We further project that, unless we take the necessary and appropriate actions, the College would see a deficit of $8 million (roughly 6 percent of our total budget) for FY ’10. Given the magnitude of these deficits and the uncertainty of the broader, long-term economic outlook, we must respond quickly and pragmatically, while reaffirming our commitment to sustain Skidmore's mission and its core assets.
Responsible stewardship of the College requires that we always develop a balanced budget – and live within the parameters established by that budget – no matter what external circumstances obtain. Within the constraints of this overall requirement, our actions in dealing with the present challenges, and those of the years to follow, will be guided by the following additional principles:
- First and foremost, Skidmore must maintain the integrity of the core educational experience we offer our students – both academic and co-curricular – and our commitment to academic excellence.
- Second, to the greatest extent possible, we must be responsive to the economic realities facing our students and their families by minimizing any increase in our comprehensive fee in the coming academic years and by sustaining (and, if possible, increasing) our commitment to need-based financial aid.
- Third, we must do all in our power to minimize negative financial consequences of budget reductions to our regular, full-time employees. This aspiration relates both to benefits (e.g., maintaining the present policy for health insurance cost-sharing) and to wages.
- Fourth, in seeking to increase the efficiency of our operations and reduce costs, we will engage the creative resources of all members of our community and ensure, to the extent possible and consistent with our mission, that the accommodations and sacrifices we implement are shared equitably across the College.
- Fifth, by concentrating and prioritizing the investment of our available financial resources, our time, and our energy, we will make every effort to preserve Skidmore’s forward momentum in advancing the objectives of our Strategic Plan.
With the above principles in mind and following discussions with the President’s Cabinet and the Institutional Policy and Planning Committee (IPPC), I have directed that the College initiate immediately the following cost-reduction measures affecting both the FY ’09 and FY ’10 budgets:
- We will institute a strategic hiring freeze. The President’s Cabinet will review all open positions and will authorize hiring only for those positions deemed to be of critical, immediate, and strategic importance.
- We will implement an initial reduction of 2 percent in all non-compensation discretionary budgets (services and supplies) for FY ’09. This target will be set for each of the divisions of the College, allowing administrators and managers to make trade-offs within their areas.
- We will initiate planning for the FY ’10 budget to achieve additional targeted reductions of 10 percent (for a total of 12 percent relative to the approved FY ’09 budget) in all non-compensation discretionary budgets. An exception will be made in the case of budgets directly supporting the delivery of the academic curriculum; in these cases, we will seek an additional targeted reduction of 5 percent (for a total of 7 percent relative to the approved FY ’09 budget).
- We will limit the use of overtime at the College; all overtime must now be approved in advance by the relevant Vice President or Dean.
- We will reduce travel, entertainment, and related expenses pertaining to College business.
- We will limit – and, where possible, eliminate – the use of outside consultants and contractors.
- We will examine every capital project currently planned but not yet started to determine which can be postponed or eliminated.
- We will place a hold on all new programmatic initiatives pending a review by President’s Cabinet in the context of our new financial circumstances.
With regard to the current year’s budget, I have asked Cabinet members to work with their respective staffs to implement the aforementioned budgetary steps as quickly as possible. Any questions regarding these processes should be directed to the appropriate vice president or dean. At the same time, the Cabinet and IPPC will work towards finalizing recommendations for the FY ’10 budget in time for discussion and review at the Board of Trustees’ Budget Workshop meeting in January, in anticipation of the next scheduled Board meeting in February. Beginning this work in earnest now will enable the College both to minimize the deficit for the current fiscal year and to lay the groundwork for balanced budgets for the following years. Indeed, we already are beginning to plan for the FY ’11 budget, where further difficult choices will likely confront us.
I should note that the measures described above purposefully exclude the use of the temporary revenues generated by our current over-enrollment that, as I have explained in previous campus conversations, generally must be reserved for one-time expenditures. It is possible that we may call upon these funds in a limited way to achieve specific strategic objectives within our budgetary constraints. But such actions can be taken only after we have completed the targeted reductions. Above all, the College must be disciplined in using these funds only as a bridge to a more permanent solution to our budgetary issues – not as providing a solution in themselves.
All of us need to be engaged in this work. To that end, I encourage everyone to think about ways in which the College can reduce costs and operate more efficiently. In the vast majority of cases, the best ideas will arise directly out of one’s personal experience in one’s own area of responsibility. Such ideas should be communicated to one’s immediate supervisor or division head (the appropriate dean or vice president). This is the most effective way for all of us to make our ideas known. However, upon the advice of the IPPC and Cabinet, we also will be establishing other ways for people to share their good suggestions. More information regarding this process will be forthcoming in the near term.
In the coming weeks and months, I will continue to report to you in a timely fashion as new information becomes available. Community Meetings have been scheduled on December 4 at 8:30-9:30 AM and 1:00-2:00 PM, and I encourage you to attend one of those meetings. I also will provide an update on our situation and take questions at the regular Faculty Meeting on December 5th.
In conclusion, we indeed continue to face significant challenges, and yet the College has never been better prepared to meet them. Over the past decade, through wise investments, sound financial practices, and the generosity of thousands of alumni, parents, and friends, we have greatly strengthened our financial foundation, which, in turn, has allowed us to significantly enhance the experience of our students. Similarly, the rapid expansion of our financial aid program has allowed us to make a Skidmore education more accessible to more students than ever before. We now must work prudently and with all due speed to ensure that we can maintain that strength in the years ahead.
In the meantime, let me acknowledge that our nation’s difficult economic situation affects each of us in a very personal way – as members of communities facing budget reductions in public services, as members of families with relatives who may be dealing with job cutbacks or layoffs, as friends of persons who have fallen upon hard times, and as individuals experiencing the economic uncertainty we all feel. This is a time to remember that the U.S. economy has recovered from downturns many times in the past. It is also a time to reaffirm the bond of community that joins all of us within the Skidmore family. We need to depend upon one another for support and understanding, even as we make the necessary adjustments to the College budget. It is also a time, once again, for me to thank you for your hard work, for your commitment to Skidmore and its mission, and for your creativity as we join together to continue our progress through these turbulent times.
President Glotzbach’s Message Regarding the Economic Crisis, 2008
Dear Members of the Skidmore Community:
As all of us certainly are aware, these are very challenging economic times. This past week, especially, financial markets in the U.S. and around the world exhibited tremendous volatility – mostly, and unfortunately, in a downward direction. These conditions affect all of us directly through the performance of our own personal retirement and savings portfolios. The College is not immune to these conditions, and we are likely to see continuing effects for some period of time. So I would like to take a moment to comment on these developments and to indicate some of the actions we have taken and will take in response.
First, we currently are projecting a significant decline in interest earnings from short-term investments on working capital – primarily cash receipts (most notably, tuition and fees) that we manage so as to earn interest between the time they are received and the time when they need to be spent.
Second, and more importantly, our endowment’s value had dropped by roughly 6 percent as of August (the most recent figures available) from its high point this past December, and we anticipate further declines with the September figures. This reduction in value will lower the income generated from the endowment for our operating budget.
Third, along with many other colleges and universities, we now anticipate a slow-down in charitable giving, both in support of operations and for capital projects and endowment, although it is still too early to tell the full extent of this trend.
Fourth, we also are experiencing considerable increases in the cost of energy and other base operating costs as well. Potentially more significant could be a marked rise in the demand for financial aid among our students, current and prospective, as many families see their income and assets decline and their access to credit diminishes.
The $700 billion rescue plan that was signed into law last week can be expected to restore some degree of normalcy as its measures are implemented – although it seems reasonable to anticipate that the markets will continue to experience turbulence in the coming weeks. As these developments continue to unfold, we must plan thoughtfully and seriously for what may be a prolonged and significant economic downturn. We already have held conversations along these lines in President’s Cabinet, and this week the IPPC will begin to consider ways to address this far-reaching and still developing situation. The College’s Investment Committee has met and will continue to monitor our portfolio; other Trustee committees will be involved in related discussions this month at the Board’s regularly scheduled meeting.
What I want to make clear today is that the Administration is working diligently and responsibly – but without any sense of panic or alarm – to address the issues before us. We will do this work in consultation with the appropriate campus governance bodies and the Board. As things progress and as we have additional information, we will update the community and create opportunities for dialogue with the entire campus. Specifically, we will schedule an open meeting sometime over the next two weeks, which will allow us to discuss our situation in more detail.
I believe that, working together, we will be able to chart a safe course through these unsettled waters. From an absolute perspective, it seems clear that we are likely to experience some rough going in the months ahead. From a relative perspective, however, Skidmore is as well positioned as most colleges, and better than many, to navigate these challenging circumstances. Thus far, our endowment has performed better than those of many of our peers, and it is both well managed and well diversified. We have good controls on our spending and access to sufficient funds to meet our needs. Finally, and perhaps most important, our admissions picture remains strong. Taken together, these factors should help us weather this storm.
Philip A. Glotzbach
Safety at Skidmore College
Date: 18 April 2007
To: Members of the extended Skidmore community
From: Philip Glotzbach, President
The full scope of loss in the tragic episode of Monday, April 16, 2007 on the campus of Virginia Tech University is now beginning to become clearer to us all. The members of the Skidmore College community join with others in expressing our heartfelt sympathy to those connected with this great university who will be dealing with the aftermath of this event for so long into the future. In our various roles of student, parent, member of the faculty or staff, alumnus or alumna, or trustee - all of us can relate to the profound grief experienced by those who have been directly affected. This most recent experience should remind us, once again, that those human qualities that bring us together are infinitely more important than those that divide us.
Over the coming days, legitimate questions will be asked about how not just Virginia Tech but all colleges and universities have prepared to deal with such an extreme threat to public safety. Let me offer some reassurance about our situation at Skidmore:
- Our Campus Safety operation is headed by Mr. Dennis Conway, a retired officer of the New York State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation. Under his leadership, we have (and have had for many years) a Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan to deal with a wide range of possible situations, from power outages due to severe weather to the case of a violent intruder. This Plan is reviewed and updated regularly and can be found on the Campus Safety web site.
- Skidmore personnel – most especially, those in Campus Safety - undergo regular training in relation to the Emergency Plan. Specifically, Campus Safety personnel (17 of whom are full-time and 12 are part-time) are unarmed and are instructed not to confront someone with a weapon but rather to move others to safety. In such an event, the Saratoga Springs police would be contacted immediately to take control of the situation. Skidmore has agreements in place with external law enforcement agencies detailing how they and we would respond to a major incident on our campus.
- All residence halls are locked 24-7, and the campus is equipped with 28 blue-light emergency communications stations.
- Campus Safety personnel participate in simulated disaster response exercises, along with state and local agencies.
- Representatives of Student Affairs, the Counseling Center, the Dean of Studies Office, and Campus Safety meet weekly to identify students who may be in need of assistance. The express purpose of this meeting is to attend to any possible warning signs. Residence hall staff members, especially, are trained to report indications of students for whom intervention would be appropriate.
This tragedy is just the latest in a series of events demonstrating that no college can afford to be complacent. We certainly will determine what more we can learn from the sad experience of Virginia Tech to bring our preparedness to an even higher level than it is at present. In fact, we had already undertaken a comprehensive review of our emergency procedures – including the question of how the College would communicate rapidly with our students, faculty, and staff should it become necessary to do so. We also need to consider carefully how our procedures can best be understood by all members of the campus community - so that everyone knows what to do in the event of an emergency. No doubt, we will identify ways to improve on the very good work that already has been done.
This is a time for reflection not only with regard to issues of safety and security but also, and even more importantly, about questions that go to the heart of the educational mission of colleges and universities throughout our country. I will offer some additional thoughts along these lines in due course.
For now, let me conclude by reiterating our deep sense of shared grief over an event that, by rights, never should have happened anywhere, least of all at an institution of higher learning.
Thank you for your attention.