President Conner and administrators update Skidmore staff
Skidmore College President Marc C. Conner provided updates on recent changes in the College’s safety alert level for COVID-19, the February meeting of the Board of Trustees, the College’s newly launched campus master planning process, searches for several senior leadership positions, plans for the summer, efforts to stabilize the cost of employee health care, admissions and other topics.
Conner opened the monthly staff meeting on Friday, March 5, with a moment of silence for student Samantha Sasenarine ’21, who died last month.
The president described the complex decision-making process behind the College’s move to Alert Level 3 in late February and its return to a modified Alert Level 2 on Friday. He noted the decision to move to a more restrictive safety level was taken out of an abundance of caution and expressed confidence that it was now safe to return to Alert Level 2.
“It’s predictive. We’re trying to look at probabilities,” Conner said, emphasizing that Skidmore’s COVID-19 Dashboard continues to be updated as soon as test results become available.
The Board of Trustees considered a number of important issues during its February meeting. Thanks to careful planning, the College continues to foresee a balanced budget for this fiscal year — an enviable position for the many colleges and universities that continue to face extraordinary financial difficulties.
Formed this academic year as part of Skidmore’s ongoing Racial Justice Initiative, a new Trustees Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee is active, and its work is permeating discussions of the Board of Trustees at every level, Conner said.
Skidmore is also embarking on a new master planning process and is preparing for outreach to the entire Skidmore community. The project will be supported by Ayers Saint Gross, a leading campus master planning firm. A task force of faculty, staff and students will support engagement efforts by coordinating conversations between various stakeholders and the firm. The task force will be co-chaired by Associate Dean of the Faculty Pat Fehling and Director of Facilities Dan Rodecker and include staff representative Amy Tweedy; faculty representatives Mark Youndt and Erica Wojcik; Vice President for Strategic Planning and Institutional Diversity Joshua Woodfork (who will be replaced by the deputy chief diversity officer when that position is filled later this year); Director of Sustainability Programs and Assessment Levi Rogers; and Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Gail Cummings-Danson. A student representative will also be named.
A search for Skidmore’s next vice president for student affairs and dean of students is ongoing and will be supported by Storbeck Search. The president is chairing the committee, which also includes cabinet representatives Woodfork and Michael Orr; faculty representatives Lisa Grady-Willis and Jennifer Bonner; staff representatives Cora Burns and Kelli Johnson; and students Esther Namulondo ’22, Bryan Cuzco-Sinchi '23 and Aya Awawdeh '22. An appointment is anticipated this summer.
The search for another cabinet-level position, Collyer Vice President for Advancement, continues, and an appointment is expected around the end of the academic year. The search for the next vice president for communications and marketing will begin in September.
As previously announced, Skidmore plans to hold an in-person Commencement ceremony for members of the graduating class on May 22, pending approval from New York state.
Although several outside organizations have canceled events this summer, Skidmore still plans to offer some in-person courses and provide research and internship opportunities for students during the summer months.
"My hope is that we’ll have some robust programming on campus — in person — this summer,” Conner said. “It’s looking like we may have 200 or so students on campus.”
The Healthcare Working Group is also continuing its efforts to find ways to help stabilize the rising costs of health care. The group will share its findings with Skidmore employees later this month and make recommendations to the Institutional Policy and Planning Committee (IPPC) in April. “Taking care of our people continues to be my highest commitment,” Conner added.
Vice President and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Mary Lou Bates also offered a brief update on admissions. The Office of Admissions plans to announce admissions decisions around March 15 and will move forward with a series of robust online efforts to recruit students remotely, since in-person opportunities to visit campus remain limited in the immediate future.
The next staff meeting is scheduled for March 26.