The global economic situation is having an effect on every institution in the country, and Bard College at Simon’s Rock is no exception. Today I am writing to update you on the college’s response to the economic climate.
You may have read about reductions being made at some of the wealthiest colleges in the country, and in turn worried about the situation at Simon’s Rock. But you also know that we operate with both a different philosophy and on a different economic model than these institutions. Our history of innovation and focus on our core mission, along with the investment and commitment that you have made to the college, have positioned Simon’s Rock to respond to these challenging economic times.
We have of course been revising our budget on campus for some time, and yesterday I formally announced a number of actions we will take to protect the college during the economic downturn. Included in these actions are a freeze on new construction and major renovations, centralized approval for new hires, a modest reduction in the set temperature of campus buildings through the winter, and requiring executive approval for any major new purchases or travel. We are also implementing basic operating cost reduction, and developing longer-term contingency plans to protect the college.
Budget communications in challenging times by necessity refer to what will be reduced. But it is important to also identify the areas of priority for protection, and to remind us all of the significant progress we have made as an institution. This is a time to use our history of innovation to preserve and build on that progress, even as we respond to the realities of the economic climate.
The college is making budget revisions with several basic principles in mind. First, we must protect the mission of the college and protect our academic core. Second, we will secure recent accomplishments in our major initiatives. Third, we will work to preserve jobs, so that the people who have built this campus can remain a part of this community.
A central component of a Simon’s Rock education is the close relationship students develop with faculty. We remain dedicated to ensuring that students receive the appropriate level of academic challenge and support, and remain committed to a low student-faculty ratio.
The student body has grown, diversified, and strengthened in recent years. We will maintain our commitment to financial aid to support those who are currently enrolled and to enable prospective students to have the opportunity for a Simon’s Rock education.
We have invested in signature programs with Lincoln College Oxford; an engineering partnership with Columbia, Dartmouth, and Washington University; the University of Manchester’s Centre for New Writing; and the Bard Globalization and International Affairs program. On campus, we have also developed a junior pro-seminar in social studies and a visiting artists program. These programs enhance our academic profile, strengthen our student recruitment and retention, and allow us to maintain a small campus community while offering exceptional options to students. We will continue to nurture these relationships, and will continue to provide support to students who study away through the Rodney Christopher Scholarship Fund.
We have made considerable strides in diversifying the campus community through recruiting students of color and providing support in the form of scholarships and campus systems. We have begun to diversify our faculty, and have been admitted to the Consortium for Faculty Diversity in Liberal Arts Colleges. We have inaugurated the Book One program, and endowed the Du Bois Lecture each spring semester. These programs will continue as we build on our success in providing a strong and diverse education.
The Win Commons was created in recognition of the tremendous contribution Judith and Ba Win have made to students and families over the years, in response to ideas from alumni, and to address faculty workload concerns. Since the Commons was created, more students have studied abroad and away, and have volunteered in our community, than at any time in our history. Through the Commons students receive individual guidance for transfer, internship, and career decisions. As a result of the Commons, students have support for developing writing and quantitative skills, and resources for responding to issues of accessibility and disability. The Commons has provided workload help for faculty, transformed the range of opportunities for students, and enhanced the connection between the college, students, and alumni. Its core mission will be preserved through this process.
Admission has made dramatic improvements in the last few years. Our enrollment has grown, strengthened, and diversified. Our updated outreach and recruitment strategies, our commitment to financial aid, and our support of the staff who bring in strong classes each year will continue unabated.
Simon’s Rock is a distinctive institution, and an important one. Over the years we have built an exceptionally strong academic core and a beautiful physical campus. We have invested wisely in programmatic improvements, grown the enrollment while strengthening and diversifying the student body, seen a large increase in private gifts, and built an endowment. Many of these accomplishments are the direct result of the support and generosity of our alumni and friends. And these investments put us in a position to work through the difficult economic time while protecting the essential aspects of a Simon’s Rock education.
We have been through challenges before, and have emerged stronger as an institution and as a community. I have implicit faith in the strength of Simon’s Rock and its constituents. I am grateful for your continued support, commitment, and generosity, which will continue to make a dramatic difference to Simon’s Rock during this challenging economic time.