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Office of the President Emeritus
Hinman Box 6166
Hanover, NH 03755
Phone: (603) 646-0016
Fax: (603) 646-0015
Email: james.wright@dartmouth.edu
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Annual Report to the General Faculty

October 29, 2001

I am very pleased to be here today for my annual report to the General Faculty of Dartmouth College. It is my pleasure to acknowledge Provost Barry Scherr and Dean Jamshed Bharucha in their new capacities. Dartmouth's academic work is enriched by the strength and experience they bring to these positions. I would also like to welcome William Walker, our new Vice President for Public Affairs

When I began my service as president and we initiated our planning process, I did so with a mood of confidence -- we had much to do and we were going to do it. Dartmouth was economically strong, the nation's economy was booming, and, even acknowledging limits, we faced a future in which we were confident about our capacity and encouraged by our options. It was an era of growth and of strength -- increasing grant support, record levels of alumni support and of other gifts, and an endowment that was performing with historically high returns. In this environment many faculty, students, and colleagues in the administration -- many of you here -- presented needs, general and academic, often quite specific ones, that would advance our objectives and assure our continued good work.

A lot has happened, surely, in this community but also in the world around us since my report twelve months ago. Our institution -- our own lives -- have been affected. Last winter we lost two dear colleagues in an event we still seek to understand. Since September 11 we joined the world in confronting a tragedy beyond our means of comprehension. Nine alumni and two doctors who did their residencies with Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center lost their lives that day. Many of us grieve friends and loved ones, former students. All of us have been shaken. The September 11 attacks, the subsequent military action, and the incidents of bioterrorism may force us to assess some of our activities. There may be a greater reluctance to travel on the part of faculty, staff, and students. We immediately had to think about our off-campus programs scheduled for the fall term. We cancelled the St. Petersburg off-campus program but for reasons unrelated to September 11. All of the remaining fall term programs proceeded after a delay, and only a very small handful of students chose not to go. Dean of the Faculty Bharucha and his colleagues will work with faculty members leading programs to monitor the situation and will assess whether we need to make any adjustments in the winter and spring. His office has also reviewed the emergency protocols for each of the programs. As for the anthrax threat, we have reviewed our mailroom and emergency procedures, and we have met with mailroom staff from across the institution. We are in close contact with the fire and police departments and town officials and are cooperating with them in monitoring these matters.

Last year's market decline was but a prelude to the dislocation that has followed September 11. Two years ago we enjoyed a 46 percent increase in the endowment. This past year, our increase was zero. The first quarter of this fiscal year we had a 7 percent decline. Our investment team has done a superb job in the face of a great deal of uncertainty, and I am confident that we are appropriately diversified in our holdings and that we are not taking any unnecessary risks. But this could be a long haul, requiring our patience -- and adjustments in some of our assumptions.

We do know that a university is not like other businesses. It is not that we are immune to the vicissitudes of the market, but they affect us differently. Revenue at Dartmouth normally derives from a number of sources. The College-only budget illustrates this. First, tuition provides 44 percent of our revenue. We continue to have students who are eager to attend, and we are fortunate, as a selective institution, to be able to choose from among the very best students in the world. If we are true to our aspirations, we will be able to continue to do so. Our tuition increases over the past few years have been the lowest in 30 years and below the average for 4-year private institutions.

Secondly, income from the endowment now provides 30 percent of our annual budget. It is the portion of our revenue stream that has grown significantly over the last decade -- and the one that is most at risk from the economic downturn. As you know, we spend from the endowment using a complicated total return formula that works out at the present at less than 5 percent of the value using a 12-quarter trailing average. The current returns have a significant negative impact on future spending assumptions.

Thirdly, the Dartmouth College Fund, the annual contributions from generous alumni/ae and parents, provides 11 percent of our revenue. It may be that we will see some decline from our record-setting performances in recent years, but we anticipate that our graduates and parents will continue to be generous.

Finally, sponsored activity accounts for another 10 percent of revenue, up from 8 percent in 1990. Thanks to your extraordinary success, research funding has increased by 13 percent over each of the previous two years. Last year, you will remember, we held a research celebration to mark our passing $100 million in sponsored activity.

While we may not be as vulnerable as some businesses, we have clearly been hurt by the economic downturn. Assumptions regarding growth in revenue for our operating budgets and our long-term financial plan have softened. This requires us to continue to look hard at our current expenses. We are unable to assume any new ones that do not reflect a clear priority and the revenue source to support it. As we prepare for a capital campaign to support our current needs and to fund new initiatives, we simply must acknowledge that our fundraising outlook in the near term may be complicated by events over which we have no control. Consequently, we have had to carefully review our priorities and reassess what we can realistically accomplish. The world does not always march to our schedule.

Be that as it may, we cannot afford to abandon the vision we have set for ourselves. It is critical that even as the means to our vision become more complicated, we not lower our aspirations for Dartmouth -- we need to become more imaginative and more patient in accomplishing the things we seek, but we can seek no less. The strategic discussions of the last year and a half have reaffirmed that we share in a fundamental vision and a sense of basic priorities. For 232 years Dartmouth has endured and flourished despite changes in the world about us. Generally by responding and adapting to these changes while proving true to our own purposes and principles. We have survived through times of optimism and times of foreboding, through economic crises and through wartime emergencies. We have thrived through periods when urban and, alternatively, rural locations were more or less attractive to prospective students, to faculty, and to staff. And we have prospered through variations in society's assessment of the "value" of the liberal arts. We have more than endured through difficult times -- we have excelled.

This is a time in our history when we must step up to our purposes to assure Dartmouth's continuing preeminence. Many of the best -- and wealthiest -- American universities have recommitted themselves to strengthening their undergraduate programs while the strongest, most competitive liberal arts colleges are moving to enhance research opportunities for students and for faculty. Within this competitive environment we must carefully define our goals and aspirations in ways that affirm our traditional strengths, stretch our imaginations, and make the most of our considerable resources. There is much to be done, and we know that our ambitions exceed our identifiable near-term financial means. This cannot mean that our ambitions become the less.

Even as we struggle with a challenging economic environment, we must acknowledge that our enduring assets, those intangible qualities that are ours, are considerable. Our location and scale, our sense of community and of values, our traditions, our diversity, and our intellectual energy, these define and strengthen Dartmouth. In all areas -- undergraduate, graduate, and professional -- Dartmouth is a residential community that is committed to excellence in scholarship, teaching, and learning. Dartmouth faculty are acknowledged leaders in their fields, as well as devoted and enthusiastic teachers who are willing to work with and to learn alongside their students. The College is marked by close student-faculty interaction, by the engagement of senior faculty at all levels of instruction, by an environment that nurtures curiosity, independence, risk, and exploration, by a sustaining sense of community, and by an open and easily accessible intellectual, artistic, scientific, and creative environment. The campus includes state-of-the-art facilities, and its scale and culture allow for close and creative collaboration across the schools. We are connected to the world by an outstanding array of international and off campus programs and by our widely recognized educational and research technology and information systems.

Dartmouth has the intellectual reach and competitive strength of a great university, but we enjoy the soul of a college rooted in a closely-knit sustaining and diverse community. As a fundamental principle of learning, Dartmouth is unequivocally committed to diversity in the student body, the faculty, and the administration and staff. This commitment goes beyond issues of admission or recruitment to assuring that we have a culture that is comfortable with and takes full educational advantage of the differences within our community.

As a residential academic community, this College has a historic commitment to providing a comprehensive learning environment where students can enjoy options and freedom and an opportunity to assume responsibility for advancing the values of this community. Dartmouth recruits faculty and students who can work independently, yet who value collaboration and sharing. It prepares its students to think critically, to develop their leadership abilities, and to live fulfilling lives in a rapidly changing world. Our graduates, who retain a lifelong relationship with the College and with each other, go on to have a significant and positive impact upon others and upon the world around them. They are committed to the principle that learning is a never-ending process and a lifetime obligation. Dartmouth's legacy, strength, and ambition is enhanced by the College's location in a place of enduring physical beauty, by its architectural distinction and scale, and by its tradition of supporting an extensive range of outdoor, athletic, and recreational activities.

With these values firmly in mind, we can move forward with setting our priorities for the coming years. We must build on our values -- protecting our historic strengths while seeking out new opportunities that are right for Dartmouth. Over the last year-and-a-half we have worked on ways to organize the needs and opportunities you have identified into a clear set of priorities and a single integrated strategic and financial plan. For the current discussion, I will focus essentially on the College-only budget, including the graduate programs in the Arts and Sciences. The three professional schools are working on similar processes that advance the shared vision and values we have articulated. The very special qualities that distinguish Dartmouth are as true of our graduate and professional schools as they are of our undergraduate programs.

The discussions and deliberations that we engaged in last year regarding the academic plan were a critical part of this process. They helped us identify our key strengths, opportunities, and needs. They also helped us identify a set of balancing characteristics that currently define Dartmouth. These include:

  • recognizing the critical place of the undergraduate liberal arts at this college while advancing the work of the professional schools and the graduate programs;
  • enhancing support for scholarship while never losing sight of the central role of teaching;
  • maintaining the intellectual energy and scholarly vitality of the core undergraduate liberal arts departments and programs in the face of major needs in the graduate programs and the professional schools;
  • assuring the central integrity of academic departments and schools even with a growing emphasis on interdisciplinary opportunities and on activities that cross the boundaries of the faculties;
  • recognizing and addressing the needs of various groups and interests within this diverse community while also advancing the concept of a shared and common experience.

Dartmouth's special and powerful role in American higher education comes from having these characteristics considered as mutually sustaining, as harmonious, rather than conflicting forces. There can be no institutional resolution whereby one element becomes secondary to the other. They are each part of our institutional identity and will continue to define us in the future.

As a result of our discussions and our careful financial planning process, we have identified a set of institutional priorities that I will now outline. The Dean of the Faculty and the deans of each of the professional schools will coordinate their efforts with Provost Scherr to focus these priorities still further. We will all work with Vice President Carrie Pelzel and her development colleagues to articulate a campaign statement that will advance these needs. We fully intend to proceed with campaign planning, although, we obviously will need to be sensitive to those factors that may cause us to examine the timing and level of this. In the meantime, we are prepared to use existing resources whenever possible to proceed with some critical needs and initiatives. These include discretionary resources that I can direct, some incremental unrestricted endowment revenue that is still available, even if far less than earlier assumptions, and prudent use of debt.

At this time, we have focused on our basic needs and are thinking more strategically about ways to advance them. For example, we likely will delay the Tuck Mall residence hall project, meeting those needs in a consolidated and more efficient way north of Maynard Street. We may need to adjust timing or otherwise phase other projects. Support for existing activities, where that support can make a difference, is often more critical than taking on incremental objectives.

STRATEGIC IMPERATIVES

A. WE MUST CONTINUE TO RECRUIT AND SUSTAIN A DISTINGUISHED FACULTY who are outstanding scholars in their field and who share a passion for teaching and working intimately with students. Dartmouth's teacher-scholars are at the cutting edge of their disciplines and find excitement in teaching and learning alongside the most talented students in the world.

FACULTY SUPPORT

  • To compete for this faculty, Dartmouth must provide competitive compensation packages. The faculty compensation program begun a few years ago has succeeded in bringing our associate professors up to the mean for our peer institutions, and our assistant and full professors to within 95 percent of the mean. We have still more work to do here, and we will continue to monitor this situation carefully.
  • To continue to recruit a top-notch faculty, we need to provide better start-up packages. We have put significant new resources into the start-up budget, but we will need to be imaginative in this area.
  • In addition, we must provide more research support for current faculty. Last year, we increased the number of senior faculty grants in the Arts and Sciences by five and have agreed now to make this increase permanent.
  • We have added grants and further support for faculty across the institution who wish to incorporate technology into their teaching, and we will continue to offer Cheheyl fellowships in the coming year.
  • In the area of technology, I am very pleased to announce that Russ and Judy Carson have agreed to extend for another two rounds the faculty replacement computer program in the Arts and Sciences that they initiated in 1997. The Carsons continue to be generous supporters of the College's basic needs.
  • The report by the Subcommittee on Priorities described the need for a greater use of postdoctoral fellows in some fields, for publication subventions where necessary, for travel grants, and for more general support for faculty scholarly and creative work. We will focus on identifying ways to enhance these important objectives. Dean Bharucha and his colleagues are exploring these and other options to provide greater support for his faculty, as are the deans of the professional schools.

FACULTY EXPANSION

The number of faculty in the Arts and Sciences, the Thayer School, the Tuck School, and the Medical School must be sufficient to meet the teaching, mentoring, and research needs of our students, as well as to allow Dartmouth to incorporate emerging areas of study. As our resources permit, we must expand the faculty in those departments, programs, and areas of study where an incremental investment can make a difference in terms of scholarship and in providing greater opportunities for students. Dartmouth will continue to offer the full breadth of courses that a liberal arts education demands by encouraging strength and creative scholarship across the whole institution -- in the humanities, the social sciences, the sciences, the academic programs, and in the professional schools. I am committed to strength in all of these areas, and, under my presidency, even as we cannot do everything, we will not categorically privilege any one of these areas at the expense of another. It is also my commitment that our research excellence shall facilitate the diversity and the teaching strength that mark this institution's enduring quality and attraction. These are mutually sustaining rather than oppositional qualities.

FACULTY DIVERSITY

We must continue to strive to have a more diverse faculty -- one that fully reflects the world in which we operate and to which our students will graduate. I was pleased to be able to accept and follow up on the report by the Committee on Institutional Diversity and Equity, released over the summer. Among the committee's many recommendations were that we review the hiring and retention of faculty and assess the sorts of programs we have in place to support our faculty of color. I know that Deans Baldwin, Bharucha, Danos, and Duncan are doing this, and I am confident that we will continue to make progress in this area. This is a priority across the institution.

TEACHING AND LEARNING

Dartmouth has an enviable and well-deserved reputation as a great teaching institution. You care deeply about your students and you bring a special creativity and energy to your teaching. But it is not the case that great teaching simply happens. While some departments provide more support than others, as an institution we have not provided the sort of support for teaching that we should have. The Student Assembly has identified teaching as a top priority and has begun initiatives for this purpose. I hope that you will join me in working with them in meeting some of our important shared objectives. Following up on earlier proposals, Provost Scherr has convened a group of faculty to help plan a teaching and learning center. It is my hope that such a center could provide support for faculty from across the institution, both with more traditional forms of teaching and with the use of technology. I am excited by this project and look forward to the report from the planning committee and to securing resources to enable this critical initiative.

B. IN ADDITION TO FACULTY, WE MUST SUPPORT EXCELLENT PROGRAMS

INTERDISCIPLINARY AND INTERNATIONAL PROGRAMS

At a time when new knowledge is often created at the overlap of disciplines, Dartmouth needs to more fully leverage the opportunities provided by interdisciplinary programs and centers to develop innovative approaches to scholarship and to student academic opportunities. Dean Bharucha and his colleagues are committed to working with the academic programs to strengthen their work. We recognize the need to support greater opportunities for international and global studies. Our off campus programs and academic programs focusing on major regions and areas are a critical part of this. We send more students abroad on our own programs than any of our peer institutions, and I think that few among us today would deny the importance of these programs in furthering our understanding of the world. We must continue to support and develop these programs and take fuller advantage of them on campus.

ACADEMIC CENTERS

The College is perhaps uniquely able to build upon its historic research and teaching opportunities bridging the Arts and Sciences and the professional schools. We need to maximize this important strength. The Rockefeller Center for the Social Sciences, the Dickey Center for International Understanding, the Ethics Institute, the Leslie Humanities Center and the important centers initiated at the professional schools -- along with our curricular interdisciplinary programs -- have helped to galvanize and energize interdisciplinarity at Dartmouth. Last year, I announced grants for those faculty interested in organizing conferences or working collaboratively on new interdisciplinary projects. We will continue to fund this program this year.

I am pleased to share with you the news that we have also identified potential space for three of the centers in a newly planned facility adjacent to the Kemeny building, which we have sited on North Main Street next to Carson Hall. The directors of the Dickey Center, the Humanities Center, and the Ethics Institute have all participated in conversations with Provost Scherr and the Facilities Planning Office to plan this new space and we expect to move forward quickly because the resources for this project are available. We also hope to identify incremental sources of program support for these and our other centers.

C. WE WILL ALSO MOVE FORWARD WITH SEVERAL ACADEMIC FACILITIES PROJECTS

Since 1995 we have constructed Moore Hall, Berry Library, an addition to Wilder, renovations of the Fairchild Science Center and Silsby Hall, as well as the construction of Whittemore Hall at Tuck and administrative space at DMS. Other academic projects underway include Carson Hall, the future home of the History Department, and the renovation of Baker Library.

ACADEMIC FACILITIES

We are in different stages of planning for several additional academic facilities including:

  1. Expansion at the Thayer School
  2. The Cancer Center at DMS/DHMC
  3. Residential and administrative space at the Tuck School
  4. Kemeny Hall
  5. The Academic Centers adjoining Kemeny Hall
  6. Incremental space for Computer Sciences
  7. Improved space for the arts
  8. A Life Sciences building
  9. Additional and ongoing classroom renovation

We have already raised the money for some of these projects, and we are seeking resources that will enable us to proceed with all of them in a timely manner.

LIFE SCIENCES

Let me say a little more about the Life Sciences and Arts. Both are necessary projects and both will help significantly advance our programs in these areas. The Life Sciences represent a multidisciplinary area rooted in biology and medicine but with branches in computer sciences, chemistry, physics, environmental sciences, and psychological and brain sciences. In the past few years, we have witnessed a revolution in these fields that has changed our understanding of human life. Dartmouth cannot afford to ignore or simply observe this revolution from afar. Indeed, our faculty are heavily involved in creating that revolution and have succeeded in attracting significant research dollars in this area. But to build upon this strength and to meet this need we must have a better facility, one designed to support our faculty and students in their research and learning. It is particularly exciting that this project bridges the Arts and Sciences and the Medical School. This will be a shared facility that will further collaboration between faculty and will allow undergraduates and graduate students to have seamless access to faculty from both areas. We are well along in program planning for this facility and now will seek ways to advance it.

THE ARTS

The Creative and Performing Arts have long been a particular strength at Dartmouth. Our departments in Studio Art, Music, Film and Television Studies, and Drama along with the Hopkins Center and the Hood Museum provide cultural excitement to the campus and the Upper Valley. But these departments and programs have outlived the facilities where they currently reside. We have begun a preliminary architectural study, and we are committed to work to finance a renovation and expansion. The need for us to identify funding sources as well as our obligation to keep all of our academic programs operational during renovation will force us to advance this project in stages. We will need to provide new space for some departments before renovations on existing buildings can begin, and we will be able to elaborate on our plans for the first stage of this project in the near future.

D. IN ADDITION TO SUPPORTING THE FACULTY WE MUST CONTINUE TO ATTRACT AND ENABLE OUTSTANDING STUDENTS

FINANCIAL AID

We must maintain our commitment to need-moot admissions and to strong and competitive financial aid packages for students at all levels. Dartmouth has one of the most generous scholarship programs in the county, and currently 44 percent of our students receive assistance. We can take pride in being one of only a handful of institutions nationally who continue to be need-moot in our admissions process for domestic students, and who provide them with 100 percent of their demonstrated need. We are fully committed to the continuation of this program.

UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH OPPORTUNITIES

Talented students are attracted to Dartmouth because we provide an education that is based on active learning and that encourages students to work alongside faculty in the discovery and expansion of knowledge. Our students are looking for the sorts of opportunities that are provided by the Women in Science Project and the Presidential Scholars Program. They want to work alongside faculty on a range of projects. Over the past few years, we have seen an increasing number of students working on senior theses. We must support the undergraduate research programs that we already have in place, and we must encourage new learning initiatives.

STUDENT LIFE

We must advance our historic identity as a residential college to provide a range of learning, social, and service options and choices within a total environment that is open, inclusive, and supportive. Two years ago we renewed our commitment to the residential and social life of our students to ensure that their out-of-classroom experience is as strong as their academic experience. Dean of the College James Larimore has reviewed many of the programs that we offer and has made significant changes. We are offering more social alternatives and we have gone a long way toward the implementation of many of the items called for by the Trustees in their announcement on student life in April 2000. The new adjudication system has gone into effect as have the new standards for CFS Houses. We have more professional staff in the residence halls, a much expanded orientation program for incoming students, and first-year housing.

Dean of the Tucker Foundation Stuart Lord has helped to reinvigorate Tucker and has initiated several new programs. He is working actively to involve our students in the wider community and has succeeded in expanding their sense of service. As with all of these priorities, we need to look carefully at timing and maximizing our resources for student life. I affirm the College's commitment to these objectives and to the course of action and the first phase schedule that we have set.

DIVERSITY

We have also begun to implement the recommendations of the Committee on Institutional Diversity and Equity. I have appointed Ozzie Harris as Special Assistant to the President for Institutional Diversity and Equity. We will also move forward with the appointment of a Council on Diversity. We have done an excellent job of recruiting and admitting students from very diverse backgrounds. We now need to commit ourselves to maintaining that quality and to doing an equally good job in retaining and educating all students in an environment that is supportive and that allows them to reach their full potential.

STUDENT LIFE FACILITIES PROJECTS

Finally, our work with student life is dependent to a large extent on our ability to provide new facilities. We have opened McCulloch Hall, which students have enjoyed immensely, and we have plans for additional residence halls north of Maynard Street to house in excess of 500 students. This facility will allow us to decompress other residence halls, to improve the general quality of life for our students, and to allow more students to live on campus. We are also planning a social and dining center adjacent to this residence hall that will include space for graduate students--this in addition to new graduate student housing. Finally, we have much needed renovation work to do in Alumni Gym and in Thayer Dining Hall.

E. WE WILL ALSO NEED TO PAY ATTENTION TO OUR INFRASTRUCTURE

The excitement that we share derives from the academic program outlined above. But, in addition to building on the strength of the faculty and enhancing student life, we need to take continuing care of the infrastructure of the College. We have several significant needs in this area. If less exciting, they are nonetheless critical to our success. To bring online the new construction that we have planned, we need to expand the capacity of our current heating plant. We need to upgrade our electrical service to parts of the campus. We need to ensure that our technological infrastructure is adequate for our rapidly changing needs in the area of information systems. Finally, we need to build a parking structure to handle the volume of traffic that comes to the campus each day. These, and related matters, are obviously less visible, but are vitally important to enable us to move forward with the projects we have outlined. They are also, unfortunately, extremely expensive, costing, in the aggregate, many millions of dollars.

The priorities outlined above -- support for faculty and academic programs, financial aid and student life, facilities and infrastructure -- are the result of the current academic planning process and will finally inform our campaign priorities. They represent an ambitious agenda and will be contingent on our ability to generate funding, which, in turn, is dependent upon forces that we do not control. Each of the professional schools is working on plans for additional facilities -- research and academic space at Thayer, student housing at Tuck, and the Cancer Center expansion and the life sciences for Medicine. Each is also developing plans for providing greater support for faculty research and student learning. Vice President for Development Carrie Pelzel will work with the academic deans and the other senior officers to develop a campaign plan that will describe these needs within the general framework of priorities and objectives that I have outlined today.

One of the things that we learned from this planning process is the need for ongoing planning. This is not something that we can simply pick up every 10 years or so. It is more than a necessary prelude to a capital campaign. With that in mind, I have asked Provost Scherr to develop a process for ongoing planning that includes the appropriate faculty committees and that will provide all of us with regular opportunities to discuss strategic objectives. In terms of shorter-term priorities and needs, Dean Bharucha has already begun to confer with the chairs of the COP, the COF, and the Subcommittee on Priorities on the Dean of Faculty budget. The Provost will convene this same group, along with Vice President and Treasurer Win Johnson, Dean Larimore, and student representatives, to provide ongoing advice on the College budget.

I said a few years ago, that I could not imagine a better time to be president of Dartmouth. I continue to feel that way despite the unwanted challenges that have arisen. We have an excellent faculty and student body and we have exciting opportunities before us. Many schools would like to be more like us -- be they large research institutions trying to bolster their undergraduate experience, or small liberal arts colleges trying to foster a research faculty. Through the careful balancing of the characteristics that define us, we are redefining liberal arts education for the 21st century. We have the best of both worlds. Our prudent management of resources -- combined with the vision of this faculty -- has enabled us to outline a plan that will strengthen the faculty, enhance the experience of our students, and foster a community of learning at Dartmouth. We can aspire to no less.

Thank you.

Last Updated: 8/21/08