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Address to the Arts & Sciences Faculty

February 24th, 2014

Welcome, everyone. I'm happy to have you here for the Arts and Sciences Faculty Meeting. There are four items of business today: First, my report, second, we're going to hear from the Committee on Priorities with a Statement of Principles. Next, a report from the Committee on Instruction, on grading practices, and then there's other business. That's the lineup for today.

Let me begin. I have a few items to talk about and then we'd love to open it up for questions and answers, mindful that we have other agenda items.

Let me update you on a few things that are going on that are important.

In March, the Trustees will consider the college budget, the budget proposal. Long term, there are two major over-arching objectives that we're trying to achieve with our budgets in the years going forward. One is to be sure that we're strongly positioned for any future volatility. And then we want to make sure, to achieve that, that we emphasize discipline in practices on campus, which means that we, as much as possible, allocate our funding towards the things that are most valuable to us, the things that are core to our academic mission, and our mission of student experience.

So, in terms of how that translates down to the actual operating budget, we want to first of all maintain robust investment in innovation and excellence, while at the same time slowing down our growth in cost of attendance.

We have two primary mechanisms for doing that in this year's budget: one is reallocation, asking units to reallocate from activities which are either lower priority or are less effective, to new innovations. Second, a focus on efficiency of operations. That's number one, to make sure we're investing in what we want to be investing in - innovation and excellence - and at the same time, slow down our growth in cost of attendance.

Second, we want to make sure that our institution is strongly prepared for the next economic downturn. I think you all know there were economic downturns in this country in the early '70s, then in '82, then in '92, then in 2001, then in 2009, so the next one's coming. It's not too many years away, and we want to make sure that we are strongly prepared for that when it happens. That means that we are beginning the process of making sure we have contingency in our budget, and to the earlier point about reducing cost of attendance, I want to make sure that we have some head room on tuition. Right now, we are almost at the top of the pack. We are the fifth most costly college education in the country, second in the COFHE. If we had a real emergency and we needed to go up significantly on tuition, we would bust out the top. I want to store an asset, create some head room for us for the future.

Lastly, I want to make sure that we align the endowment spending rule over time to reflect new expectations around investment return. The traditional investment return we've seen, almost all experts believe will not be sustainable in the future. It's not going to drop precipitously but it's going to drop a little bit, and we want to protect the buying power of the endowment because that's supporting our activities going long-term.

What you'll see in the budget proposal is elements of all of these and I'm very pleased with the work that all of you did on campus around this year's budget. We made significant progress on all of these directions, and I'm looking forward to the discussion with the trustees.

On the topic of the budget, one more announcement, because I know it's a topic that's important to lots of people, everyone in our community basically, and it's also very complex. I'm going to be offering, along with the help of Rick Mills and Mike Wagner, a budget class in the spring. It's going to be a five-part series, each two hours. It's going to be Wednesday and Thursday evenings: April 2nd, 10th, 17th, 24th, and May 1st. It's going to be open to all students, faculty, and staff. Although it's not for credit, there will be some work that we're asking. We will be asking for registration in advance. The point is to unpack the budget, look at all the revenues, look at all the expenditures, look at trends over time, compare this to the national picture, look at how financial aid is packaged, look at socioeconomic demographics, look at everything connected with our budget. If you have an interest in this topic, I would ask you to commit the time and come and learn about it.

Let's talk about the campaign, while we're on the topic of money. We are in early planning for the next campaign. We've been having discussions throughout the fall, throughout the winter. I have real ambitions for Dartmouth, as you may remember from our discussions in the fall, and there's no doubt that philanthropy is going to be a key to us achieving the excellence that we all strive to achieve. Dean Mastanduno and the Associate Deans are working very hard on Arts and Sciences priorities, I'm anxious to be working with him and his team going forward. I've laid out some broad-based institutional objectives and ambitions, around faculty cluster hiring, around Society of Fellows, around Experiential Learning and Learning Technologies. There's Financial Aid, which will always be a key priority. In terms of magnitude, one thing you can expect is that this campaign will be substantially larger in our goal than the outcome of the last campaign. It's going to be a sizable number. Some of you have already heard that Engineering was already planning its major ideas, those were discussed with the Board over the last couple years. I strongly support those. As big as they may sound, they will be a small piece of the campaign. I think we all believe - I believe - that Arts and Sciences is the core of this college, so the bulk of the campaign will be directed towards Arts and Sciences and the students in Arts and Sciences. I look forward to what we're going to achieve there, and putting together a compelling story and going out to our very generous alumni body for support. That's going to be a lot of fun.

I have a quick reminder - I do hold open office hours for faculty on Fridays from 3-4. I wish more Arts and Sciences faculty would come by. These are stimulating discussions and I would love to see more of you. Fridays from 3-4.

Let me talk about Admissions application numbers. You've all heard about this. Of course, we're all concerned. There was a substantial decline in application numbers this year, a decline of about 3,000 applications. We still have a very strong - our strongest, in fact - most diverse pool, so I think our concern need not be around whether we will enroll an excellent class next fall, we definitely will. But, we need to understand what's going on here, and whether there's something - what longer term things are at play here. As follow up to this, we did a survey of non-applicants, so this is a survey of students who either sent us their test scores or visited campus but then did not apply. We learned from that survey, it really showed many things we've learned in the past. The top three factors that students consider - what they told us when they're looking at where to apply - is outcomes, did they get a good job, get into grad schools or professional schools, they're looking at whether or not this would be a good place for that - academic reputation, and then cost. Those are the top three in terms of factors that students are looking at when they decide where to apply.

If you ask why didn't you apply to Dartmouth, the top five factors there, in order in our survey are: 1) fear of not being admitted, 2) cost, 3) fit - do they feel like they're the kind of student who would fit in on our campus, 4) location, then 5) concerns about student life. I think we have a lot more to do with this survey information, it's a rich data set, we need to cut it in different ways, look at different sub-populations, and we will be doing that and getting you more information. It's definitely something we're taking seriously and trying to understand what are the implications of what we've seen this year.

Let me make a note about one of the student life topics that I discussed in the fall, which is a real desire to expand some of the social options available to students on campus, the options for building community and for having social interactions. I said at the time that housing was one of our greatest opportunities here, in particular the way upperclassmen are housed and the fact that they are moved around substantially from term to term. We are - the Residence Life Office is putting together the planning to have a house model for upperclassmen. They will land in either a single residence hall or a small neighborhood of residence halls in the case of Ripley/Woodward/Smith as upperclassmen, they would stay there, we would provide the right kind of facilities, the right kind of programming, the right kind of faculty and grad student involvement. So they will be able to more effectively build community and have social interactions within their residence hall.

How we handle freshmen is still something we're looking at. We may actually identify their upperclass house as freshmen so they can begin identifying with that group at the start. Things like East Wheelock will remain part of our strategy, it's been very successful. You've also heard about living-learning pilots that we're starting in the fall. Those are because, as we launch these upperclass houses, as we take on a strategy of building community in housing, we want to experiment about what are the best tactics for building community, and living learning programs is one tactic used at many universities for building community. We want to get our feet wet, we want to experiment, we want to understand whether they'll work well on our campus. We're starting that campus pilot in the fall. I think that you will see this will be a topic coming up for much more campus discussion in the future. We really want your ideas, we want your involvement, we want your support. We do believe that the residence halls and housing are a great tool we can use to expand the options for community building and social life on campus.

Let me turn a little bit to one other topic on student life and that's sexual assault and violence. We have a pillar strategy here on the prevention side, which is broad-based community mobilization. One program within that strategy is the Dartmouth Bystander Initiative, and that launched already last year. We have just set up a center, which you've heard announced, the Center for Community Action and Prevention, which is a unit whose sole mission is community mobilization, and that includes not just students, that includes faculty, it includes staff, it includes alumni.

The logic behind this approach is all the research which says that the preponderance of sexual assaults are committed by a small number of predators. The number that's often thrown out is 90% of sexual assaults are committed by 3% of the population. The idea here is let's activate the other 97%. That's the logic behind this, and again, as this Center begins to ramp up, we will be looking to mobilize faculty, as well as students. We really want you to be involved and want your ideas on how to do that. We want your support of this approach.

In July, also, on the topic of sexual assault, we will be hosting a major national summit here on our campus, it's July 13th through 17th. David Lisak who's a clinical psychologist, and he's renowned nationally for his work in this area, he is our partner in cohosting this. It's going to be a forum which will bring experts from around the country, as well as many college and university peers together. We're going to look at innovative practices, not only in prevention, but also in response. I urge all of you to consider whether you want to register and participate in this conference.

So, those are the topics I wanted to report on today. I would love now to open it up for questions and answers, comments.

Last Updated: 2/27/14