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President Wright's Letter to the Community About the Dartmouth Budget

November 13, 2008

Dear Members of the Dartmouth Community:

Over the past weekend we had an opportunity to engage with the Board of Trustees in an extended discussion regarding Dartmouth's financial projections. We were able to share with them in detail the sobering picture that revenue is down significantly because of declining endowment performance.

This College is blessed with an endowment that has been enhanced greatly over the years by positive investment returns and by remarkably generous alumni/ae and friends. Supported by this financial foundation, the College's "true endowment" — the excellence of our academic program, the strength of the faculty and staff, the quality of our students, and the range of facilities and other resources that enhance learning - has never been stronger. We need to reduce expenses in order to preserve this strength.

The current international economic downturn has its own unique and ominous qualities, affecting institutions, businesses and households. It is not unprecedented in terms of effects and consequences. As Dartmouth has done many times over the last 239 years — including several times in the nearly 40 years I have been here — we will meet this challenge.

The Board agrees with our financial projections and goals: we need to protect financial aid; we need to protect our academic strengths — of which the core is the tenure-track faculty and our overall educational environment, and we need to do all we can to support Dartmouth's employees — as they support Dartmouth in all that they do.

In order to bring the College-only budget into balance, we will need to adjust projected expenses by up to ten percent, or approximately $40 million, over the next two fiscal years. Adjustments will need to be sustainable rather than temporary and while there may be some across the board reductions, we anticipate making specific reductions in ways that reflect institutional priorities.

I have asked Provost Barry Scherr and Executive Vice President Adam Keller to consult widely and then to develop a plan and accelerate the normal annual budget-planning cycle to meet these objectives. After taking some preliminary steps, they will discuss options with the Faculty Committee on Priorities and with the Student Budget Advisory Committee. The College Budget Committee, which includes senior officers of the College, will consult within their areas of responsibility regarding their plans. You will also receive a memorandum from Barry and Adam describing some initial steps, our process and timeline. I have also asked the deans of the professional schools, which have been similarly affected, to develop their own plans consistent with these goals.

As we have received more information about how the volatile economy has affected the College, we now recognize that it will not be possible to reduce the budget at this level without cutting back our compensation expenses. Attrition will be the preferred approach to this, but it is not likely to be sufficient to meet our objectives. I expect everyone to look for ways to handle any necessary reductions in staffing in as supportive a manner as is possible.

We have undertaken a review of all ongoing and pending facilities projects and discussed these with the Board. We will proceed with some projects that already are underway and we are reviewing other projects to determine requirements for additional funding as well as renovations needed to address any safety issues.

We anticipate having new budget plans in hand early in 2009 at which time I will discuss the proposals and their implications with the Board who has sole authority to approve the final budget.

I thank in advance everyone who will be involved for taking on this difficult assignment and for all that you do to protect the special and enduring quality of Dartmouth.


James Wright

Read the letter from Provost Barry Scherr and Executive Vice President Adam Keller

Last Updated: 7/24/18