College has 'clearly been hurt by economic downturn'

by Jeremy Skog | 10/30/01 6:00am

President Wright acknowledged yesterday at the Annual Meeting of General Faculty that the College's financial situation has "softened," but he said that the administration would not be abandoning its vision.

The reassurance was necessary because hard economic times have hurt earnings on the endowments of Dartmouth and its peer institutions. As a result, many projects may have to be delayed or cancelled as the College reassesses its goals for the coming years.

"While we may not be as vulnerable as some businesses, we have clearly been hurt by the economic downturn," Wright said.

Dartmouth will need to "review priorities and reassess what we can realistically accomplish," Wright said, but the College should not shirk its ambitions because of financial problems.

The president admitted, though, that the College will need to "become more imaginative" when seeking ways to fulfill its ambitions.

Turning to affairs of paramount concern to his audience, Wright said that in order to recruit and retain excellent faculty, "Dartmouth must provide competitive compensation packages."

The College will also "provide more research support for current faculty," some of which will come in the form of increased grants and fellowships.

Wright chose his words carefully while discussing academic planning, a sensitive topic that has been hotly debated by faculty and administrators this year.

"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," Wright said.

He emphasized that research and undergraduate teaching are "mutually sustaining rather than oppositional qualities" of the College.

Wright also spoke of research in the context of luring "outstanding" students to Dartmouth, praising the Women in Science Project and the Presidential Scholars Program.

The College also must continue a program of "need-moot" admissions to "attract and enable" a high-caliber student body, Wright said.

The president touched briefly on student life, giving a progress report and stating that the College has "gone a long way toward the implementation of many of the items called for by the Trustees ... in April 2000."

Due in part to financial difficulties, some building projects, including the proposed Tuck Mall dorm, are likely to be delayed indefinitely. But others, such as a proposed parking garage, are slated to continue.

According to Wright, the college gets 44 percent of its funding from tuition, another third from the endowment and the remaining fifth from alumni donations and sponsored activity, which includes grants.

Planning for an upcoming capital campaign will continue, but the alumni contributions will probably decrease as potential donors find themselves more pressed for cash, Wright said.

He buffered this announcement somewhat by reminding the faculty that tuition increases at the College have been the lowest in 30 years, and among the lowest compared to its peer institutions.

And research funding has increased for the past two years, according to Wright -- although the president did not say whether he expected the trend to continue.