Kim, Spears discuss budget cuts

by Madeline Sims | 11/30/09 11:00pm

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by Eunice Lee and Eunice Lee / The Dartmouth

The College's potential $100 million in budget cuts will not harm the "fundamental elements of the Dartmouth experience," College President Jim Yong Kim and acting Dean of the College Sylvia Spears told concerned students gathered in Cutter-Shabazz residence hall Monday evening, on the eve of Kim's campus-wide budget address scheduled for Tuesday at noon. More than 60 students attended the event, which was hosted by Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

Students posed questions about the impending budget cuts and voiced their support for current College programs that they fear may be vulnerable.

Kim assured students that the College's financial aid program will continue to be a major priority.

"One thing I can promise you is that no student will have to leave Dartmouth because of the budget situation," he said.

Several students expressed concern that affinity housing programs, including Cutter-Shabazz and the Native American House, will be affected by the budget cuts. The students said that such spaces provide an invaluable benefit to minority students, even if this benefit is not always easily measurable.

Kim said he plans to fight for these affinity houses, but that students must also be prepared to explain the benefits of the programs and consider opening the houses up to larger portions of the campus.

"If more people can experience them, then the argument to defend them will be much easier," he said. "Help us articulate why this is important to you. That's the message we want to get across."

Spears added that it is important for students to think beyond "the physical space" of the affinity houses and consider what happens within them that "makes these spaces so vital."

Other students voiced their support for continued funding of the College's minority student advising programs.

Jessica Guthrie '10, president of the Afro-American Society, emphasized the helpfulness of the Office of Pluralism and Leadership, specifically citing the Office of Black Student Advising and the Leadership Discovery program.

"I think regardless of your race or cultural background, though, it's an important resource for a lot of students on campus," she said.

Maya Nathan '10 asked whether cuts to academic departments would be applied across the board or only to less popular departments.

"A lot of people look at academics from a utilitarian point of view," she said, expressing her hope that the cuts would not lead to the elimination of smaller subject areas.

"Looking at the size of the department isn't going to be the only criteria," Kim responded, joking that if that were the case, the College would have to eliminate all classes that were not in the government and economics departments.

He said that small classes and opportunities to pursue "unique" courses of study set Dartmouth apart from peer institutions and are worth protecting.

Kim also gave a brief overview of Dartmouth's current financial situation. The College's endowment fell by $835 million, more than 20 percent, during the 2009 fiscal year, Kim said. Because of this drop, the College has decided to reduce its spending from 7 percent of its endowment to about 5 percent.

Kim emphasized that the College can successfully achieve its objective by focusing on three key areas improving efficiency, generating new revenue sources and implementing layoffs.

To raise additional funding, the College is considering offering distance learning courses through a collaboration between the Tuck School of Business and The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, Kim said.

Although layoffs will be a part of the budget cuts, Kim said that the College will work to ensure that students' education and daily life at the College are not negatively affected.

"The question is, How do we do that in a way that doesn't alter in any fundamental way the experience you all have here?'" he said.

Kim stressed that many peer institutions are in a similar position. Princeton University recently announced 200 layoffs, and the University of California schools implemented a tuition increase of 32 percent across the board, Kim said.

"Everyone is in trouble as we are," Kim said.

He emphasized that the College welcomes faculty and students' opinions as the budget reduction process continues.

"We can't sit in a room with three or four other people and make the decisions," he said. "Everyone has to be involved."

David Johnson '11, vice president of Alpha Phi Alpha, said that his organization originally approached Kim about the event in response to student concerns about the lack of "constructive conversation" on the impending budget cuts.

"There were a lot of questions about how the budget cuts would manifest themselves, particularly within the minority community," Johnson said.