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Minutes

February 21st, 2012

  • Location: Sayles-Hill 251
  • Time: 4:15 pm
  • Present: Staff Members: Sarah Forster, Tami Little, Steve Poskanzer, Fred Rogers; Faculty Members: Stacy Beckwith, Mike Hemesath, Beth McKinsey; Students: Lauren Chow, Jonathan Hillis, Isaac Hodes, Scarlet Park; Alumni Observer Lee Mauk; Trustee Observer Gary O’Brien.
  • Absent: Staff Members: Bev Nagel, Hudlin Wagner; Faculty Member Sam Patterson; Student Rebecca Gourevitch.
  • Guests: Associate Professor of Mathematics and Chair of Admissions and Financial Aid Committee Bob Dobrow, Associate Dean of the College Arjendu Pattankayak, Vice President and Dean of Financial Admissions and Aid Paul Thiboutot.
  • Secretary: Laura Michel '12

President’s Report

To begin the final College Council meeting of the winter term, President Poskanzer announced upcoming membership changes. Scarlet Park ’15 has joined the group for the winter and spring terms. Additionally, Matthew Fitzgerald ’14 will replace Lauren Chow ’14 in the spring when she goes abroad to Japan.

President Poskanzer continued his report with a summary of the February Board of Trustees meeting. The weekend began with the official dedication of the Idea Lab in honor of trustees Bill Gage and Nancy Bauer. Another major highlight was the Strategic Planning plenary session on Friday. All thirteen Working Groups presented progress updates, outlining their preliminary findings and continued development of their conversations. What became clear from these presentations was not only the richness of conversations occurring within the Working Groups, but also the overlap in issues and meaningful discussions between the committees. President Poskanzer observed that these presentations allowed the Board to get a sense of the movement of the Strategic Planning process and felt comfortable with the pace of its progress.       

Another significant focus of the Board of Trustees meeting was a careful exposition and discussion of the College’s admissions and financial aid policies. On top of a very strong Early Decision class, Carleton saw a 16% rise in applications this year. To help the Board better understand the many factors that must be balanced in the construction of a class, the Enrollment and Admissions Committee participated in a mock distribution of financial aid exercise. President Poskanzer noted that this process gave the Board a renewed appreciated for the complicated decisions that are made when building a class as well a raised sensitivity for and confidence in Carleton’s admissions staff. Trustee Gary O’Brien added that, although he was not part of committee that participated in the simulation, he had always considered the admissions process as a game of 3-D chess, one that requires a very complicated equation to achieve both a great class and a balanced budget.

President Poskanzer also reported that the FY 2013 budget, passed by the College Council in January, was approved. The Board was overall very positive about the document and appreciative of the hard work of the Budget Committee. The Board also approved summer facilities projects. The Evans renovations will be the centerpiece of these projects, but other activities will include replacing all of the windows in Evans and enhancements to the ground floor of Laird Stadium. Although many projects in the stadium were financed by insurance money collected after the flood in fall 2010, these extra projects, a new weight room, showers, and short sprint track, are completely funded by the fundraising efforts of a group of alumni and trustees calling themselves the ‘Carleton Athletics Initiative.’ Finally, President Poskanzer reported that the Board had approved tenure and faculty promotions, effective in fall 2012.

AFAC Report

Bob Dobrow, chair of the Admissions and Financial Aid Committee, explained that AFAC had come to the College Council every year with a yearly report since the need-sensitivity policy was enacted in 1993. This year’s report echoes the conclusions of last year’s report to the College Council; the College has once again come up against the 15% cap, thereby seriously calling into question the sustainability of the policy. Additionally, in the last two years, there has been an increasing reliance on the wait list to fill out the class. In the last admissions cycle, every low or no-need applicant on the waitlist was taken off of the list and offered a spot in the class. President Poskanzer noted that these students taken off the waitlist were highly qualified and had met Carleton’s admissions standards.

Bob Dobrow noted that regardless of these constraints, the class of 2015 was nevertheless an incredibly strong class, but this should not undermine the need to reassess the current policy. There is no observable difference between the need sensitive and need blind group in SAT and ACT scores, however there is a noticeable difference between family income and average need in the need sensitive versus need blind group. Additionally, the domestic diversity (i.e. categories of unrepresented minorities in the United States) is 13% in the need sensitive group and 24.2% in the need-blind group. Unlike in previous years, however, Bob Dobrow noted that due to Strategic Planning, this AFAC report does not come with any specific recommendations, though AFAC has been involved in the conversations and continues to work with the relevant Working Groups.

Beth McKinsey if this year’s outlook was thought to be any different given the 16% rise in applications. Vice President and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Paul Thiboutot answered that this is very difficult to predict, because Carleton is up approximately 800 applicants, and over 200 are not applying for financial aid, but the ultimate impact depends on the need of the students actually admitted and enrolled, which is unpredictable. Bob Dobrow noted that last year the outlook from the Early Decision class provided reason to hope that the college would not again go up against the cap. However, it became clear by the end of the admissions cycle that this was not the case and the same could be true this year as well. President Poskanzer emphasized the significance that, two years in a row, with a considerable turnover in AFAC membership in between those years, both reports have determined that the current policy is unsustainable. This, he added, makes the conclusions of Strategic Planning in relation to admissions and financial aid particularly important and necessary.

Isaac Hodes asked if there was a particular reason for such a significant increase in applications this year. President Poskanzer noted that there had been a number of recruiting efforts implemented, these initiatives, Paul Thiboutot added, were smaller programs, such as a simplified common application, so it is hard to pinpoint just one source of the change. President Poskanzer commented that the Board of Trustees had also asked similar questions and the hope is this is the beginning of a trend rather than an anomaly. President Poskanzer asked Bob Dubrow if the committee was working well. Bob Dubrow answered that they had been working well together, though they are expecting the bulk of their work to truly start after Strategic Planning decisions are announced. Gary O’Brien asked if there was overlap between AFAC and Strategic Planning membership. Paul Thiboutot said that there is no overlap in current membership, but former AFAC members are on relevant Strategic Planning Working Groups.

Academic Calendar

President Poskanzer introduced the final agenda item with the observation that approving future academic calendars is typically a contentious issue in other institutions, but seems relatively uncontroversial at Carleton. Associate Dean of the College Arjendu Pattanayak explained the relative ease with which academic calendars are passed comes from the fact that Carleton ignores the rest of the world in setting its schedules. There is an established set of rules guiding the academic calendar that greatly constrains the number of options available. Arjendu Pattanayak pointed out that there are only two places where these rules are violated, in winters 2019 and 2020. Generally, the practice is to try to start winter term on January 3rd, 4th, or 5th, so people are not traveling during the New Year’s holiday. In the 2019 and 2020 schedules, however, three days are added to winter break in exchange for losing one day of spring break, which seemed like a reasonable trade.

President Poskanzer asked if the College Council is the final authority for approving the calendar. Arjendu Pattanayak responded that yes, the faculty had already approved the schedule and current students will not be impacted by winter break schedules in 2019 or 2020. Beth McKinsey noted that she had heard some dissatisfaction that the first day of classes in 2015 and 2018 are on Rosh Hashanah. Arjendu Pattanayak answered that while the group was aware of this, because Carleton as a rule ignores all holidays during the term, and Rosh Hashanah was no exception. He also noted that Louis Newman had commented on the situation at the faculty meeting, emphasizing that the conflict should be acknowledged, but an exception should not be made for this one holiday. It is also possible, Arjendu Pattanayak noted, for accommodations to be made and professors who want to observe the holiday are not expected to teach on that day. Stacy Beckwith stressed that although only a handful of professors will be impacted by this situation, some thought should be given to the experience of students in those years. Not all faculty members are aware of the importance of Rosh Hashanah in the Jewish calendar and may not understand student’s decisions to be absent on the first day of class. Additionally, because the first day of classes is also the first day of drop/add, Jewish students observing the holiday will be faced with the choice of whether to go to a class they are waitlisted for instead of services. President Poskanzer noted that in those years it will be important to make sure that there is communication with freshmen parents to assure them that the College is aware of and sensitive to the situation.

Fred Rogers asked if approving the calendar through 2020 would make any related strategic planning decisions inviolate for 8 more years. President Poskanzer answered that it is hard to say, but the issue could be brought back before the College Council if this was the case. Also, while any changes to the calendar would be implemented before 2020, they would also not be effective immediately, so it is still important to approve these plans now and come back to them later if necessary.

Isaac Hodes asked about the shortened spring breaks. Beth McKinsey remarked that because commencement has to be on a Saturday, changes would cause graduation to run late into June. Arjendu Pattanayak added that Reunion schedules are set years in advance, so graduation dates are also constrained by those schedules.

The 2014-2020 Academic Calendar was passed unanimously by voice vote.

The meeting concluded at 5:11 pm.

Respectfully submitted,

Laura Michel ‘12