November 9th, 2009

  • Location: Sayles Hill 251
  • Time: 4:15 pm
  • Present: Staff Members: Robbie Groth, Stefanie Morrison, Bev Nagel, Rob Oden, Fred Rogers; Faculty Members: Clara Hardy, Michael Hemesath, Mark Kanazawa, Jessica Leiman; Students: McKay Duer, Paul Ellebrecht, Jon Fraser, Chase Kimball; Alumni Observer: Lee Mauk; Trustee Observer Jim Johnson.
  • Absent: Faculty Member: Fernan Jaramillo; Student: Nimo Ali.
  • Guests: Associate Vice President for External Relations Joe Hargis, Associate Professor of History Susannah Ottaway, Library Assistant Loan Services Lois Perkins.
  • Secretary: Laura Michel '12

            President’s Report

President Oden opened the final College Council meeting of the term and 2009 by thanking all those involved. He highlighted the achievements of the Council in the past year and a half, including the Carleton Access Scholarship, the completion of Cassat and Memorial residential halls, and committees such as CEDI and the New Student Week Task Force that have been actively seeking solutions to concerns raised in the Campus Climate Survey.

The hard work of the College Council to ensure a strong Carleton is, President Oden reported, a sentiment that is found throughout the whole, as evidenced at the recent Board of Trustees meeting on October 24 and 25 and their unanimous approval of the new Arts Union plan. With this approval, the process may move forward and architectural drawings will be created, moving one step closer to a plan, Dean Nagel pointed out in her presentation to the Board, which has been in the works since 1997. While the new plan may not be as architecturally impressive as the original ideas, the new Arts Union will restore and make use of the best of the current building, an attitude, President Oden noted, that is very ‘Carleton’. On the topic of Trustees, President Oden recognized the leadership and hard work of Trustee and College Council member Jim Johnson, who was a large part of the trustee effort to double the Board of Trustees’ gift to Alumni Annual Fund and fill the gaps in the budget from the financial crisis.

President Oden continued his report by addressing rumors on campus regarding the cancelation of the Posse scholarships. The Posse Foundation runs on a five-year contract and the Admissions and Financial Aid Committee is currently evaluating the scholarship and forming a recommendation for the next five years. While there have been huge benefits from Carleton’s relationship with Posse Foundation, the program is a) very expensive and b) the money used to sustain the scholarships is not given on the basis of need. Negotiations to ensure the best possible outcome for both sides are in process -   

Despite much good news, President Oden emphasized the hard work that still needed to be done for the Capital Campaign - financial aid is still only ¼ endowed and, given the uncertain economic times, it is vital that support be ensured for financial aid, increased academic programs, and facilities. At this point, the campaign has reached $236 million and, in an ordinary year, reaching the milestone would mean the campaign was basically finished. However, with a unpredictable stock market, people are more wary to give. A key then, to a strong finish for the campaign is the Weitz challenge. Barbara and Wallace Weitz have donated $10 million and have pledged an additional $15 million if the trustees can raise $15 million of their own. Leading into the budget update, President Oden noted that regular budget updates to the College Council have been the biggest change in the last 8 years. With frequent updates, instead of one presentation in January, the College Council has been able to make informed decisions regarding the approval of the budget. 

            Budget Update

The floor was turned over to Dean Bev Nagel who informed the College Council of the process the Budget Committee is going through in order to create a budget to present to the Council in January. The big news is the better than expected performance of the endowment in the fall will mean that there can be an endowment draw next year. Thus, the committee is analyzing steps taken last year – including the voluntary separation package, to look at what worked and what did not. The committee also met with the Dean of Admissions to get a better understanding of the comprehensive fee and admissions and financial aid issues. In the final Budget Committee meeting of the term on Thursday, November 12 the committee members will work on putting all of the pieces together. This puzzle will include where to allocate a small surplus – perhaps reinstating salary increases or addressing rising costs in health insurance.

Vice President and Treasurer Fred Rogers emphasized the importance of the endowment forecast; the 16.5% drop in 2008 was good within Carleton’s peer group and ideally in 2009 the endowment would hold steady. Furthermore, he noted that many of the actions that are cited in the better-than-expected performance of the endowment this year, such as flat salaries, increases in teaching loads, and reduction in facilities will not actually affect the budget until next year. Vice President Rogers recommended a reevaluation of salaries, as healthcare costs are expected to increase in January, at the moment without a concurring rise in wages. Another area to look into would be only increasing the comprehensive fee by 4.5% instead of 5%. Finally, Vice President Rogers reminded the Council of upcoming capital issues, in addition to the Arts Union construction, both Evans Hall and Laird Stadium, estimated to cost $5 million each, are in need of renovation. The Administrative Council meets in December to talk about these issues and prioritize projects. At that meeting, Vice President Rogers noted, the Council will be making difficult choices between good and better.

Professor Mark Kanazawa reemphasized the role of the Trustees in filling fundraising gap and contributing to the better financial situation. He also noted the importance of economizing and streamlining operations as part of the whole picture.

Presidential Search

President Oden then left the meeting to allow the College Council to talk about the presidential search process. Members discussed key institutional needs and priorities and a set of desired characteristics and talents for our next president.

A fundamental theme of the discussion was an appreciation for the ‘Carleton spirit’ or as, one participant expressed, the “humility, inquiry, and discipline” that allows Carleton to stand out among other Liberal Arts colleges. The desire was expressed for a President who will embrace this spirit and help the community become an even better place through “compassionate improvement.” There also was recognition of the concrete affairs awaiting the next President: a commitment to maintaining socioeconomic diversity, sustainability, the Arts Union project, and the work of CEDI on campus climate issues, among others. The projects that the next President will inherit are a concern and several members emphasized the importance of managing expectations; the College is not going to find a candidate who will fix all problems overnight. However, by searching for a candidate that embraces the process-oriented style of decision making at Carleton, an opportunity will arise for future improvements to be made with a dedication to the strong points of Carleton’s past.

The conversation turned to a discussion about whether the search committee should be looking to a scholar or a CEO as a model for the next President. Some believe that with the current economic crisis and Carleton’s capital needs, a CEO-style leader would be a better choice. It was expressed that the deans and faculty are capable of creating a strong academic environment, at this particular juncture, and that it is more important to have an effective fund-raiser to ensure the College’s commitment to financial aid, etc. Others believe a scholar to be a better choice; a CEO-leader who has no concept of what goes on in the classroom would not be able to connect and understand the needs of the faculty. Eventually, many in the group settled for a combination of both. While the next President must be a capable fundraiser, he or she must also understand and appreciate the fundamental values of a Liberal Arts education and “get” what Carleton is truly about. The concept of respect was repeated throughout the conversation; it is important for our next president to be inquisitive, and a good listener. Additionally, the next President should understand that the Carleton experience extends beyond four years. He or she should continue to keep alumni engaged in the day-to-day life of the school through programs such as Career Center mentoring.  

Two challenges the Council identified for the next President are the integration of technology into education and dealing with the information barrier between students and the administration. In terms of technology, the view was presented that order to truly make Carleton a leader in the liberal arts, the next President must understand that technology is not only supportive, but integrated into education. Secondly, the new president will need to address a perception in the student body that, as was noted in the campus climate survey by one respondent: “CARLETON DOES NOT CARE.” As the monthly meetings of the College Council and weekly meetings of countless other committees show, there are many people at Carleton who do care and who are doing a lot to show they care. However, this is difficult for students to see and an improved system of communication across all constituencies should be developed.

Finally, some logistical issues with the Search were discussed. Several members of the Council raised a concern about the time-table for the search and wondered if the idea of an interim-head had been raised in order to ensure that the right candidate is chosen. The general sentiment is that, while the college will do what it takes to ensure the best candidate is chosen, there is a strong desire to stick to the current timeline. Carleton is in an attractive position; the next President will have ample opportunity to make his or her own mark on the school, and it is expected that many qualified candidates will be interested in the position. The College Council was reminded that there will be many more opportunities to discuss the presidential search, and that those interested should come to one of the several forums that will be held in the upcoming weeks and months.

The meeting adjourned at 5:31 pm.

Respectfully submitted,

Laura Michel ‘12

College Council Secretary