October 10th, 2011

  • Location: Sayles-Hill 251
  • Time: 4:15 pm
  • Present: Staff Members: Sarah Forster, Tami Little, Bev Nagel, Steve Poskanzer, Fred Rogers; Faculty Members: Stacy Beckwith, Arnab Chakladar, Michael Hemesath, Beth McKinsey, Sam Patterson; Students: Lauren Chow, Rebecca Gourevitch, Isaac Hodes, Caley Shannon; Alumni Observer Lee Mauk.
  • Absent: Staff Member Hudlin Wagner, Student Jonathan Hillis, Trustee Observer Gary O’Brien.
  • Secretary: Laura Michel '12

The minutes from the May 24, 2011 meeting stand as submitted.

President’s Report

To mark the occasion of its first meeting of the 2011-2012 academic year, President Poskanzer highlighted the important role College Council plays in Carleton’s governance structure. Its broad base of representation makes the Council an unusual assembly in the world of college governance, but it is precisely the egalitarian nature of the group that truly allows for meaningful discourse and decision making. As such, President Poskanzer emphasized that all should feel comfortable to ask questions, give an opinion, or suggest an agenda item --- all present are equal, fully-empowered members of the College Council.

After a round of introductions, President Poskanzer continued his report with a preview of the major events and discussions planned for the upcoming October meeting of the Board of Trustees. First, several celebrations will be held over the course of the weekend to mark the opening of the Weitz Center for Creativity and the construction of Carleton’s second wind turbine. These events will allow the trustees to see for themselves the final product of years of planning, as well as to specifically honor the leadership of the Weitz Family and Richard Kracum and Laurie Weiss Kracum in the completion of the Weitz Center and wind turbine, respectively.

The Board of Trustees will also be discussing renovations to Evans Residence Hall. If the plans are approved, construction will begin immediately after Reunion in June and be ready for student occupancy by winter term of the 2012-2013 school year. The proposed construction will bring Evans up-to-date with health and safety codes, create a healthier social dynamic for student life by reorganizing the columns into floors, allow for underutilized space to be repurposed into multipurpose areas and, finally, add 40 new beds to the overall campus occupancy. The projected cost of the Evans’ renovations will be covered by pre-existing directed gifts to the College for residential improvements, the additional long-term revenues gained by the additional 40 housing fees, and from the yearly budget item earmarked for dorm enhancements. President Poskanzer emphasized that this last source of funding is money set aside for renovations anyway and thus will not directly cause a budget reduction elsewhere.

Another important item on the Board of Trustees’ agenda will be an educational exercise to allow the trustees to more fully understand the difficult decisions that are made during the admissions process. The members of the Enrollment & Admission Committee will be given actual admissions files, with more qualified applicants than spots available and only a limited pot of financial aid. This learning experience, President Poskanzer added, is particularly timely to the launch of strategic planning and conversations about the ideal size and demographics of future Carleton classes.

Finally, the Trustees will begin a series of conversations about infrastructure.  During the October meeting, discussion will focus on Carleton’s physical plant – how old are the buildings? How up-to-date are the interior spaces? Where has maintenance been deferred? The conversation will continue in February with a focus on technological infrastructure. Additionally, President Poskanzer noted that while these conversations will be useful for future budget planning, in the immediate term the spaces vacated with the opening of the Weitz Center will remain unused while the strategic planning process works to identify specific space planning goals for the future.

President Poskanzer then briefly updated the College Council on the strategic planning process. The 13 Working Groups, each assigned to one of the 13 Questions and led by a Convener, have begun to meet and delve into the issues outlined in their formal charge documents. Additionally, two public seminars were held at the start of term, one addressing the economy of the College and the other on student experience. Videos of these community meetings, as well as information about the membership and charges of the Working Groups are available online for the Carleton community. Time has also been dedicated to getting in touch with faculty, staff, and student governance resources to make sure they are aware of their role as a potential source of information and perspective for the Groups, and, generally, encourage everyone to be part of the process. President Poskanzer emphasized that there truly is no predetermined outcome to strategic planning; the greater the effort from the community, the more inclusive, better, and smarter the outcome. Ideally, the initial planning will be done by the end of the academic year and a plan will be ready for approval in the fall of 2012, but the ultimate focus is on meaningful results, rather than exact timeframes.

Budget Results for Fiscal Year 2011

Vice-President and Treasurer of the College Fred Rogers happily reported to the College Council that fiscal year 2011 ended in a good place, largely due to the fact that energy prices have not gone up as forecasted. The challenges, however, of creating a balanced budget annually and for the long-term remain, and there is general agreement that the circumstances that led to a budget surplus this year were likely one-time events and should not be expected annually. Thus, it was determined that the most prudent course of action would be to use the balance to reduce ongoing cost commitments by setting aside money to fund (upon project approval) initiatives related to the Climate Action Plan, a risk management reserve in the case of unexpected events such as last year’s flood, and an addition to the endowment for maintenance of the Weitz Center, which increases costs without generating significant new revenue. President Poskanzer added that the approach is not to make new commitments with this one-time surplus, but rather to reduce projected deficits for pre-existing commitments, ideally providing more freedom in the future to pursue new projects.  

Beth McKinsey asked for clarification about the carry-over policy for department budgets. Fred Rogers explained that, in the past, carry-overs, or the unused funds in academic department budgets that were kept to be used in the future, were not actually funded from year-to-year. After the budget crisis a few years ago, these carry-overs were reduced, but are now funded. Bev Nagel added that although the carry-over funds of departments are continually reviewed, unless a department has a very large carry-over that is consistently untouched, the new, funded, system means that all will be kept in good faith.

Proposed Evans Hall Project

Fred Rogers began the next part of his presentation with the explanation that the Evans Hall project has, in one form or another, been around for at least a decade. An important new feature of this iteration of the renovation project is the creation of an accessible entrance to the dorm. Similar to the portico entrances in Cassat and Memorial, the new entrance to Evans after renovation would be in the southwest corner of the building. The staircases in the center of the building would be removed to create a residential life based upon floor communities, instead of the current column system, with triples, doubles, and some singles on each level. These rooms would share communal floor bathrooms and the current suites at either end of the floors would remain. This mixture of room size and type, Fred Rogers assured the group, would mean that Evans would maintain some of its eccentricities, albeit ones more up-to-date than from 1927. The CAVE will receive minor upgrades, with new, larger, bathrooms and a green room for performers. A new sound system is also being considered by CSA, which is responsible for funding that particular upgrade. Finally, Evans will also be switched from steam to hot water heat, a safer and more effective way of climate control.

Rebecca Gourevitch ’12 asked how room draw will work this spring if Evans will not be available until the winter term. Fred Rogers remarked that, since the vast majority of students study off campus in the fall, the question was probably more about who would get to move into Evans in the winter than where everyone would go in the fall. President Poskanzer added that, as the project moved forward, he would be sure to have representatives from ResLife present at a College Council meeting before room draw. Bev Nagel noted that additional Carleton OCS programs for the fall are under consideration. Rebecca Gourevitch also mentioned that there are rumors among the current junior class that the number of students allowed Northfield Option next year will increase in order to accommodate the closure of Evans. Though many understood the value of the experience of living off-campus, it was emphasized that this was absolutely just a rumor.  Fred Rogers concluded the discussion informing the group that contractors have been told that they need to have their work completed by the end of November. Because there is not a huge margin for error – students must be able to move into the building in January, the plans try to both keep things simple while still bringing Evans up-to-date with very necessary renovations.

Wind Turbine

Fred Rogers assured the College Council that not only is the second wind turbine slightly taller than Carleton’s first turbine, it is also larger than St. Olaf’s. The new wind turbine arrived at the end of September and should be online by the middle of October. This signifies a big step forward for Carleton’s carbon reduction goals and will replace electricity Carleton currently buys from Xcel Energy.

The meeting concluded at 5:20 pm.