Delays in growth likely, URC says

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Two top University administrators told a concerned audience at Monday’s open forum of the University Resources Committee that Brown could delay capital projects, slow the addition of new faculty positions and increase payout from the endowment in response to the dour economy.

The URC, comprised of faculty, students and staff, advises the president and the Corporation on the budget. The hour-long forum, led by Provost David Kertzer ’69 P’95 P’98, was held in Salomon 001 and attracted about 90 people. Usually fewer than 40 people attend the meetings.

Questions also focused on the continuing implementation of the Plan for Academic Enrichment and funding for the Graduate School.

Kertzer opened the forum by discussing the impact of the financial crisis on the University. He noted that Brown’s finances may suffer in the short-term but said administrators are optimistic about the future.

“Our attitude has been, first of all, let’s not get rattled,” he said, adding that he hopes the market will “bounce back.”

Fundraising is continuing despite the downturn, he said.

“We’re still hearing good things about annual giving and giving to our capital campaign, but we have to keep an eye on those things as well,” he said.

Elizabeth Huidekoper, executive vice president for finance and administration and a URC member, also said the University could delay construction projects funded by pledged gifts it has not actually received, instead waiting until the gifts are “in hand.”

Kertzer mentioned the new swim center and the Nelson Fitness Center as examples of projects that could be delayed, noting that the temporary pool is “working well as it is.”

Huidekoper also said the University plans to pay more out of its endowment than it normally does to offset falling revenues.

“There’s some understanding that we’re going to be out of policy for a year or two,” she said, noting that Brown has already exceeded its traditional draw of between 4.5 and 5.5 percent in the current year. She also said administrators are contacting donors who have pledged money to confirm their ability to donate.

“I’m loving my job right now,” she joked.

Tyler Rosenbaum ’11, chair of the Academic and Administrative Affairs Committee of the Undergraduate Council of Students and a Herald opinions columnist, asked whether the Plan for Academic Enrichment’s goals would be delayed by the economic crisis.

Kertzer said the plan will continue “on a slower path,” noting that the final 20 professors to be added could be hired over a longer period, especially since the University is already able to offer a first-year seminar to almost every freshman.

In response to another question about a possible hiring or salary freeze, Kertzer said the University has no plans to implement either but that they could be considered.

“It’s a pretty good bet that any salary increases next year are going to be pretty modest,” he said.

Linda Gillette, director of financial aid for the Alpert Medical School, asked about plans for next year’s tuition increase.

Kertzer said the URC will be under enormous pressure to keep any tuition increase “on the modest side,” even after last year’s 3.9 percent increase placed Brown “in the lower quartile” among its peers’ increases.

Several audience members also voiced concern about graduate student funding, especially in light of the faculty’s expansion and the current teaching assistant crunch.

Kertzer acknowledged the problem, though he did not outline a specific plan to increase grad student enrollment.

Jessica Johnson GS asked about funding for sixth-year graduate students. Kertzer said the University has been able to fund a sixth year for every grad student recommended by their department but did not mention a policy change to guarantee sixth-year funding.

Herald Opinions Editor Ben Bernstein ’09 asked whether the rush to finish the J. Walter Wilson renovations before this month’s Corporation meeting had increased building costs. The deadline was contractually agreed upon by the contractor, resulting in no additional cost to the University, Huidekoper said.

UCS Communications Chair Clay Wertheimer ’10 told the committee that the council plans to seek a more modest increase to the student activities fee, suggesting that it could be as little as $6, compared to last year’s request for a $54 increase.

The URC’s next open forum will be held on Nov. 17 at 5:30 p.m. in Salomon 001.

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