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New Faunce, arts center going forward

Pool project boosted by multi-million-dollar gift

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The University is preparing to build the new Creative Arts Center and proceed with planned renovations of Faunce House despite financial woes, Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration Beppie Huidekoper told the Undergraduate Council of Students at its meeting last night.

A donor has also bequeathed funds for a new swim center, most of which are expected to be in hand by June, she said. All told, the bequest will cover more than half the cost of the proposed pool, Huidekoper told The Herald after the meeting.

The new arts building and the revamping of Faunce into an expanded campus center will be subject to the Corporation’s final approval at its meeting this weekend, she said. She did not indicate when construction might begin on the swim center.

Huidekoper disclosed the new construction details in a briefing at the UCS general body meeting that included a broad overview of the University’s current financial situation.

University administrators have said they expect to delay some capital projects and scale back others as part of efforts to tighten budgets in coming years. But those projects that have enough earmarked donor funding will probably proceed, without auxiliary funding from the general budget, Huidekoper said at the meeting. The new arts center fits that profile, as does the improved campus center, which was boosted by a $5 million gift from former Chancellor Stephen Robert ’62 P ’91 and will be named for him.

Huidekoper also provided more details on plans to pare projected budgets by a combined $60 million over the next five years, suggesting at one point that job cuts were a possibility.

And she gave some hints of the University’s investment strategy going forward. Faced with market tumult, she said, the University has begun to withdraw some endowment funds from alternative investment vehicles such as hedge funds, in order to reduce its exposure to risk.

Continuing to carry out the Plan for Academic Enrichment – President Ruth Simmons’ ambitious blueprint for raising Brown’s academic profile – will depend on renewed growth of the endowment, Huidekoper said. But with the endowment facing hundreds of millions of dollars in losses over a period of less than a year, the University’s goal for the time being is to “protect, as opposed to enhance” levels of academic excellence.

But with revenue growth likely to lag, administrators have also made clear that preserving key priorities will require that they cut costs.

Although the University so far has focused on finding savings by cutting back on new hiring and compensation, Huidekoper indicated that “there may be some situations where people will lose their jobs.”

A hiring freeze for most positions will save the University $9 million next year, Huidekoper said Wednesday, and other planned cost-cutting measures will create further savings. But, over the next five years, the University still needs to find $30 million in further savings, officials have said. Huidekoper reiterated that figure Wednesday, specifying that those savings will be sufficient “unless the world gets worse.”

Vice President for Campus Life and Student Services Margaret Klawunn, who also attended the meeting, said students could also expect cuts in campus services next year, although the specific nature of such cuts has not been determined.

Huidekoper said the University may have to take new steps to help undergraduate and graduate students who face difficulty finding jobs after completing their studies.

But Brown faces a less precarious situation than other universities, Huidekoper told UCS. “Some places have trouble making payroll,” she said.

Many of Brown’s peer institutions are facing larger shortfalls because they rely more heavily on their endowments, Huidekoper said. Endowment income accounts for 18 percent of Brown’s budget, compared to 48 percent for Princeton, she said. Harvard and Dartmouth also draw greater proportions of their budgets from their endowments, she said.

Later in the meeting, UCS passed a resolution in support of a student initiative to change the name of Columbus Day on the University calendar.

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