Peer institutions face budget cuts

As mandated by the Board of Trustees, all departments at the College have submitted two provisional budgets for next year, one for a 12 percent cut below this year’s levels, and one for a 15 percent cut. “We’ll decide closer to the beginning of the fiscal year which level is necessary depending on external circumstances,” said President Schapiro in a Jan. 24 e-mail addressed to the Williams community. According to Provost Bill Lenhart, the budgets are currently under review by senior staff and are slated for consideration and approval at the next Board of Trustees meeting in April. The cuts represent part of the $10 million reduction of the overall operating budget planned for next year as the College continues to cope with an endowment that has been depleted by over 30 percent in the last six months.

In his e-mail, Schapiro expressed the College’s commitment to preserving financial aid, avoiding layoffs and maintaining the endowment, and outlined a series of initiatives slated to achieve these ends with reduced funds. In addition to the budget cuts, Schapiro outlined a $6 million cut in building renewal and maintenance spending, as well as a freeze on faculty and staff salaries.

On top of these trustee-mandated cuts, the College has been seeking other innovative ways to reduce spending. A Web site for posting anonymous cost-cutting tips was launched this past fall. However, according to Steve Klass, vice president for Operations, the initial success of the site has been petering out. “After receiving a few hundred suggestions in the first weeks after announcing the site, submissions have trickled to a near halt,” he said.

The revised budgets will not become official until April, at which point the campus will have a better idea of where the $10 million cut in spending will be felt the most. At least for the time being, Schapiro and the trustees remain steadfast in their commitment to preserving all of the College’s employees, departments and time-honored traditions. Leaders at other colleges and universities, however, have already begun to cut spending in more visible ways.

At Dartmouth College, trustees recently unveiled plans to reduce spending by $47 million by next year and eventually to trim $72 million – roughly 10 percent – from its overall budget by 2011. The plan calls for 60 near-immediate staff layoffs, making Dartmouth the first Ivy League institution to announce a specific layoff count. The layoffs will be spread throughout the college’s major departments and will save $4.5 million. Additionally, Dartmouth plans to freeze salaries and hiring, bolster its early retirement incentive and reduce the workweek of several of its employees to 37 hours, with total savings from reducing compensation expenditures to top out around $28 million.

The most high-profile layoff announced thus far is Dartmouth’s dean of first-year students (its equivalent of Williams’ Dean Dave Johnson), whose position will be eliminated along with six others in the Deans’ Office. Dartmouth’s other major cost-cutting initiatives include the elimination of 30 to 35 course offerings from various academic departments, as well as a restructuring of its dining services, with plans in place to close the campus pub and one cafe, and to reduce the operating hours and months of several of its facilities.

Two weeks ago, Middlebury College President Ronald Liebowitz has begun to enact plans to reduce his institution’s overall expenditures by $20 million over the next few years. While he remains committed to need-blind admission for U.S. students, international students will no longer be considered need-blind, and less aid will be available to them. Liebowitz has estimated a 4 percent decrease in the number of internationals for the Class of 2013.

MiddView, Middlebury’s analogue of Williams Outdoor Orientation for Living as First-years (WOOLF), is being eliminated and replaced with an on-campus orientation program. The college has also closed one of its auxiliary cafes, and questions remain surrounding its golf course and ski mountain, as well as the future of Winter Term, similar to Williams’ Winter Study. Fewer visiting professors will be brought next year for the one-month term, and Middlebury officials expressed skepticism for its feasibility in the current financial climate in an open campus forum, covered in The Middlebury Campus.

Stanford University’s senior staff, including the president and provost, recently took highly publicized 10 percent reductions to their salaries voluntarily, as reported in The Stanford Daily. Stanford’s athletics program, which has won 14 straight Directors’ Cups in Div. I, is projecting a near $5 million loss over the next few years. As a result, administrators have been in conversation concerning the potential cutting of staff or even teams in some scenarios.

It remains to be seen whether similar cuts will be made at the College in the coming months, but Schapiro has expressed optimism. “Despite the changed economy, Williams will remain Williams,” he said in his e-mail.