On budget cuts: A love letter to the College

Sarah Dean and Margaux Kanamori

The hysteria about upcoming budget cuts announced last fall continues to shake the Williams College community to its core. It’s beginning to feel like 1943 wartime, with the College struggling to survive off of the two shriveled carrots we managed to grow in our failing Victory Garden. Yum. Or maybe it’s more appropriate to characterize this unprecedented financial drought as the modern version of the 1950s Red Scare. Departments across the College cower in fear, waiting to be accused of spending too much by the provost’s punishing hand.

There are some impressive returns buried in the College’s financial reports despite the 11.2-percent decrease in the endowment in the last year. The endowment increased from $2.5 billion in the 2017 fiscal year to $3.5 billion in the 2022 fiscal year – which marks a approximately 7 percent compound rate of growth over five years – even after accounting for the 5 percent taken out annually for operating expenses. Therefore, the endowment greatly outperformed the average yearly inflation rate of approximately 3 percent over the past five years. These numbers do not incorporate the substantial alumni donations that roll in each year. If the endowment maintains the same growth rate over the next ten years, it will amount to a meager $6.9 billion in 2033. In other words, these budget cuts make perfect sense. 

But it’s not just the College’s savings account that seems to be doing well. The College budget saw a $23 million surplus at the end of the 2022 fiscal year. Put simply, the College turned a substantial profit last year. Don’t take our word for it, just ask PwC (a firm that specializes in validating the financial statements of institutions like Williams). This surplus must be the cause of the Snar nacho scarcity. We are in a crisis.

Given that the College is on the precipice of financial ruin, we implore administrators and members of the Board of Trustees to do everything they possibly can to keep the doors of this withering institution open for the next generation of investment bankers and hedge fund managers. Tapping further into the endowment is clearly not an option. Although the College plans to take some precautionary measures, such as the 15-percent cut to managers’ budgets and the 33-percent cut to student employment spending for the upcoming year (budget surplus who?), it needs to do more. The quality of the student experience only improves when the College trims the fat. 

As members of the Class of 2023, we leave the College community with 23 suggestions for how to scrape together some extra funds to keep this place running for another year. We’d love to come back for Homecoming.

A (non-exhaustive) list of budget-cutting, revenue-boosting measures:

1. Convert Sawyer Quad into a modern day Victory Garden. Environmental studies students can convincingly argue to future employers that they live off the land.

2. Sell Adam Falk’s marble blocks to another NESCAC going through their facelift phase. It’s a perfect example of a greater fool’s investment.

3. Cut a deal with the Albany TSA to sell the turnstiles at the entrance of Whitmans’.

4. Identify the most valuable of the many state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems in the ’62 Center and sell it to the highest bidder.

5. Task Campus Safety Services with confiscating Patagonia and Lululemon clothing found during their semesterly room checks and flip them for resale.

6. Reduce the number of rented white lawn tents for graduation and other large events. Fight overspending and vitamin D deficiency in one fell swoop.

7. Pawn off President Maud S. Mandel’s collection of valuable silver and china. Then, convert the President’s residence into a low-cost boarding house for untenured professors.

8. Sell one of the bells in the bell tower to a sentimental alum — we don’t need to hear a full rendition of “I Want It That Way” with a key change every Tuesday at 1 p.m.

9. Stop mowing the grass and repainting the lines on sporting fields.

10. Dump more money into consulting and finance post-grad recruiting to drive up future donations to the College.

11. Select one environmental studies professor each year to contract with a fossil fuel company. Require them to return their additional income to the College.

12. Each week, sell the remaining condoms from the candy-condom bowls in freshman dorms.

13. Auction off the paintings in the faculty house to alumni. They’re probably the only people who will buy them.

14. Eliminate the writing tutor program. We have ChatGPT now!

15. Implement the Ephraim Williams Colonizer Diet (EWCD). Exclusively serve porridge and charred wild game meat at all dining halls.

16. Don’t heat the pool. It’s called character building.

17. Impose a wealth tax on accounts with large amounts of remaining Eph points at the end of each year.

18. Implore each able-bodied administrator to sell a kidney on the dark web. 

19. Sell Tyler Annex to a private equity firm for real estate development purposes. It’s basically in Vermont anyways.

20. Reduce stipends and hourly wages for on-campus students positions in opposition to ballooning inflation rates.

21. Sell all of the treadmills in upper Lasell right before the first freeze so that students can truly embrace the Purple Valley.

22. Return the vast collection of rare books purchased for the class historian’s thesis.

23. Bring back the Canada Goose Snatcher. Assuming that one jacket is “acquired” from each party throughout the winter months, the College should be able to pay the wages of an additional Children’s Center employee for an entire year.

Sarah Dean ’23 is an Arabic studies and sociology major from San Francisco, Calif. Margaux Kanamori ’23.5 is an English and psychology major from Boston, Mass., and she is the social media editor for the Record’s editorial board.