By Alec Hansen (’21, Managing Editor), Collin Hall (’21, Editor-In-Chief)
Gordon College plans to cut 7% of its current operating budget over the next two years. The administration intends to cut 5% in the next fiscal year, which starts on July 1, 2019, and another 2% in fiscal year 2021, which begins July 1, 2020. This reduction has the potential to impact a number of different departments, and some funding may come from the elimination of tenured faculty positions and the downsizing or discontinuing of current academic programs.
Administration members outlined the plan to make cuts in a meeting with faculty and staff on Thursday. President D. Michael Lindsay summed them up in an email to faculty and staff. The Tartan obtained a copy of that email. Also addressing over 100 employees of the college were: Rick Sweeney, Vice President of Marketing and External Relations; John Truschel, Vice President of Finance; Dan Tymann, Executive Vice President; Jennifer Jukanovich, VP of Student Life; and Janel Curry, Provost.
According to the email and remarks administration members made during the meeting:
· On April 11, 2019, any tenured faculty impacted by the proposed reductions will be notified if their positions are being eliminated.
· These decisions will be finalized by May 16th, when Gordon’s Board of Trustees will review and approve the recommended budget for the next fiscal year.
· In addition to the $1 million in cuts to Gordon’s Academic Division to be made for the fiscal year that begins July 1 2019, a further $1 million will need to be eliminated by the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2020.
· A Priorities Committee has been formed to determine the best way to achieve these objectives. It will be chaired by Truschel, with Gordon Hall, Gordon’s former interim CFO, serving as the senior advisor. This group of leaders from both the faculty and the administration will identify specific items that need to be eliminated from the College’s overall operating expenses.
One subcommittee is focused on academic restructuring with the aim of eliminating $1 million for the next fiscal year. This group is composed of faculty from a variety of departments and will be chaired by Gordon’s Provost, Janel Curry. A full list of members on the academic subcommittee can be found below.
The other subcommittee is comprised of administrative officials, including some members of the President’s cabinet. This portion of the priorities committee has been tasked with finding the remaining $3 million to remove from the non-academic portions of the operating budget.
Sweeney told the Tartan in an interview the cuts to academic programs are necessary because the academic division of the College accounts for the largest portion of annual expenses, approximately 40% of the operating budget.
“We undertake this effort because we are committed for Gordon to live within its means. This size of reduction is relatively modest by industry standards, and understandably still a challenge for an institution that has traditionally run a ‘lean’ operation,” Sweeney said. Gordon’s annual spending budget is upwards of $60 million a year.
The Tartan reported in December 2018 that a 5% cut to the College’s operating budget will be necessary to bring expenses in line with current revenues for the next budget year. Now, the school is officially conducting what is known as an “Institutional Welfare Financial Review.”
The college plans to complete the budgeting work to present to the Board for approval meet these demands by May 17th. Above is a timeline, created by the Tartan, of announced budgeting target dates.
Regarding potential academic restructuring, Curry made it clear that many different options remain on the table, all with the goal to build an academic model that is financially sustainable in today’s environment. At institutions across the country, graduate programs help to balance the high costs of undergraduate education. The college’s master’s programs have helped to accomplish the same here at Gordon and remain an important part of the strategy for future growth. By expanding the college’s graduate offerings, Gordon may successfully offset some of the accounting losses that were received in fiscal year ‘18.
These changes to long-standing faculty and established departments come at a time of widespread national turmoil for small liberal arts colleges across America. In the community meeting, Rick Sweeney (Gordon’s Vice President for Marketing and External Relations) said that many other schools are making even more difficult cuts and modifications. Hampshire College in Amherst, MA, recently announced that it is seeking another school with which to merge.
In a public letter, Hampshire’s President Miriam Nelson further shared, “As we embark on this process, we’re carefully considering whether to enroll an incoming class this fall.” Colleges must adapt to a changing economic and academic environment or risk disappearing entirely.
In response to a question posed by a member of the faculty, Lindsay sought to clarify that the institution is not in an emergency state of financial exigency. Nevertheless, some students will inevitably be saddened at the departure of beloved tenured professors. Others may find themselves confused or frustrated by academic restructuring.
This article was updated January 26, 2019, at 3:30 p.m