December 2, 2008
To the Bowdoin Community,
I wrote to you in October about the state of Bowdoin's finances during this period of economic turbulence around the world and during what has now been declared officially as a recession in the United States. As we begin the annual process of establishing our budgets for next year and beyond, we will have to work together to make some difficult choices to ensure the continued strength of the College for both the near and long term.
Accordingly, I have established a committee of faculty, students, and staff to work with me and the other senior officers to consider our financial situation over the next few years. The Committee includes faculty chosen from and by the membership of the Committee on Governance and Faculty Affairs (GFA), which has responsibility for review of budget matters under the recently adopted faculty governance policy of the College. The Bowdoin Administrative Staff (BAS) and the Support Staff Advocacy Committee (SSAC) recommended staff members for the Committee, while students were selected in consultation with the leadership of Bowdoin Student Government (BSG).
Going forward, the Committee and I will be assisted on these matters by Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration & Treasurer Katy Longley, Controller Matt Orlando, Director of Finance and Campus Services Del Wilson, and the senior staff of the College. We will, of course, consult with the Financial Planning Committee of the Board of Trustees and the entire Board as we move forward with our work. The conclusions of the Committee will be discussed with the entire Bowdoin community so that all of us will have an opportunity to comment on and consider the recommendations that will be made ultimately to the Board of Trustees.
As I reminded you in October, Bowdoin has a long history and has successfully navigated tough financial times in the past. Today, the challenges are significant but we have never been positioned better financially to meet them. Our applications from students seeking admission to the College remain strong; our academic program and faculty are truly excellent and remain committed at the highest level to their teaching and research, scholarship, and artistic work; and our alumni, parents, and friends are devoted to the College and continue to support Bowdoin financially.
Bowdoin's endowment is strong and doing well relative to the markets generally. While it is imprudent and premature to speculate on our endowment performance, our situation is better than that of other colleges and universities that have recently reported endowment figures in the press. Nonetheless, just like those of you with retirement accounts or investment portfolios, we are experiencing losses that will put pressure on our budgets for the foreseeable future.
The priorities I set out in October continue to be the priorities I recommend to our community as we face these financial challenges and confront our choices. We will continue to provide sufficient resources to students who require financial aid; we will continue to support our academic program and our faculty; we will continue to perform major maintenance on our facilities; and we will continue to support our staff and the sense of community at Bowdoin.
The goal over the next few weeks and months is for all of us to come together, to openly discuss our situation, and to deal effectively with the challenges we face. These discussions will lead to actions that will affect us all, and it is therefore essential that the rationale for our decisions be well understood by the entire community.
It is in times of stress and uncertainty that our sense of community and support for each other is most important. This process will require the goodwill and full engagement of our community in the Bowdoin spirit. I know we are equal to the challenge and I remain confident in the future and in our ability to chart a course for the continued success of the College.
All the very best,
Jeremy D. Bernfeld '09
Joelinda Coichy '11
Michele Gaillard, Associate Director of Operations, Dining Service
Ann L. Kibbie, Associate Professor of English
Aaron W. Kitch, Assistant Professor of English
Scott MacEachern, Professor of Anthropology
Anne E. McBride, Associate Professor of Biology and Biochemistry
Sophia R. Seifert '09
Lauren P. Sweetman, Administrative Assistant, Career Planning