Dear Fellow Scots,
I write to offer an update on our process to develop a sustainable budget for Wooster, bringing our forecasted revenues into alignment with our expenses, and to add further specificity about the timeline and phases of work.
As a reminder, the process I outlined in late September has four phases and will span our academic year:
These phases overlap and are moving ahead at different rates in different areas, as we anticipated, because there are some decisions that we will need to make as early as the end of the fall semester given the timelines for certain actions and activities, such as faculty searches.
Phase I: Building a Shared Understanding (now through November)
Phase I is well underway. Students, faculty, and staff are gaining a shared common basis of understanding of the scope and causes of the budget challenge we face, through open forums and discussions with and within committees, departments, and campus constituencies. We will continue this work through early November.
Following the open forum in September, the Student Life, Enrollment and College Relations, Development and Alumni Relations, Finance and Business, and Information & Planning divisions each met to review and discuss the budget situation. Provost Carolyn Newton met and shared the particular budget implications for Academic Affairs with the members of the Teaching Staff and Tenure committee (TS&T), the Financial Advisory Committee (FAC), the division’s directors, administrative coordinators, and athletics coaches and staff.
To date, meetings and open sessions also have been held with department and program chairs, faculty, and Student Government Association (SGA) representatives. We are working with the Staff Committee and SGA to schedule open sessions for staff and students, respectively. My thanks to members of FAC for taking the lead in facilitating these sessions, and to Dee McCormick for developing our “Budget 101” presentation.
Phase II: Generating Ideas (now through early spring)
In the second phase, we are generating ideas for revenue enhancement, resource re-allocation, and budget reductions. The focus in this phase of planning work falls largely within divisions, departments, and committees and collaborations among them. Throughout the College, departments and staffs having been generating ideas within the purview of their own areas of responsibility; these are being organized and submitted so that we can compose a comprehensive catalogue.
I would also be interested in collecting ideas more generally. You are welcome to email me or set up an appointment for us to talk. In addition, if you have an idea you want to be considered, you may also use this digital suggestion box, where submittals can either be attributed or anonymous: Sustainable Budget Suggestion Box.
We will analyze the ideas submitted, including a financial impact analysis of each.
Work on Phase II has begun and will continue through mid-November, though I know ideas will continue to flow into the process, especially as we collectively review them and realize there may be even better ways of accomplishing our objectives. Among the activities underway:
In Academic Affairs, department chairs have been asked to consider the impact of a five percent reduction in department budgets, while the Educational Policy Committee is developing ideas for both revenue generation and budget reduction, costing those ideas out, and prioritizing them.
In Student Life, individual departments are working to generate ideas and the department heads will have a work session to review them together next week.
The Finance and Business team spent a full day retreat developing their initial ideas, which they have since refined and prioritized.
In Enrollment and College Relations, the admissions, financial aid, and college relations groups have each met to develop ideas for their areas.
Information and Planning is taking a “blank slate” approach given the flexibility recent upgrades in technology provide. The division has met as a whole, and the digital infrastructure, user services, and applications development teams have done so individually to put forward ideas, and the directors will soon meet to review and discuss priorities.
Each director in the Development and Alumni Relations division has developed a three-year plan to guide their budget and revenue recommendations, and has met with their VP to review them, with final recommendations to be assembled later this month.
Phase III: Ordering Priorities (now through April)
In Phase III we evaluate all ideas in the context of two principles:
- We will endeavor to protect or enhance the integrity of our core educational mission, and;
- We will strengthen our market competitiveness.
I have asked Cabinet members to prioritize the ideas in their respective areas using a consultative process within their teams. The Educational Policy Committee (EPC) will make an initial prioritization of the ideas it is generating. Any ideas that have College-wide impact will be presented to the campus for consideration and discussion.
This is where our process must be the most fluid, and where our attention to sequential and collaborative engagement most important. That has been clear from my conversations with many of you.
We will begin prioritizing ideas on November 22 with a convening of the “Big 5” elected faculty committees (EPC, FAC, TS&T, the Committee on Conference with Trustees, and the Committee on Committees) and department and program chairs. Faculty will consider and prioritize ideas relating to our educational program. Following that meeting, a report of the convening and the initial prioritization will be shared with the full faculty.
To continue the discussion, I intend to call a special Faculty Meeting in January to consider the prioritized list. Details will be forthcoming. The feedback from that meeting will be used by EPC, FAC, and others to refine ideas and their priority. We will convene the “Big 5” and department and program chairs again in February to consider both the ideas pertaining to the educational program and all ideas that have been prioritized through divisions, constituencies and campus discussions. The outcome of that discussion will be shared with faculty for discussion at the March Faculty Meeting.
A similar process will be followed with staff and with students. We will initially engage staff and students in conversations relating to ideas that have impact on our operations, policies, and the student experience, providing feedback to divisions and committees as appropriate. Similar to faculty, students and staff will then consider the revised collection of ideas from all facets of the College.
Phase IV: Crafting a Plan for a Sustainable Budget (April – June)
In early April, Cabinet will work together to shape the recommendations into a plan that will enable us to present a proposal for a sustainable budget to the Board of Trustees at its June meeting. We will work closely with FAC as we develop the plan, and of course, share it with the campus for information and feedback prior to finalizing our recommendation to the Board. It is important to note, however, that this is the phase where we will roll up the work that has been going on all year so as to pull it all together into a complete plan. Many decisions that will be part of the solution will have to be made along the way, some very soon, as they are driven by their own schedules.
Communicating Our Progress
My conversations and emails with you affirmed that we need to communicate our progress on our process continually. We are revitalizing our Strategic Planning blog (http://strategicplanning.scotblogs.wooster.edu/) where we will post public information and updates. The blog will link to a “Wooster-only” site where we will post more detailed information, including our lists of ideas, analyses, and benchmark and budget data. I plan to send you short, frequent updates on the activities of the sustainable budget process, which we will post on the blog.
Let me close by reiterating what I said in closing my September 28 email: I hope you will feel free to share your comments and questions with me as this process goes forward. This is hard but necessary work, and by doing it together we will build a strong foundation for Wooster’s future. I thank you for your dedication and commitment to this special place, day in and day out, and look forward to working through this process together.