Economic strain spurs changes throughout campus

Caitie Williamson

In light of the current economic crisis, Lawrence has been evaluating its spending and moving to cut costs in multiple ways, from limiting the coffeehouse hours and implementing double-sided printing, to eliminating the men’s wrestling team. Just like any other business in the economic crisis, Lawrence has had to manage its endowment and debt and make financial sacrifices in as many ways as it can.
“Lawrence faculty, staff and administration have all been working together to reduce spending while at the same time protecting the academic and artistic mission of Lawrence University,” said Director of Financial Services Dawn Rost.
According to Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Nancy Truesdell, the primary focus of the board of trustees’ meeting last week was the fiscal responsibility of the college.
The board met with a panel of students, who had collected various ideas on how the university can save money, such as turning off the computers in computer labs at night and putting drying racks in residence halls.
LUCC Student Welfare Committee, chaired by senior Stephen Flynn, discusses items that directly affect students. The committee is made up of students, as well as staff leaders from various departments across campus.
“The recent economic crisis has given my committee an important role in channeling student ideas directly to the leaders in various departments who can listen to, and hopefully implement, those ideas,” Flynn said.
“Student input is essential to making sure that everything the college does is in the students’ best interest,” Flynn continued. “We have different perspectives from those of staff, faculty and trustees, and making sure that our voices are heard can only help our cause.”
Student ideas were collected from easels placed in Downer and at the Library, where students could easily write down their suggestions.
“Some of the ideas were a bit tongue-in-cheek, for example, one person said Downer should get ‘sporks’ so that [there would be] fewer utensils to wash,” Flynn said. “Other students were more brash, saying that we should stop spending money on ‘pointless’ things like campus beautification and instead focus on making all the buildings energy efficient. One very unique idea was to create a campus-wide investment portfolio that does profit sharing with the university.”
The two sources of money that most directly affect Lawrence’s fiscal budget are students’ household incomes and resulting necessary financial aid and fundraising. Truesdell said the financial crisis could impact the number of students who will continue to apply to Lawrence, and that it could cause changes in the current students who are able to attend.
“We would much rather retain students and see what we can do to help them finish [school],” Truesdell said, speaking of Lawrence’s current priorities.
One major change that will be taking place next year, announced this week by President Jill Beck, was the scheduling change for next fall term. In order to save money, winter break will be six weeks long, lasting from Thanksgiving to the beginning of January. In order to even out the term, classes will begin immediately after Labor Day in the fall.
“The biggest and most influential idea at the board of trustees meeting was to start fall term two weeks earlier,” Flynn said. “This will be a huge cost-saver for Lawrence.”
According to Truesdell, all of the departments’ budgets are being examined to find ways to save money. For example, traveling for professional conferences may be limited, and office supplies will be decreased.
Although these changes are an inconvenience for some, many of the changes go hand-in-hand with Green initiatives, such as the double-sided printing and drying racks that will be placed in residence hall laundry rooms.
All of the departments and programs across campus are trying to reduce spending without affecting quality. Dining Services is also evaluating its spending.
“It’s a tough time for food service operators right now,” said Director of Dining Services Patrick J. Niles.
“We are trying to do everything we can to maintain or reduce costs while still providing the service and quality that we have in the past. That means not hiring some positions and shuffling current staff around to work in positions that they otherwise wouldn’t,” Niles said.
Even the smallest considerations are being made when it comes to saving money – when the board of trustees met last week, they ate at Downer, rather than having their food catered.
Lawrence is not the only college to have such a strong reaction to the financial crisis. Beloit College has introduced a new admissions policy that will result in admitting fewer students who need large financial aid packages.
In addition, Beloit has had to lay off nearly a 10th of its staff, according to an article that ran in Times Magazine last month. Even schools such as Cornell and Brown have stopped hiring, while Stanford is reducing top administrators’ salaries.
Private schools are estimated to have a drop in admissions, while public universities and community colleges are expected to see a rise.
Rost said, during these challenging times, Lawrence is committed to continuing to protect both the academic and artistic missions. While difficult decisions have to be made, Lawrence is balancing short-term decisions and their impacts with the long-term goals of the University.
Aside from all of the large changes taking place at Lawrence, there are many things students can do personally that can save money. For example, students can save energy and money by taking five-minute showers and turning off lights at night.
“It’s not just that students are saving energy and money right here on campus, but that they learn habits that will benefit them in the real world, and enable them to teach others what they have learned,” Flynn said. “Change can and does happen when students get involved and make sure their voices are heard.