The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Staff Editorial: Give it to us straight


Unless you’ve recently emerged from a fallout shelter ala “Blast from the Past,” you are aware of the disastrous financial climate we are living in.This is a time of frightening uncertainty. —–Are we going to find internships this summer – and will we be able to make any money? If we’re graduating, are we going to be able to find jobs – even if we give up looking for the perfect job of our dreams? These are all questions we as a student body are having to ask ourselves, but it does not stop there. Professors are asking themselves if they will continue to have jobs, particularly those non-tenured members of the faculty. Staff are running into the same issue, and administrators are having to balance departmental and programmatic needs with today’s economic realities – this is neither the economy nor the endowment we began the year with back in August.

These are all things we understand.

To make things even better, we have gotten ourselves into a particularly awkward situation when it comes to attracting new students. As President Rosenberg said at the faculty meeting last week, we don’t have the name brand cachet of some of the East Coast school, and unlike some of our Midwestern competitors, we do not offer merit-based aid to anyone besides National Merit Finalists, a tiny group in the overall pool of applicants. This makes it harder to attract the already shrinking group of students who can pay full-freight – tuition that’s a little south of $50,000 a year is no joke, and if you can get a couple thousand knocked off, that’s hard to turn down. In short, we’ve got an admissions quandary, one that stands to be a serious blow to our finances if tuition revenues fall.

This, too, is something we understand.

What we don’t understand is the college’s response to the situation.

College officials have repeatedly stated that things are difficult, the endowment has fallen – although not as sharply as some others, they are quick to add – and giving is not going to be able to continue at the same pace it has been, for all the talk of philanthropy historically remaining steady. We have a cushion because we do not draw as heavily on our endowment as some schools do – it makes up about a third of our operating budget, while others rely on theirs much more heavily.

We’ve heard all the positives. The fact still remains that at some point, though, the recession is going to hit us, and it is going to hurt. What the college needs to do now is tell it like it is. It is not hard to see why they might be tempted to make things look a little rosier than they are, and might not want to jump into the details of just how much we’re going to have to slash. At the same time, it would be a service to the college community to let us know where we stand.

Departments were asked to draw up two sets of budgets, one under the same constraints as last year and one imagining 10 percent budget cuts. Why not just ask people to cut 10 percent? While people might not be happy, it would be realistic and take the “what if” uncertainty out of the equation. Same goes for the professor search situation. The college asked departments to hold off on searches, most of which continued. Even now, the searches are continuing despite general statements of the need for cuts, leading to rumors and rumblings of a secret freeze on hiring. There are also questions about where the plans for the Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center rebuild stand – the college says it is still a priority, but seems reluctant to admit that the money just isn’t there. The limbo situation is not a good one – at this point, it seems as though people would be understanding of the fact that we’re going to have to make cuts, and would deal with knowing what is going to happen rather than huddling together imagining the worst.

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