Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 8
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Administration hosts lunches, visits Greek chapters in effort towards greater transparency

Credit: Bullion
Photos by Bullion

Show me the money, students are demanding of the Whitman administration, as financial concerns have come to the forefront of their relationship with Memorial.

The administration is responding with increased outreach from individuals such as Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer ¬†Peter Harvey and President George Bridges, who are informing students of how the school uses tuition and endowment funds and how it plans to replenish its coffers. Bridges has led the public relations push, in settings ranging from greek chapter meetings to an Olin classroom for a limited-registration “Inside Whitman” lunch.

20091114-02-bridgeschapters-webAssistant Director of Alumni Relations Jason Arp introduced Bridges at the latest Inside Whitman lunch, held Nov. 10 in Olin 157.

“This is a chance for you to chat with administrators like [Bridges],” Arp said to the students present.

The Inside Whitman forums used to be available just for class committees, but this year the administration began offering it to the first forty students to register. Twenty-three students attended the Nov. 10 event, a similar enrollment to the Oct. 28 event, according to Arp.

“I think it gives a background to the institution,” Arp said of the lunch forum.

Asked during the lunch about possible budget cuts, Bridges was inconclusive.

“We don’t have a list,” he said. “Everything’s on the table.”

Bridges did say that there are no plans to construct new buildings, although this spring the Board of Trustees will review scheduled plans to renovate Harper Joy. Bridges also said Whitman is not considering an increase in enrollment at this juncture. He noted that additional students paying tuition would not fix the short-term financial problems because more students would require a new residence hall and likely additional academic buildings to hold them.

But Bridges and students are still searching for other possible sources of income, after Whitman lost $80 million of its endowment last year, a 20 percent drop. Five percent of the endowment goes toward the annual budget.

When asked who manages Whitman’s money by senior Jeremy Balch, Bridges cited the Board of Trustees committee that handles investments, assisted by Monticello & Associates, a Colorado-based consulting firm that advises many schools on their endowments. Bridges said the endowment investments are up approximately eight percent this year.

20091114-03-bridgeschapters-webIn addition to raising funds through investments, Bridges has been trying for an early Christmas by hitting the giving trail. Targets include even students still at school, through greek chapter meetings.

Bridges visited Beta Theta Pi first Sept. 27 and covered the rest of the chapters in following weeks. Only Sigma Chi, which has yet to respond, has not received a visit.

“His visits are to get to know each group a bit better and talk about philanthropy,” said Jed Schwendiman, associate to the president, in an e-mail.

Senior economics major Jenna Stearns was struck by the financial focus of President Bridges’ presentation to Kappa Alpha Theta’s chapter meeting Oct. 18.

“My impression of his purpose was that he was there to solicit money from us; maybe not now, but as alums,” Stearns said. “It was very focused around why donating to the college was important, and why, once we graduate, we should donate.”

Bridges has also reached out to potential donors across the country.

“My job is to tell the story of Whitman College, what we’re doing and why they should invest [in the school],” he said.

In order to reconcile the difference between students’ needs and Whitman’s funds, the college needs $60 million dollars of new endowed scholarships, Bridges said. ¬†Currently, for every tuition dollar that comes in, 37.5 cents goes out in financial aid.

During both the Inside Whitman lunch and the Theta meeting, Bridges emphasized that, as a nonprofit, Whitman is Walla Walla’s biggest charity, with funds providing opportunities for students and staff alike.

“I never thought I’d enjoy asking people for money, but one of the joys of my job is something really good happens [as a result],” Bridges said.

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