Tuition Raise, Renovations, Student Representation Discussed at Latest Trustee Meeting

Rachel Alexander

Whitman’s Board of Trustees approved the college’s proposed budget during their meeting last week, as well as plans for renovating Baker Faculty Center, Memorial and the outdoor tennis courts.

Representatives from ASWC also met with members of the Board of Trustees to discuss the possibility of having a student representative on the Board. After these meetings, ASWC President Kayvon Behroozian said ASWC will no longer be pursuing a student representative on the Board. Instead, his administration will look for other ways to increase student input and participation in Governing Board decisions.

Behroozian said the decision was made after coming to a better understanding of the differences between Whitman’s Board of Trustees and the boards of peer institutions. In particular, Whitman’s board has fewer trustees than many other colleges, and does not have a representative board, meaning that there are no parent trustees, faculty trustees, recent alumni trustees or other trustees who are appointed to represent specific groups.

“Having a student representative on the board is not consistent with the structure of the board,” said Behroozian.

Aside from these demographic differences, Behroozian said that further conversation with several Board members clarified the fact that most important decisions made by Trustees occur in committees, many of which have student representatives. For instance , the President’s Budget Advisory Committee has three ASWC-appointed student representatives, as well as the ASWC Finance Chair, though all student members are non-voting.

“We’re shifting to a different way of incorporating the student voice that’s going to be more effective,” said Behroozian, though he was unable to disclose the specifics of ASWC’s new plan.

Peter van Oppen, the Chair of the Board of Trustees, said that he believed focusing on student representation in committees made sense, and that committee chairs were generally supportive of the idea. He said the Board also discussed strategies for actively seeking student opinions more frequently.

“It’s up to the trustees to make sure we’re proactively, assertively reaching out and getting student input on a regular basis,” he said.

Though representation was discussed by the Trustees over the course of their time on campus, the college’s budget for the coming year was the primary focus of the meetings.

The 2013-14 tuition rate has not been released publicly yet, but van Oppen confirmed that it is the lowest increase in tuition in the past decade.

Over the past ten years, Whitman’s tuition increases have ranged from a high of 7.5 percent for the 2006-07 school year to a low of four percent for the 2012-13 school year.

The budget also allows for increases in faculty salary pools. In a letter to faculty sent out earlier this week, President Bridges said the additional salary funds would be allocated based on merit, promotions and “inequities in compensation” caused by a number of factors, including comparable salaries at peer institutions. In addition to revenue from tuition, the budget has $20 million in endowment income and gifts built into it.

A schedule has not been set for any of the approved building renovations. As part of the renovations, the alumni office, currently located on Marcus St., will be relocated to Baker Faculty Center. Van Oppen said a bidding process would begin later this year, and noted that a gift to the college is funding most of the cost of renovating the faculty center.

In his letter to faculty, President Bridges expressed gratitude that budget requests made for the coming year minimized budget increases.

“I am very optimistic about the year ahead and the promise that we will continue to serve all students exceptionally well while minimizing the financial burden that a Whitman education places on their families and friends,” he said.