President Murray Describes Strategic Planning, Governing Board Updates in Email

Sarah Cornett, Editor-in-Chief

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In an email sent to students on Friday morning, President Kathy Murray recapped last week’s governing board meetings, which included talks on the upcoming strategic planning process and the approval of a 2016-2017 budget for the college.

The Living at Whitman Initiative, the college’s plan to build two new residence facilities and a dining hall, and enrollment targets for the class of 2020 also received attention in committee meetings, according to the email. The college is putting plans for junior/senior housing and the dining hall on hold, while construction plans are developed for a sophomore residence hall and a dining hall.

Murray’s message comes as discussions about administrative transparency continue to be a dominant campus talking point. The Transparency at Whitman Working Group (TWGG), formed in November by three members of Divest Whitman, conducted a survey last month that revealed a broad lack of understanding among students about the role of the Trustees and administration.

The email’s focus was the strategic planning process, which Whitman is beginning this spring, and the role consultant Susan Resneck Pierce will play in it.

Murray described Pierce’s accomplishments as the President Emerita of University of Puget Sound, where she dramatically raised endowment and selection rates. Pierce spoke with trustees on “the particular role of small residential liberal arts colleges and Whitman within that broader landscape,” according to the email, and will be back in April for continued talks on strategic planning.

Murray then described the Sustainability Working Group’s progress in finding ways to “achieve climate neutrality for Whitman facilities.” The group will have recommendations on meeting this goal, with the help of renewable energy credits, later in the semester according to the email.

The Buildings and Grounds Committee and Development Committee discussed the Living at Whitman Initiative, the college’s plans to build new residence facilities and a dining hall within the next two to three years. Construction plans are in development for the sophomore residence hall, while the junior/senior housing project is on “pause” according to Murray, and will be incorporated into the strategic planning process.

Finally, Murray touched on Academic Affairs Committee discussions, which included talks on non-tenure-track faculty. The Enrollment Committee, she wrote, saw application and admission numbers that were relatively consistent with past years. She alluded to potential challenges in securing a large enough class for next year in light of the current smaller-than-expected first-year class, writing that admissions staff “recognize the need for campus-wide engagement in bringing the class of 2020 to Whitman.”

Murray’s email was co-signed by Board of Trustees Chair Brad McMurchie. Though brief, the message provided valuable information and updates about college developments.

“We appreciate the contributions of many students, faculty, and staff to the productive discussions that took place during these meetings,” she concluded. “This is important work as we seek to advance student learning at Whitman College.”

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