Word spreads on a rushed final decision on FSR from Board of Trustees

Alasdair Padman, Editor-in-Chief

Earlier this week, rumors began circulating among the Whitman community that the Board of Trustees would be meeting on Wednesday, March 17 to make their final decisions on the Financial Sustainability Review (FSR).

An anonymous member of the Whitman community told The Wire that, “the Whitman AAUP membership received word via the Faculty Chair Barry Balof that the Trustees may be making a final determination as soon as Wednesday afternoon.”

This information was confirmed by Arielle Cooley, the president of Whitman’s AAUP chapter.

In an email from the Because We Love Whitman campaign, alumna Natalie Jamerson ’13, wrote, “We’ve heard from multiple faculty members (who would like to remain anonymous) that the Board met on Monday and intends to make a final decision by 4 p.m. Wednesday.” She continued, “We trust the faculty we’ve spoken with, but would certainly appreciate more communication and clarification from the Board on when their next meeting is.”

Gina Ohnstad, the Senior Director of Communications, responded to these claims in an email to The Wire.

“The trustees are meeting on Wednesday to discuss the FSR, but there is no deadline to finalize their decisions,” Ohnstad wrote. “When the trustees have completed their process, they will communicate their decisions to the whole Whitman community.” She continued, “Yes, it is possible that the Board of Trustees could make decisions about the financial sustainability review [Wednesday]. It is also possible they will not.”

Balof confirmed on March 17, that Ohnstad was correct, “that there has been no change in the planned timeline for the FSR process to take place … I am not authorized to speak on behalf of the Board, and future communications regarding the FSR will come from them.”

He offered no additional comment confirming or denying his statement to the AAUP.

Alumna Emily Hanscam ’12, had also heard that that the Board would be making their decisions on Wednesday, but took greater issue with the lack of transparency regarding when those decisions would be broadcasted to the community.

“I think the more interesting question to ask right now, is why is there an additional lack of transparency being offered at this fraught time? It is especially problematic because — rumor or not — it is influencing how people interact with the process,” Hanscam wrote.

In response, Ohnstad wrote, “From the beginning, the trustees have been committed to moving forward on a timeline that allows them to fully deliberate and make decisions that they believe are in the best interest of Whitman. For this reason, they chose not to set a firm timeline to complete their work, believing that they needed flexibility to fully deliberate, but also move [as] quickly as warranted.”

Hanscam reported on March 17, “last night and this morning the Because We Love Whitman campaign reached out via email to 14 members of the Board of Trustees, asking them to slow the process down and provide transparency. As of 3:30 p.m. today, we have yet to receive a clear response.”