UR President Joel Seligman sent out an e-mail on Nov. 24 outlining the current state of the University, namely the impact of the failing financial markets.
Seligman said that the University’s endowment investments have fallen roughly 25 percent since July 1.
‘After three extraordinary years of growth in support from our alumni and friends, a decline in giving seems likely to occur,” Seligman wrote. ‘Philanthropy tends to decline during the initial year of a recession but is typically ultimately resilient.”
Seligman is confident that the economy will rebound under a new Obama administration, and that investors will regain confidence.
‘There is a sense of greater hope, greater enthusiasm and greater involvement,” Seligman said Wednesday.
As a result of the financial crisis, Seligman said that future tuition increases will be scaled back and the University will work to provide more financial aid.
‘We are not in crisis,” Seligman said. ‘We will pursue our strategic plans, which we believe are essential to making this strong university “ever better’ in the future. The economy will impact the pace of implementation of these plans.Our objectives, however, have not changed and will be pursued.”
Projects such as the Eastman Theatre renovation will continue as planned. ‘It will probably be completed in early 2010,” Seligman said of the Eastman renovations.
However, other projects will face delays. Construction of the Clinical and Translational Sciences Building and the Pediatric Replacement and Imaging Sciences Modernization hospital expansion will be halted until the University can secure a stable avenue of funding. These avenues include philanthropic donations or stable credit markets.
Seligman assured those in attendance that these delays will not directly affect students.
‘The fundamental impact will largely be felt in ways that don’t immediately affect students,” Seligman told students Wednesday night. ‘The biggest impact will be the pace of implementation.”
In the e-mail, Seligman noted that he, along with key University executives, will review the budget for the next academic year.
Seligman stated that several University administrators have recognized the need to adopt conservative policies and limit budgets. Chief Executive Officer of the Medical Center Brad Berk has already initiated a plan to start cutting costs and increasing efficiency at the Medical Center. Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Sciences and Engineering Peter Lennie will work with his leadership team to come up with ways to limit the budget.
Seligman expects salary and wage increases for faculty and staff to be reticent compared to years past.
As a testament to their dedication, Seligman, as well as a number of other administrators and deans, will reject any pay increases for the next academic year.
Seligman will continue to bestow 10 percent of his salary to the University.
Revising budgets for vendors, as well as trying to reduce energy costs throughout the community, are also on Seligman’s slate in the upcoming months.
University administrators will face dilemmas when trying to cut budgets. Some budgets will encounter fixed costs that the University will have to pay.
Seligman said that a revised General Administrative and Instituitional Budget will include 0 percent growth in areas where there are no fixed costs.
During the latest Students’ Association Town Hall meeting, Seligman fielded questions about the current state of the University in this chaotic economic environment.
The meeting, held Wednesday night in the Gowen Room in Wilson Commons, was an open forum, question-and-answer session that allowed students to ask an array of questions on topics ranging from admissions to book costs to national collegiate rankings, as well as the current economic conditions.
At the Town Hall meeting, there was some concern raised by students regarding the University’s new Riverview Apartments, among additional issues brought up during the evening.
Security, transportation and campus connectedness were among the items discussed.
Seligman noted that Security in the Riverview area has been generally good and that revisions to the transportation system are coming.
He also pointed out that the Riverview Apartments are housing students who, in years past, would have lived off campus, thus increasing campus connectedness. Roughly 84 percent of undergraduates are living on campus.
Seligman was also proud of the fact that the University is blending in with the community, specifically the 19th Ward, where the Riverview apartments are located.
‘It’s closer to what they will experience after college,” Seligman said of the Riverview residents.
On a different note, one student pointed out that, during Seligman’s tenure, the University has dropped its position in the U.S. News ‘ World Reports Best College Rankings.
‘They aren’t the best arbitrator,” Seligman said.
He said there were many more important factors that he was proud of, though he does recognize the importance of the U.S. News rankings.
Seligman pointed out that educational institutions are different from financial institutions suffering the economic crisis. Whereas these institutions and big business are susceptible to failure, Universities endure forever.
‘In 1897, when the Dow Jones Index was first created, there were 12 companies. Only General Electric is still remaining from those 12,” Seligman said. ‘The educational institutions from that time are still here.”
Seligman left the attendants of the Town Hall meeting with a sense of confidence that the University is still on the right track.
Students were generally relieved that Seligman communicated his vision for the University and that he and his colleagues seem to be on the same page for its future.
Smith is a member of the class of 2011.