Sunday night I spent an hour with the Wesleyan Student Assembly, answering questions on the recent Board of Trustee’s retreat and on the general state of the university in this time of economic turmoil. I am always impressed by the WSA’s combination of organization, feistiness and school spirit. They are devoted to our university, and they are eager to explore ways of making it an even better place to live and learn. The student body can be proud of its elected representatives.
A concern of many of our students, faculty and staff is the effects of the contemporary economic turbulence on Wesleyan. We discussed this at length with the trustees last weekend. The university’s endowment declined almost 4% in the last fiscal year (ending 6/30/2008), and the first quarter of this year has been dismal. Wesleyan does not currently face short-term liquidity issues, but we are monitoring that situation closely. Over the next months we will be developing the budget for next year, and we will have to make some cuts to bring it into balance. My priority is to protect the core academic mission from serious budget cuts, but we will certainly have to delay some of our long planned facilities projects. In times of economic distress fund-raising is even more challenging than usual. However, our generous family of donors also understands that at a time like this their gifts are more meaningful than ever. We depend on their generosity.
While uncertainties in the economy rattle the world, many turn to the major political choices we face in the coming month. Well over 100 people gathered in the Usdan University Center last week to watch the recent Vice-Presidential debate, and the voter registration efforts on campus are in high gear. Wes students are finding their political voices as they debate the issues and ponder the future.
Even as we are part of the system affected by the recent credit crunch and market slide, there is a sense in which Wesleyan remains an oasis from these preoccupations. The culture here continues to thrive in so many interesting ways! For example, as I stroll around the campus on a weekend I am struck by the rich diversity of sound one hears. Whether it’s in the CFA’s Indian music and art festival, a jam session on Foss Hill, or in a raucous Eclectic dance party, there are dozens of people at any given time making music on this campus. Students, faculty and staff are picking up guitars and drums, horns and fiddles (and more than a few laptops!), joining together to create joyful sounds. When we make music we’re also making community, finding one another as we get in tune, and inviting others into our circles as listeners, dancers, new members of the band.
Speaking of joining musical groups, I am going to sit in with Busted Roses for a gig at Usdan on Oct 16. I posted a blog about this “geezer rock band” a few months ago, and now I will be challenged to keep up with these excellent musicians.