At the end of this week the Board of Trustees will come to town for its annual winter meeting. The February trustee conversations are usually focused on the budget for the next year, and this time, due to the economic climate, those discussions will take on a sharp sense of urgency. Although Wesleyan is fortunate to have generous supporters and a significant endowment, there is no question that its economic base has been shaken. Wesleyan now must make appropriate changes to its spending patterns to maintain fiscal stability, and we will be discussing the impact of such changes this coming weekend.
The trustees’ primary responsibility is fiduciary. They are entrusted with the future health of the institution, and their duty is to ensure that the educational and economic capacity of alma mater will be passed on to future generations of students. Board members volunteer their time and their resources to help Wesleyan to both navigate difficult times and seize opportunities to advance its mission. Consulting with faculty, alumni, current students and staff, trustees make strategic policy decisions for the long term, and during these parlous times I know they feel the weight of that responsibility.
This meeting will begin with discussions of next year’s budget, but the issues to be considered have more widespread implications. Wesleyan has stood for something distinctive and admirable in American liberal arts education, and over the decades other schools have followed our lead. How we can continue to be a leader of creative, progressive liberal arts education while living within our means has always been a great challenge. We must preserve our ideals and principles while remaining realistic about the sustainability of our economic model.
With the intelligence and hard work of our faculty and staff, with the generosity of the extended Wes family, and with the thoughtful stewardship of our Board of Trustees, I am confident that we will strike the proper balance to meet these challenges.