President's Letters

President Hill's letter on Vassar and the economy

September 30, 2009

Dear members of the Vassar community,

I have spoken to you over the course of the past year of our need to achieve a sustainable budget to preserve Vassar’s excellence now and in the future and the fact that it would be necessary to reduce our workforce to fulfill this goal.  We have achieved a great deal in the last 12 months by focusing on our priorities as an institution and changing the way we spend our resources.  We have offered retirement incentive packages and taken advantage of attrition and retirements to reorganize some of our offices and reduce staffing, accomplishing about three-quarters of the necessary savings in the non-faculty compensation budget for this year and next year in this way. Unfortunately, this week we have had to inform 13 employees that their positions are being eliminated. The elimination of these administration and staff positions completes the planned changes in the non-faculty salary budget for 2010/11.

The decisions to reduce the number of positions in certain areas of our workforce were based not on performance or the commitment individuals have shown in their work, but rather on the college’s ability to effectively reorganize tasks or priorities.  I want to express my deep appreciation for the many contributions of those who are leaving their employment at Vassar. These individuals have given energy and care to the work of the college, and the decisions to do without their positions were extremely difficult to make.

We are communicating individually with everyone who will be leaving his or her position.  We know that the decisions we have made affect people’s lives in the deepest ways, and I want to assure the community that we will do all we can to offer support and to assist in the search for other work.  We are committed to helping employees by providing lead-time, substantive support in the job search, and temporary employment, if it is available.  Most of those affected are in positions that will end in three months, at the end of the calendar year; because of the requirements of their work, a small number of employees will stay in their positions at the college until June 30th.  We have retained a career transition firm which will assist each person in developing strategies for finding employment as quickly as possible. Our Human Resources and Benefits offices will also provide support throughout the period for employees who are making this difficult transition.

The areas affected by these terminations are offices under the Dean of the College, CIS, Development, AAVC, the Dean of Planning and Academic Affairs, College Relations, and the Vice President for Finance and Administration. I recognize that those who are losing colleagues in these areas are also affected both personally and professionally, as are those who have experienced the departure of colleagues throughout the college in the past months. It will take time for all of us to absorb the present loss and our concern for colleagues we have come to know well.

The departures announced recently will leave some offices with fewer people to do the work and will require a willingness to prioritize and to accommodate new approaches.  Important to this effort will be our willingness as a community to adjust some of our expectations about the way services are provided and to understand that some offices will be working with reduced staffs. I ask the whole community to continue to be mindful of each other’s needs as we adapt to new circumstances.

Change is also occurring among the faculty as a result of the incentives for retirement that we offered last spring and the decisions about 2010/11 staffing plans under consideration this fall. Six tenured faculty members and five senior lecturers and curators have elected to take retirement incentives; a further three faculty members have indicated their likely interest in entering phased retirement in 2010/11. AGAFR (the Advisory Group on the Allocation of Faculty Resources) is weighing faculty input and information about retirements and departmental staffing needs in its planning this fall to reach the college’s goal for overall reductions in the faculty salary budget for 2010/11. I expect that work to be completed by early November, and I will report to you further at that time.

I am optimistic that the focused effort we are making in every area of the college places us in a position to stabilize our financial situation in the next two to three years while maintaining the outstanding quality of the education we offer.  I want to thank the members of the Vassar community for the planning and hard work you have done over the past year to meet the financial challenges we have faced. We will have to continue to take advantage of every opportunity to think creatively about how to do the work that is important to us, to make the best possible use of the talent and capabilities of our employees, and to use our resources wisely in fulfilling the mission and educational goals that make Vassar such a remarkable institution.  I am confident that we will do so successfully.

Catharine Hill
President

Posted by Office of Communications Wednesday, September 30, 2009

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