Kenyon and the Current Economic Crisis
President S. Georgia Nugent sent the following letter to Kenyon parents and alumni in the November 18 Kenyon News Digest.
Kenyon alumni, parents, and friends will soon be receiving the annual report issue of the Alumni Bulletin, which celebrates the College's progress and thanks donors for their generosity. This year, the report opens with an essay in which I look back over the past five years, noting some of the important developments and accomplishments that have shaped Kenyon since I arrived. The annual report has always been an appropriate venue for summing up and assessing what we have accomplished together.
It is equally important to look ahead, however, especially at moments when history presents unusual challenges. We face such a moment now. As we experience each day continuing uncertainty in the global economy, it is important to understand what this may mean for our College.
First, let me say that Kenyon's long history of fiscal discipline is serving us well at this time. We do not have a cash-flow problem (as some peer institutions are experiencing), and we will continue to balance our budget as we have for more than three decades. While our endowment has sustained some impact from the instability in the stock market, Kenyon has purposefully insulated our current operations from just such an economic event. Our use of investment earnings is governed by a formula that modulates our direct exposure to market fluctuations. At Kenyon, we are not in a crisis mode and we do not anticipate the need to make immediate or sudden changes in this academic year.
When the world's economy has lost a substantial portion of its value, however, it would be naïve to assume that we will be unaffected. Planning for the future will need to proceed very carefully and prudently, and we cannot simply rely on "business as usual."
At its October meeting, the Board of Trustees, together with the senior administrative staff, considered the financial situation at length. Let me discuss some of our concerns and conclusions.
First, the trustees reaffirmed that our primary commitment is to our Kenyon family — our students, faculty, and staff members. Our first priority is to ensure that those students currently at the College can sustain their Kenyon educations should the economic crisis significantly alter their personal financial situations. Based on that commitment, the trustees instructed that the College set aside a contingency fund to cover increased needs for financial aid or other emergencies that may arise. Meanwhile, as we plan next year's budget, we will carefully scrutinize spending while sustaining our commitment to making access to Kenyon possible for the broadest range of able students.
While affirming their commitment to the College's facilities planning, the trustees called for a "pause" in the development of several new facilities planned as part of our current campaign — two new visual art buildings and a large south campus residence hall, neither of which have commenced construction. Fundraising, site preparation, and the refinement of designs for these projects will continue. A pause will provide the opportunity to take advantage of potentially decreasing construction costs and to verify the timeline along which we can proceed responsibly. The trustees will re-evaluate the situation at their February meeting.
As we look ahead, we are encouraged by two factors. One is that, thanks to the Kenyon family, our "We Are Kenyon" campaign is advancing well. We are on track to meet our goals. Second, sound financial practices and planning are a strong tradition at Kenyon. Prudent management is not a virtue we have to rediscover; it has long been our standard way of operating.
Of all the strengths that sustain the College, perhaps the most impressive is the exceptional devotion of our alumni, parents, and other friends. On behalf of the trustees and the faculty, students, and administration, let me express our gratitude to you. Now more than ever, in times of challenge, we who carry forward Kenyon's mission are grateful to you for everything you do.
S. Georgia Nugent
President, Kenyon College