In recent years, we have begun the academic year with an outline of our institutional priorities. These priorities will surely evolve as conditions change, as new information becomes available, and as we respond to unanticipated challenges. Still, it is helpful to begin the year with an understanding of our agenda for the year.
1. Advancing our strategic plan in a constrained economic environment. Compared to most college and universities, Washington and Lee University was favorably positioned for the dramatic economic downturn our nation experienced and is still experiencing. That does not mean we have been spared. Our revenues will continue to be constrained, primarily (but not entirely) because of the 17% reduction in our endowment. Our relatively strong position-with an emphasis on relatively-provides us with the opportunity to make difficult choices patiently and strategically. It does not mean we will be spared the need to make choices. Guiding those choices will be a commitment to our core mission; an understanding that the people of Washington and Lee-our faculty, staff, and students-are our primary strengths; and a continuing commitment to the strategic plan objectives, which seem especially appropriate for the new economic circumstances we face. In the midst of conserving the budget where we can for the current year and planning for future years, we should find opportunities to consider how higher education has changed and how Washington and Lee must adapt to those changes.
2. Admissions, financial aid, and meeting the "affordability" challenge. Among the changes in higher education, especially private higher education, is an increasing emphasis on affordability. Families-not just those with students currently in college but also those saving for their young children-will be much more aware of costs and may very well be looking at colleges with a different mix of considerations than in the past. As we anticipated in our strategic plan before the economic downturn, Washington and Lee needs a strong financial aid program in order to continue attracting the most qualified students, regardless of their financial circumstances. We need also to anticipate the changing demographic profile of the college student population. This is a year to focus on the structure of our financial aid program and the way we communicate with prospective students and their families.
3. Planning the upcoming capital campaign. Throughout the year, we will continue in the "quiet phase" of our capital campaign. The generosity and commitment of our dedicated supporters-alumni, friends, and parents-continues to inspire us on campus. Last year, we received three of the ten largest gifts in the University's history and recorded the second largest annual fund in our history. The challenge for the coming year is two-fold. First, we need to plan the public launch of the campaign, expected in the fall of 2010. Second, even more than before, we need to ensure those who support us that we are careful stewards of this University and its core mission.
4. Academic and Student Life. Throughout the year, we will address a number of separate but related issues concerning student life and academic life. We will launch our new Spring Term and the dozens of new courses that will be offered under the new format and structure. The reform of the School of Law curriculum, especially its innovative third-year curriculum, is now underway. Later this month, the national Washington and Lee Teacher-Scholar Symposium should enrich our campus conversation about the academic profession in liberal arts colleges. In the area of student life, we will conduct a review of the Student-Faculty Hearing Board. And we will continue to engage students in consideration of their student culture, including Greek life and gender relations. What unites these seemingly separate topics is a rededication to a key component of our institutional philosophy and values. We must "pursue our educational mission in a climate of learning that stresses the importance of the individual, personal honor and integrity, harmonious relationships with others, and the responsibility to serve society through the productive use of talent and training."
5. Sustainability. We will continue our concerted efforts toward meeting our commitment of creating a sustainable campus. By January, 2010 we will submit our implementation plan to ultimately achieve carbon-neutrality. Having completed a baseline study we now have a very clear understanding that energy (heating, cooling, and lighting) is the largest component of our carbon footprint and fortunately it is an area where we, individually and collectively, can make significant improvements. Our goal is to reduce energy consumption by 25% within a 4-year period. To assist us in meeting this goal, the University Sustainability Committee will focus its efforts on educating the community about individual and collective green practices.