Institutional Priorities 2014-15 September 16, 2014

As we begin this, the 265th academic year in the undergraduate division and the 165th year in the School of Law, I offer the following overview of the challenges and opportunities that await us. It is tempting to begin every report of this sort by stating that this will be a pivotal year for the University. More than ever, though, I believe that adjective is apt.

Capital Campaign

On June 30, 2015 — 287 days from today — we will complete one of the most ambitious and historic capital campaigns ever undertaken by an institution of our type. As of this writing, we have raised just shy of $466 million toward our goal of $500 million. Although we have much work to do during those 288 days, I am confident that we will surpass our goal, with room to spare. This will represent an extraordinary achievement, and I am deeply grateful for both the generosity and confidence of those who have supported us, and for the tireless efforts that many people continue to devote to the campaign.

Without providing an exhaustive list of the priorities that we have met to date, we can point with satisfaction to major achievements:

  • Gifts and pledges of $240.2 million in new endowment funds, including $145 million of the $160 million goal for financial aid, and $66 million for the Lenfest Challenge to increase faculty salaries. As of June 30, 2014, W&L's total endowment was valued at $1.45 billion, and the endowment managed internally exceeded $1 billion for the first time;
  • In non—dollar terms, the endowment increase can be seen in 18 new named professorships; the first named deanship; 10 new term professorships; permanent support for the School of Law's third—year program; a self—sustained endowment for the Shepherd Program; and the establishment of both the Roger Mudd Center for Ethics and the J. Lawrence Connolly Center for Entrepreneurship;
  • Renovation and restoration of four of the five buildings of the Colonnade, with the fifth, Tucker Hall, scheduled for 2015—16; renovation of Wilson Field; construction of Hillel House; renovation and expansion of duPont Hall as the Center for Global Learning, now underway; creation of the IQ Center in Telford Science Library; renovations in Leyburn Library; and renovations of Lewis Hall.
  • A 36 percent increase in the amount of unrestricted gifts raised by the Annual Fund, and an accompanying increase to 55 percent in undergraduate alumni participation.

Our remaining campaign priorities include completing the funding for the Center for Global Learning, even as it begins to take shape at the end of Stemmons Plaza; for the restoration of Tucker Hall; and for the indoor athletic facilities. We must also reach, and hopefully surpass, our goal for financial aid, while maintaining the steady upward trajectory of the Annual Fund, which has provided the financial flexibility that has been so critical during these past several years.

Our Strategic Plan

Apart from the specific priorities that this campaign has allowed us to accomplish, we need to recognize how our success has permitted the University to remain true to our historic mission throughout a period of upheaval — both in our economy and in the world of higher education.

When I wrote you last year with the priorities for 2013—14, I indicated that there was a "new normal" in higher education. In my convocation address earlier this month, I referred to reports of a "welcome earthquake" that will "disrupt" higher education. Some of our peer institutions are being forced to respond to this disruption in various ways — from increasing their size to offering new academic programs that require revisions to their own historic missions.

While our disciplined approach has insulated us from some of these tremors, we nonetheless will continue to face a period of restrained tuition growth and fixed projections of enrollment. Consequently, the fiscal discipline we have shown in recent years will remain essential in the year ahead, and I am grateful for the way in which members of the community have responded to these challenges.

This year will be a time for us to begin looking forward again in a deliberate way. We adopted our current strategic plan, "A Liberal Arts Education for the 21st Century," in 2007. I would encourage you to revisit that plan at some point this fall in order to recall what we set out to do. (See go.wlu.edu/strategic_plan.)

This fall, the University's three divisions — the College, the School of Law and the Williams School — will be convening their own school—wide conversations about strategic priorities. Those conversations will form a foundation for the eventual University—wide planning, which begins formally in 2015—16.

Key Transitions

We will be preparing for two significant transitions in the coming months. Larry Peppers, the Crawford Family Dean of the Williams School, and Bill Hartog, vice president for admissions and financial aid, will be stepping down from those key positions at the end of the academic year. Between them, Larry and Bill will have served the University for 66 years. This puts them in the category of extremely hard acts to follow. The search committees charged with finding their successors are ably led by Bob Strong, William Lyne Wilson Professor of Politics, for the dean of the Williams School, and Sidney Evans, vice president for student affairs, for the vice president of admissions and financial aid. These committees will keep the community informed of their progress and will invite thoughts as they go about their work.

Combating Sexual Discrimination, Harassment and Assault

During the last several months, the issue of sexual assault on college campuses has become a major topic in the country. I have written the community on two occasions with updates on our interim policies and procedures, and have appointed Lauren Kozak as our new Title IX coordinator.

In a community of trust and respect, we must not tolerate sexual discrimination, harassment or assault of any kind. We must continue our aggressive approaches to deal with this issue on several fronts, including bystander—intervention training and attention to our processes for investigation and adjudication. At the same time, we need to build upon these efforts and assess how our approaches align with the federal government's new guidance and directives.

Legal Education

Another issue that faces many universities, including Washington and Lee, is the challenging environment for legal education. As the legal profession undergoes significant changes, law schools everywhere are being forced to think strategically and carefully about how to adjust to new realities. A task force of trustees, collaborating with faculty and administrators, is analyzing the particular challenges we face and will design appropriate responses.

Residential Life

Finally, we are beginning to realize the rich residential—life experience that the 2007 strategic plan envisioned for our students. After the highly successful renewal and enhancement of Gaines Hall last year, we have now turned to Graham—Lees, our oldest residence hall, as the next step in our commitment to improve the residential experience for first—year students. Work on the Graham half began this summer and will be completed by the end of winter break, when the students in the Lees section will move to Graham to permit the other half to be completed.

While the first—year residential projects proceed, the design phase is also progressing for the new upper—division housing that will create an important neighborhood on an area of the campus near our most treasured historical sites. We hope it will be linked to a new natatorium. Our planning in this area will feature major sustainability goals, including the potential development of another solar array that could provide all the power these new facilities will need.

Our aim, which is admittedly ambitious, is that the students who moved into their first—year rooms earlier this month will become the first to move into this neighborhood when they become juniors. Many things must fall in place for this to become a reality, and our commitment here is to more than merely constructing buildings. We intend to use this opportunity to extend and preserve the kind of vibrant community that has been a hallmark of the institution.