During the current economic downturn, administrators at many colleges and universities across the country have informed students, employees, alumni, and parents as to how the global economic crisis is affecting their school. Bowdoin is no exception: Several weeks ago, President Mills sent an e-mail to the campus titled, "The Economy and Bowdoin." In the letter, Mills emphasized that Bowdoin is well-positioned to withstand the current economic crisis. What Mills failed to mention in the note, however, were any specifics on the current state of Bowdoin's endowment.
The College's endowment was valued at $831 million as of June 30, 2008. But this figure?a fiscal snapshot taken several months before the stock markets plunged?is outdated. And despite the reassurances of administrators, the Bowdoin community has no idea of the actual financial losses that the College has since incurred.
Williams has reported an estimated loss of 28 percent to its endowment. Amherst and Colby have each reported losses of approximately 25 percent. However, Bowdoin has been far less forthcoming about its endowment losses.
The College's Investment Committee, comprised of six trustees and a faculty member, has a policy that interim, unaudited numbers pertaining to the endowment are not discussed publicly. We have never questioned this policy when economic conditions were stable. But given the extenuating circumstances of the current financial crisis, it is essential that the administration informs our community of where the endowment stands.
If students and employees had a clearer understanding our losses, we would be more willing to scale back and accept budget cuts. Employees have already been urged to reduce spending in their departments, but they may take such requests more seriously if they had a better grasp of the College's current financial standing. Informing alumni on the state of our endowment could also prove to be in the College's best interest; potential donors would be more willing to give if the College's losses were not merely an abstraction.
By keeping us uninformed, the administration seems to insist that the endowment?and the financial vitality of the College?is their problem. But this is misplaced; we are, after all, in this together.