President Barry Mills announced on Monday a new committee that will look into the College's finances and make cost-cutting recommendations for next year's operating budget.

The announcement, first made by Mills at Monday's faculty meeting, was sent via e-mail on Tuesday afternoon to all students, employees and Trustees of the College.

"I have established a committee of faculty, students, and staff to work with me and the other senior officers to consider our financial situation over the next few years," Mills wrote in the e-mail.

The committee, which Mills called the "Blue Tarp Committee" at the faculty meeting, plans to meet at least once before Winter Break, according to committee member and Career Planning Center (CPC) Administrative Assistant Laurie Sweetman. The committee plans to work through early February, when Mills presents next year's preliminary budget to the Board of Trustees.

With an endowment on the decline and a national economic crisis that shows no signs of abating, the College will almost certainly have to reduce next year's operating budget. This fiscal year's budget stands at $140,848,000, including financial aid.

Though Mills said that the new committee will look to reduce operating costs at the College, he declined to discuss specifics.

"It really is a bit premature to talk publicly about the various alternatives" the College is looking into, he said.

"There are a menu of things that [other colleges] are considering," he added. "You've got hiring freezes, you've got layoffs, you have salary freezes, reductions in operating budgets. All of that's on the table [for Bowdoin]. But no one should infer from the fact that everything is on the table that any one of those things are things we're going to do."

Though the College has announced it will not undertake any new construction projects in the near future, Mills said he was hesitant to implement change that might affect the school in more substantial, long-term ways.

"I view [the economic crisis] as a short-term to medium-term problem," he said. "And I'm not eager to think about modifications that would change fundamentally what we do, in ways that aren't reversible. I don't want to fundamentally change the place for what I believe is a short to medium-term problem."

'Blue tarp' committee

The 10-member "Blue Tarp" committee is composed of students, faculty, staff and Mills. Students are: President of Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) Sophia Seifert '09, along with Jeremy Bernfeld '09 and Joelinda Coichy '11. Mills said in his e-mail that the students had been selected "in consultation with the leadership of the Bowdoin Student Government."

The four faculty members who will sit on the committee are Associate Professor of Biology and Biochemistry Anne McBride, Associate Professor of English Ann Kibbie, Assistant Professor of English Aaron Kitch and Professor of Anthropology Scott MacEachern. These faculty were chosen from the Committee on Governance and Faculty Affairs (GFA), which Mills said in the e-mail "has responsibility for review of budget matters under the recently adopted faculty governance policy of the College."

Associate Director of Operations in the Dining Service Michele Gaillard and Sweetman comprise the staff on the committee, who were recommended, according to Mills' e-mail, by the Bowdoin Administrative Staff (BAS) and the Support Staff Advocacy Committee (SSAC).

The committee does not include a faculty or staff member with expertise in economics or finance, and none of the students on the committee are economics majors. However, Mills said he thought this would not be problematic.

"It's arithmetic," he said. "This is not high finance, it's a little bit more complicated than balancing a checkbook... I think people who are more accustomed to playing with numbers and thinking about budgets may feel a little bit more at ease, but this is a learning institution too, so it's a great learning moment for the people on the committee."

"I'm sure the students will catch on real quick," Mills added. "And the faculty and staff who have signed up to do this are really serious people who I'm sure will delve into this."

Mills also wrote in the campus-wide e-mail that the committee "will be assisted on these matters by Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration & Treasurer Katy Longley, Controller Matt Orlando, Director of Finance and Campus Services Del Wilson, and the senior staff of the College."

Mills said he expects the Bowdoin community to also participate in the process.

"I would suspect that we'll have a number of open meetings around campus," he said. "[This committee] will reach out and reach out and reach out, and hopefully we'll build a consensus. I believe that with the right kind of conversation people will come to a consensus about what's the right thing to do," Mills said.

"The [economic] issues are too big for someone to decree the answer," he added. "We're really going to have to have a shared sense of future."

Peer schools

Several other NESCAC schools have established committees that serve a similar function to the one Mills proposed this week. Since 2003, Bates has had a Budget and Finance Advisory Committee, consisting of three students, four faculty members, four staff members, the President of Bates, the Dean of Faculty and the Treasurer.

Tufts also has a 20-member Committee on Budget and University Priorities, which is composed of six students, four of whom are undergraduates. According to the Tufts Web site, the committee, among other things, "review[s] and make[s] budgetary recommendations on proposals for new programs and for reductions in existing programs."

Connecticut College also has a Planning and Budget Committee. Comprised of senior administrators, faculty members and students, this committee prepares a budget that goes for approval directly to the president of the school and its board of trustees.

?Adam Kommel contributed to this report.