An alternative to Bowdoin layoffs
To the Editors:
Last week's Orient brought some striking news. On the front page was the announcement of numerous layoffs to occur among Bowdoin College staff. The reasons given for these layoffs were the "unpredictable state of the national economy," and lower returns on the college endowment.
To my thinking, this is a great fallacy with modern college budgeting. Modern college budgeting is based on using the interest earned by the college's endowment to fund an academic school year. While a good idea in times of economic strength, we are now witnessing the weakness of this method. In a strong economy, the endowment will return the necessary money, and perhaps even yield a surplus. However, the weakened economy has returned about 1.3 to 1.5 million dollars less than expected.
I wish to propose a radical idea. Middlebury College, a sister NESCAC school that is experiencing the same fiscal woes, has decided to forgo only using the interest on their endowment, and has decided to cut into it for the remainder of this fiscal year. This sounds like a dangerous plan, but when one considers that the shortfall is merely $1.5 million of an endowment in excess of $400 million, the danger loses its bite. The loss of that money and associated interest will be minimal by comparison to what would be saved. Even operating for three years using that little amount of money would only barely touch one percent of the money in the endowment. Operating for ten years, arguably the length of most economic downturns would only barely touch three to five percent of the school's endowment.
This would go a long way to ensuring the fiscal responsibility of the school. Bowdoin is the second largest employer in the town of Brunswick, and third in the Brunswick/Bath area. Bowdoin employees come from places as far away as Camden to teach or work at this school. Thus, Bowdoin College is responsible for a large portion of the economic strength of the mid-coast community. Eliminating any jobs would harm this economy and hurt the area of Maine we have all come to know and love.
This image of responsibility would be further enhanced by cutting expenses other than jobs. The amount of waste generated by certain departments in the College is unbelievable: weekly letters placed in student mailboxes that immediately end up in the garbage, students and the whole community allowed free printing rights in the libraries, and other wasteful ventures could all be trimmed without the loss of jobs. Continuing to build a new building for departments who have more than adequate facilities is simply foolish, many of which have been upgraded within the past ten years. Holding off until the recession ends would save millions of dollars.
If there is no work to be done, I can understand the elimination of a "position." But to eliminate "positions" while maintaining this wasteful spending is a fallacy.
Thus, I urge the administration to reconsider their decision to eliminate 25 to 30 positions at Bowdoin. There are other and more effective ways to match the budget shortfalls.
Kurt Jendrek '04
To the Editors:
Tuesday, January 21: the five of us packed into a Ford Smocus to begin our ten-hour road trip for Roe. As five young feminists, we wanted to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Roe v. Wade in the heart of the action, Washington D.C. We arrived in D.C at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, took a brief nap, and set off for a full day of conventions organized by the Feminist Majority Foundation. The conference brought over 400 college students, male and female, from 40 different states, all united to improve and ensure reproductive safety, health, and choice for women. The idea of sleep quickly left our minds as inspiring women such as Eleanor Smeal (President of Feminist Majority Foundation), Gloria Feldt (President of Planned Parenthood), Kate Michelman (President of NARAL: Pro-Choice America), Dr. Jane Smith (CEO Business and Professional Women/USA), Congresswoman Sheila Jackson, and Senator Barbara Boxer gave riveting speeches informing us about the status of women's reproductive rights and how the current administration is working to deny those rights.
The conference served to educate us as campus organizers of Bowdoin's Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance (FMLA) about the imminent danger the Bush administration poses to our reproductive health rights, access to sex education in public schools, and global family planning. With the probability that Bush will appoint at least one and most likely two new Supreme Court Justices during his term, the women speaking at the conference could not stress enough the very real threat his administration poses. Right now, the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision insuring access to abortion for all women stands at a razor-thin 5-4 majority in the Supreme Court. With the appointment of an anti-choice justice, that decision could be reversed. Ellie Smeal warned us of how states have slowly chipped away at women's rights surrounding our choice to terminate a pregnancy. Individual states have imposed restrictions such as 24 hour waiting periods, dual-parent consent, and the shutting down of clinics.
To lose Roe, actually a very moderate compromise, would be devastating. Roe v. Wade is less about the actual abortion topic than the constitutional right to privacy and choice. If Roe were overturned, most of us on Bowdoin's campus could cope. We would find the funds to get it done safely and travel wherever it took. As of now, with abortion being legal, women not as fortunate as some of us are denied this basic right because their healthcare will not cover it, hospitals will not provide this service, or they have to travel hours or even days to get to a clinic.
Our attendance at the candlelight vigil in front of the Supreme Court on Wednesday evening proved the animosity present between the two opposing sides. The anti-choice activists invaded our rally, shoving their posters in our face, and calling us "murderers." On Thursday, we lobbied Maine's senators and demanded the continuation of a woman's right to privacy. They, along with all the women at the conference, urged us to take action. As sexually active young women and men, Roe affects us the most. We have to keep our access to abortion safe and legal. To make a difference FMLA holds meetings at 9:00 p.m. on Monday in the Women's Resource Center.
Camilla Yamada '03
To the Editors:
In her article in last week's Orient, Katherine Crane makes the outlandish statement that the "life of a fetus . . . is the only life Bush cares about." This statement is not only polarizing, but it is offensive and untrue.
As "evidence" that Bush does not care about human life, Crane cites his war in Iraq, ignoring that this war is more likely to, in the long, save Iraqi lives. After all, an American supported regime in Iraq is unlikely to kill 6,000 Kurds with mustard gas, unlike a certain dictator currently in power. Beyond that, Ms. Crane claims that Bush doesn't care about the education of the poor kids who are most likely to be aborted, but, once again, that is untrue. Bush supports voucher schools, and kids who are in this program, particularly in Milwaukee, did considerably better on standardized tests.
Whether or not you support voucher schools, you must admit that they are at least a plan to deal with the educational problem in America. To accuse Bush of not caring about human life is to accuse him of being evil. We may disagree with our president's policies, but he is not an evil man.
Neal Urwitz '06
To the Editors:
God forbid if the chapel towers fell over. That would certainly make communication with the almighty a bit tougher come Sunday. Fear not, the College is on a 12-step program to fixing this problem. They just haven't been able to admit their fault-Step 1. Let them fall over-cheap, funny, colorful, a real draw. It's a Greek, Parthenon thing we could get going.
Let's focus on the "cheap." The College's endowment is over $400 million, but still the overseers of this little pot had the audacity to announce the layoffs of 25 people this past week. It is a tragedy that such a "liberal" institution would place a great value on fixing some archaic, unused sanctuary, while ignoring its own. But, don't think that those two shrouded towers are the only excesses putting people out of work. Why, as you read this, you're probably standing next to something that Bowdoin doesn't need.
The costliest problem at Bowdoin and the easiest to remedy is athletics. That means the Department of Athletics, not your treadmill. To think that Bowdoin funds teams to take their away games to the Bahamas and California while the college is suffering economically is sickening. Hey, Barry, you're looking to cut the fat? Pssst, over here.
I am the foremost supporter of college athletics, but not when the fun of some kids is at the expense of working adults. It is un-American to put games ahead of work and a person's paycheck. The administration should take a closer look at athletics and the few dollars that it draws in each year before it makes any permanent decisions.
The most commonly sighted problem at Bowdoin concerns frivolous expenditures, and one in particular is the following: the "things" hanging in Thorne Dining Hall. Rumor is, and by their sheer grotesqueness I assume this to be true, that these "lights" cost a cool ten grand apiece. A friend of mine asked me to mention the new recycling bins in the Union. I haven't actually seen them, but I did see the old ones and determined their ability to hold paper "excellent." And stop installing new sod, the grass is sending you a message.
Apparently the College is expanding. And the best way to expand? Add on to Sills. Well, nobody likes Sills, and nobody will like anything near Sills. There are over 120 buildings on this campus, and one more is just a joke.
Finally, I ask a logistical question. If you have $400 million, what is $1 million here or there? That .25 percent (yes, point) is what Bowdoin is trying to save this year. It is shameful that Bowdoin could be so greedy, especially with the job market that those departing from us will face. Now I know that it wouldn't be totally prudent to save these jobs, but it would be fair and right.
Bowdoin's problems can't be solved by laying off 25 people. Its problems can be solved when the administration finally takes a personal look at what is important and what is fair. When they take a step outside of their little bubbles, and put themselves in the 2003 job market. If the only way to expand is to lay off workers, then simply don't expand. Don't advantage yourselves by disadvantaging others. That's not what Bowdoin teaches.
I don't think I will ever have $400 million. However, I can be sure that I wouldn't want $400 million if it makes my decisions this cruel.
Jim McDonald '05