In a letter to the Bowdoin community on Thursday, President Barry Mills recommended an increase in the number of enrolled students at the College, a salary freeze for most employees, and a myriad of other steps in order to confront expected budgetary shortfalls.
The recommendations included in Mills' six-page letter were formed after three meetings of the Blue Tarp Committee, a working group Mills established in December in order to find ways the College could reduce its operating expenses.
Mills noted that while they are not final, the recommendations will only be "refined" in the weeks leading up to the Trustees Meeting in early February.
One of the recommendations is to increase enrollment over a five-year span, adding an average of 10 additional students each year. This increase would provide the College with "a reliable source of additional revenue," according to Mills' letter, as "tuition and fees represent the single largest source of income to the College." Mills added that the need-blind admissions policy at the College would not be altered despite the increase in enrollment.
With salaries and benefits of Bowdoin faculty accounting for "more than 60 percent of our total operating costs," Mills wrote that faculty salaries "will be fixed at current levels for the next two years." After the two years are up, Mills said that he is committed "to allocating budget resources to gradually restore any ground that may have been lost in the competitiveness of our faculty salaries during the suspension period."
Associate Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies John Lichter said he thought the two-year salary freeze was reasonable, given the current economic climate.
"I don't have access to the data [that the finance committee has], but this seems like a prudent move," Lichter said.
Lichter did add, however, that salary increases for junior faculty at the College were important in planning for the future.
"Junior faculty at Bowdoin are relatively well paid...but do need the increases for retirement," Lichter said.
Mills also recommended a similar freeze for non-faculty staff earning more than $40,000 a year. However, for those earning less than $40,000 a year, the report stated that "the [operating] budget assumes a 2% increase for the next two years that will be paid either as a salary increase or as a one-time payment in each of the next two years."
In the letter, Mills underscored that salary freezes may help avert future layoffs.
"To the extent this salary freeze allows us to avoid layoffs, it is far preferable to keep people employed and maintain our sense of community and commitment to our dedicated employees," Mills wrote. He did add, however, that he could not "guarantee that layoffs will not happen, especially if our economic circumstances deteriorate."
In addition to salary freezes and an increase in the number of enrolled students at Bowdoin, Mills also mentioned that "the costs for items such as supplies, services, meals, equipment, and travel need to be reduced or held level," while "discretionary travel" for faculty must also be monitored closely.
In the letter, Mills also called for upkeep in the school's physical plant and to "keep up with necessary repairs, replacements, and deferred maintenance projects," since it would be "irresponsible to allow our buildings to deteriorate and to pass along deferred maintenance to future generations."
Next week, the College will hold a number of meetings for faculty, students, and staff to discuss the entire set of recommendations. Scott MacEachern, professor of anthropology and a member of the Blue Tarp Committee, said he thinks the meetings will serve as an important gauge for the set of proposals.
"The [recommendations] felt like the right thing to do and they seem fairly reasonable," MacEachern said. "But it's going to be important to get feedback from the campus, to see what the reaction is."
Mills underscored Bowdoin's responsibility to its employees during the downturn in a phone interview on Wednesday, before the memo was released.
"I am very sensitive to the concept of layoffs, and I am doing everything I can to avoid them," he said.
The recommendations of Mills and the Blue Tarp Committee come more than a month after the College reported a 17 percent decline in the endowment of College, down from $831.5 million on June 30, 2009.
The full report of the committee can be found on the Bowdoin Web site.
Nick Daniels contributed to this report.