anon2 (a writer who ought to join us as an author) writes:

marypoppins The tough calls at GM are not that something needs to change but in figuring out exactly what needs to be changed. The same goes at Williams: adjustments (potentially even big adjustments) are needed but getting the details right is key. Making broad, blanket statements might sound macho (e.g., freeze salaries for three years; no hiring, no matter what the circumstances) but that doesn’t make them prudent. If nothing else, a spoonful of sugar might help the medicine go down.

You mistake me for Mary Poppins.

1) I agree that someone in authority at Williams (Morty, Bill Lenhart, etc) needs to use sugar. Indeed, one of the reasons that I am so disappointed in Morty is because he is leaving Williams at precisely the moment that his decade of political capital ought to be spent. It will be much harder for his successor to make X cuts than it would be for him to do so. But (fortunately!) I am not in charge.

2) My role, in this context, is to educate people about the details of what is bradburd_webgoing on (and your various contributions are much appreciated in this regard) and to create some intellectual space for those seeking deep cuts. Note the formation of the “Ad Hoc Advisory Committee on Budget Priorities.” [Love the Newspeak! More accurate name would be “Committee for Major Budget Cuts.”] As always, the key to knowing what a college committee will do is to look at who is on it. Think Professor Ralph Bradburd (a great guy and my teacher for microeconomics) is on the committee for sugar purposes? Think again. One reason that I enjoy staking out these “macho” positions is that, by putting this stake in the ground of public discussion, it will make it easier for the squeamish to live with the cuts to come.

3) Do I know “exactly what needs to be changed?” No. And I agree that figuring this out is hard work. The key point that I am making and that no one has yet disputed is that tens of millions of dollars in cuts are necessary. It is not a question of cutting X or cutting Y. We need to cut it all if we are to have any hope of avoiding lay-offs and not reducing financial aid. (I realize that plenty of staff/faculty members would be happy to dramatically reduce financial aid, but that is a discussion for a different thread.)

4) Collette Chilton gave an interesting talk in Boston last month. She mentioned that the College’s endowment was at $1.4 billion. She pointed out that, although there was a major drop from its peak of $1.9 billion, people should not panic. After all, the College’s endowment was at $1.4 billion in 2005 and in 1999.

This is true but horribly misleading. The difference between now and then is that the College spends much more out of the endowment now then it did in 2005, much less 1999. If you think that endowment spending then was prudent (I think it was excessive), then you are compelled to reduce current spending to that same level. Otherwise, you are merely stealing from the future to pay for the present.

We need to cut the budget by tens of millions of dollars. Without touching head count or financial aid, that means cutting almost everything else you can come up with.

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