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On Daycare and Budgeting

Prof. Peter Just responds to this post:

I served on the Committee on Priorities and Resources (CPR) when the question of building our own daycare center came up and the project was pushed forward by the CPR and then endorsed by the faculty. Likewise the question of College aid to the local schools.

The question was indeed raised at the time as to whether these were appropriate expenditures of College resources. The rationale for going ahead was that helping to provide good quality daycare and schooling for our children was an important means of attracting and retaining quality faculty. As has been pointed out, the alternative choices in such matters that are available in cities or more densely populated regions like the Pioneer Valley are simply not there in the Berkshires and that was felt to be an important consideration for hiring and retention.

I thought these expenditures were a good idea and supported them, but I confess I was a bit skeptical as to whether they really accomplished the goal of “attracting and retaining quality personnel.” So I undertook a very informal and unscientific poll of new faculty, asking them if the new daycare center, etc., had made a difference in choosing to come to Williams. To my surprise, the answer was “yes” in quite a number of instances (and no, David, I can’t tell you how many). So if you think its important for the College to attract and retain quality faculty and staff, then I would say spending money on daycare and the schools makes a positive contribution. I think a majority of faculty think it’s an important and appropriate thing for the College to spend money on, including faculty like myself who don’t have school-age children. Not everyone sees the world entirely in terms of narrow self-interest.

Finally, I’d say that it’s easy to pick some budget item you don’t like and offer that up as the outrageous or ridiculous expenditure that’s keeping us from having something we want (no-loan financial aid, faculty raises, etc.) For myself, I find it difficult to get outraged that we’re no longer going to offer loan-free aid to families making three times what I make after twenty years at Williams. I find it difficult to see us reducing the faculty while still offering thirty-two varsity sports. But I’m also aware that it’s a bad business to pick on this or that budget item and say “let’s get rid of it” because I don’t like it. While I disagree with some of the decisions the administration has made in forging its budgets (and no, David, I’m not going to tell you which ones) I do believe they are trying to approach the problem comprehensively, viewing the budget as a whole and trying to see how the various pieces impact each other and the way the institution does its job. So while I can think of a number of things I’d happily see cut instead of my salary (which is, by the way, what a freeze amounts to) and someone else might think of other things they’d like to cut so as to preserve loan-free aid, it’s always a matter of setting up an either/or dichotomy that ignores all kinds of other options. I’m reasonably content to let the administration make these very hard decisions.

And Prof. Derek Catsam asks why a dichotomy is presumed between salaries and daycare:

I STILL have no idea why this is an either/or situation (oh, that’s right, it isn’t) and I will continue to make the following argument until someone here adequately addresses it:

Williams is going to have an endowment in the hundreds of millions of dollars no matter what it does, and so where everyone sees urgency, I see opportunity. But more to the point, a college is what it is because of two things: faculty and students. And the professoriate is directly responsible for the two interconnected things that make any educational institution, and especially one like Williams, what it is: A place of learning and the creation of knowledge. Dave Kane’s anti-faculty agenda (yeah, yeah, he once supported a teaching award — the blind pig finds the occasional truffle too) would directly impact that which makes Williams Williams.

Raises and childcare. And support for local schools. That is the right answer. And after doing those things Williams will still have an endowment in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

dcat

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Currently browsing posts filed under "Peter Just"

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