In late October, President Robert Zimmer e-mailed students, faculty, and staff to briefly outline the effect of the economic crisis on the University. The letter was notable for its broad platitudes and its lack of specifics. Such rhetoric was perhaps understandable, given the circumstances. The situation dictated a quick response to reassure the U of C community; at the same time, Zimmer couldn’t have been expected to offer details of something his administration was still trying to figure out.
Now, after four months and two more murky letters from administrators, the University’s discretion is starting to look more like coddling. Last month, Provost Thomas Rosenbaum sent an e-mail that did little more than reiterate Zimmer’s earlier bromides. “All our decisions must serve to enhance our academic excellence over the long term,” he wrote. And most recently, Vice President for Campus Life Kimberly Goff-Crews assured students in a letter last Thursday that her “aim is to keep you fully informed.”
If that promise sounds familiar, it’s because it is. In his first letter, Zimmer promised students that “as soon as we have accurate, concrete information to share, I will send you updates about key decisions.” We’re still waiting.
Students should not expect to receive up-to-the-minute updates on budget cuts and spending proposals, but the University has an obligation to keep us informed. Goff-Crews has scheduled an open forum on budget cuts for a week from today, but without knowing what options the administration is seriously considering, it is unlikely students will be able to give meaningful feedback. The University should respect the intelligence of students, who understand that difficult decisions will have to be made; by presenting reduction plans in a comprehensive way, administrators would give students the opportunity to prioritize concerns and voice objections in a way that is actually inclusive.
For example, Goff-Crews said that the College is continuing to work to increase funding for financial aid and health insurance. Both of these are important, but what programs will have to be shrunk so these can be expanded? Zimmer has mentioned the possibility of decreasing the number of admitted graduate students in order to meet rising financial aid costs. Will the College take a similar approach?
Goff-Crews’s letter raises more questions than it answers, as did Zimmer’s in October and Rosenbaum’s in January. At the open forum this week, Goff-Crews should be prepared to address concerns with the candor that students deserve.
The Maroon Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief, Viewpoints Editors, and an additional Editorial Board member.