March 6, 2009

Over lunch, Alper fields student questions

Chairman-elect of the Board of Trustees Andrew Alper spoke to students, alumni, and administrators about the changing direction of the University at the Alumni House Wednesday. Participants spent much of the luncheon speaking with Alper about how the economic crisis will impact the Board’s vision for the University.

Alper began the luncheon by clarifying the role of the Board, which he said has the dual task of being a “sounding board for the administration as they think through day to day management [while also] strategically thinking 20, 30, 40 years ahead.”

Alper acknowledged that the economic downturn was “the worst” he’s ever seen during his decades long relationship with the University, noting that it would probably result in trustees “putting off decisions” that would be handled when the University was in safer financial waters. He also stressed that the trustees’ focus lay primarily on the overall budget, so he couldn’t make any statements on the specific cuts within the University.

In light of the Board’s focus on initiatives with “long horizons,” Alper positioned the care and development of University buildings as one of its primary concerns. In response, fourth-year Matt Healy asked whether environmental sustainability in University properties was a consideration. Alper replied in the affirmative, citing the trustees’ changing attitude toward the operating cost of a building as opposed to its capital cost. “We’re now willing to pay more if it costs less to operate,” he said.

Participants at the luncheon seemed satisfied with what they learned from the dialogue. “It gave all of us an opportunity to learn about how [the trustees] shape the University,” dual-degree student in the Booth and Harris schools Sandya Swamy said.

Alper also drove home the power students have to shape the University, and particularly its image. “You all are the best salesmen for the University,” he said.