Kim avoids specifics of budget slashes, layoffs
By Emma Fidel, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Tuesday, January 19, 2010
College President Jim Yong Kim used the second open budget forum on Friday to defend the College’s financial tactics, targeting rumors about the renovation of his on-campus house while acknowledging the members of the Service Employees International Union, who picketed future budget cuts outside the forum.
Although the College will soon make major spending cuts and will likely institute layoffs as part of a projected $100-million budget reduction, Kim chose to concentrate instead on the administration’s efforts to find and create new sources of revenue for the College during the forum.
Kim said that despite impending layoffs, he hoped that Dartmouth employees could eventually be rehired. This round of potential layoffs follow last February’s announcement that 60 employees would be laid off.
Kim empathized with the protestors outside, acknowledging the importance of their right to protest, but did not offer specifics on whether they would be included in upcoming discussions regarding layoffs. The SEIU has been actively opposed to potential layoffs, particularly arguing that they will not have a big enough voice in the decisions.
Speaking in generalities, Kim began his presentation by repeatedly characterizing the task of reducing the deficit as “a difficult process.”
“There’s a lot of decisions about actual numbers that we just haven’t made yet,” Kim said. “We think that we can both reduce the cost of operating Dartmouth while at the same time improving what we do.”
Kim, in an attempt to explain the reasons for the College’s deficit, said that the disparity between the $100,000 the College spends annually per student and the roughly $50,000 in tuition and fees each student pays contributes to the budget deficit.
“We subvention everybody, we give support to everybody,” Kim said. “Even the ones who are paying ‘full price’ are only paying half price. It’s a very difficult business model to sustain.”
Although Kim said in a press conference after the forum that his administration has made no decisions regarding financial aid, he pledged that the College will “never break away” from need-blind admissions, and that no one currently attending the College will be forced to leave because of changes to the financial aid policy.
Kim said he does not think the budget reduction process will affect students from low-income households, but did not provide any further data regarding financial aid. The current financial aid program, which provides no-loan aid for families with incomes under $75,000, was instituted in 2008.
Kim, who has repeatedly pledged to share budget information with the community as soon as new information is available, did not announce targets for key budget reductions or staff and faculty layoffs. College officials plan to submit the year’s revised budget to the Board of Trustees at their meeting on Feb. 5 and 6. Kim did present a new, potentially cost-saving plan for the renovation of Thayer Dining Hall. Reinforcing his former point that the administration is attempting to simultaneously improve the College while navigating a budget crisis, he announced that instead of building an entirely new dining facility, the Class of 1953’s $12 million gift to the College would be used to transform Thayer.
“We’re going to have to take out a loan to finish all the changes we’re going to make, but with the savings we’re going to get from the improvements, [the renovated building] will pay for itself,” Kim said.
Kim emphasized that the renovation will not only add more seats for dining and provide the campus with two large, gender-neutral social spaces — spaces Kim said students “have needed for a very long time” — it will also make Thayer more environmentally sustainable and energy-efficient.
Originally, the College had planned to both renovate Thayer and construct a new, $16.9 million dining facility on the north side of campus near the McLaughlin residential cluster. Kim stressed that the Commons will function as a social space after dining hours.
The new northern facility was originally intended to provide indoor seating for 250 people and additional outdoor seating, and would have served 500 meals per hour, according to the College’s web site.
Kim repeatedly mentioned that the creation of an institute for health care delivery science could bring new revenue to the College. He stressed that the creation of such an institute would not detract from the College’s existing initiatives and focus on undergraduate education.
“I’m not talking about taking precious Dartmouth College Fund dollars and putting them into this, because we don’t need to,” Kim said. “We have to be optimistic, find those new sources of revenue and bring in more money to the College.”
Kim did not offer a possible timeline for the creation of such an institute.
Kim mounted a strong defense when discussing the construction of the President’s House — a privately-funded construction project that has prompted multiple rumors. Kim repeated the information he presented at the first budget forum, explaining that earmarked funds may only be used for the purposes specified by the donor.
With more than a nod at irony, Kim assured the audience that he would not use the donated funds to build a private swimming pool in his new home, or to put a putting green in the backyard.