Brendan W. Clark ’21
President of the College Joanne Berger-Sweeney announced that Trinity had not determined a budget for F.Y. 2021 in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In her annual letter following the Board of Trustee’s April meeting, where budget and tuition increases are generally announced, Berger-Sweeney indicated that the “variables are still too great to set a budget.”
Berger-Sweeney continued, stating the variability around the fall semester has “significant implications on enrollment, the student experience, support for faculty and staff, cost of operations, facilities and infrastructure, and more.” She added that “as an institution,” Trinity is now in “full planning mode” and considers it “prudent to plan for a variety of circumstances.”
Berger-Sweeney indicated that the College’s Board of Trustees also approved a resolution to “draw on the full amount of a $10 million line of credit that the college has with J.P. Morgan Chase and Co.” The College, as the Tripod previously reported, is projecting a deficit of more than $7 million for F.Y. 2020 and a probable financial deficit for the next fiscal year. The College’s endowment suffered a loss of at least $120 million as of Apr. 1.
Regarding the new debt made available by the credit line, Berger-Sweeney added that we “may not avail ourselves of that additional debt, but it is important to be able to access it should we need to do so.”
The President also indicated that no decisions had been made yet on the status of in-person operations in the fall, though she added that the College will only “resume normal operations only when it is safe to do so.” She added that the College expects to “know more and to make decisions about the fall by mid-June.” Berger-Sweeney also indicated that she expects to receive guidance in late May from the Education Committee of the Reopen Connecticut Advisory Group, a state board announced by Governor of Connecticut Ned Lamont last week.
The Board considered a “number of scenarios for the coming year” and stressed that planning and evaluation are contemplating that the College’s three most significant sources of revenue “likely will be negatively and significantly affected.” These sources include net student revenue, endowment income, and philanthropy.
These issues are “complicated,” she added, and indicated that the College should rely “on our shared governance structures.” Berger-Sweeney also called for “collective good faith, patience, and understanding as all of us grapple with challenges, the likes of which we have never before experienced.”
Berger-Sweeney also noted that, despite the halt in capital projects, the Board of Trustees had agreed on a “strategy for addressing our long-standing heating and cooling infrastructure needs.” This hybrid plan, she indicated, would create two new plants on campus, “one in north campus and one in south campus,” and would be “implemented over several years as [the] budget allows.”
The President’s Commission on Trinity’s Future, announced last Monday by Chair of the Board of Trustees Cornelia Thornburgh ’80, was charged at the meeting with the task of surfacing “creative, bold ideas and to take a blue-sky outlook.” The Commission will report to the Board of Trustees and the President during the spring, summer, and fall.
In addition to the trustees and administrators announced last week, appointed faculty representatives on the select committee include Professors Christopher Hager, Susan Masino, and Garth Myers; staff representatives include Dean of Admissions Adrienne Oddi and Director of Research, Instruction, and Technology Jason Jones; and Student Representatives include Mia Conte ’22 and Giovanni Jones ’21.
Berger-Sweeney stressed that the Commission “is not intended to make operation decisions” and that “many opportunities will exist in the months ahead to include more voices” in critical decisions and strategic planning. The President described the Board as a “small think tank,” as did Thornburgh last week.
Routine business of the Board included appointments, with Ethan Rutherford in the English Department and Per Sebastian Skardal in the Mathematics Department both receiving tenure and promotion to the rank of associate professor. Raymond Baker, Lesley Farlow, Gerald Gunderson, Michael Lestz ’68, P ’13, P ’19, Craig Schneider, Mark Silverman, and Michael Ayalon were awarded emeriti status by the Board. James Hanley ’72 and Peter McMorris ’73, the founders of Cinestudio, were also awarded honorary bachelor’s degrees.
Four trustees also retired and were honored at the meeting, among them Scott C. Butera ’88, Jeffrey E. Kelter ’76, Pamela D. McKoin P ’15, and Shawn T. Wooden ’91.
Berger-Sweeney also reached out to students directly, adding that we “all continue to feel the sense of what you’ve lost this semester.” The President indicated that she was “inspired by you, as we see you rise to the challenge of remote learning” and stressed that students remain “in our hearts and minds every day.”