Faculty Votes to Preserve Salaries and Financial Aid

The Phillips Academy faculty viewed a presentation on the results of the “Ranking of Priorities” handout at Tuesday night’s faculty meeting organized by the Faculty Working Group on Facilities and Budget. Responses to the “Priorities” survey revealed that administrators and instructors feel most strongly about protecting faculty and staff salaries, assuring the Academy’s $8.6 million commitment to financial aid, and preserving the current academic program, from future cutbacks. The Working Group designed the survey to canvass opinion about where to decrease spending. Such a move – prompted by the $140 million decline in the market value of the school’s endowment since early 2000 – is necessary as Chief Financial Officer Neil Cullen announced that the school would cut three percent of next year’s $70 million operating budget. Acting Assistant Head of School and Working Group Chair Jane Fried commented, “[The results] indicate that what is most important to the faculty at Andover are the people, and that the faculty, staff and the students are the most important assets to the school. What do these results mean for the future? I would hope that in talking with faculty and as well as with Trustees, [about] compensation in general and financial aid, we [will] all recognize that those are very important parts of the budget and that we hope to maintain them at a very strong position.” Until the Board of Trustees arrives on campus for its annual January session, however, it appears unlikely that any specific areas of the Academy community will undergo significant adjustments in funding. Although the Board has the final word on the school’s financial matters, the Trustees plan to devote a portion of their three-day stay in Andover to listening to the opinions of the community before discussing potential budget changes. In the meantime, the Deans’ Council will prepare fiscal recommendations to the Trustees based on the faculty’s ideas. Looking ahead to the Trustees’ weekend events, Mrs. Fried noted, “We’ve developed into the regular Trustee meetings a dinner for Trustees and faculty about budget issues and about how to make some good decisions to maintain the strength of the school. … The Faculty Working Group, as part of that dinner, will be talking directly with the Trustees. … And also meeting separately with the Deans’ Council and advising it on faculty perspectives as we go through this exceptional time.” Instructor in Philosophy and Religious Studies Tom Hodgson, a fellow member of the Working Group, weighed in on the significance of possible cuts, “We did not quantify [the results]. We want to protect some things from major cuts, and those two major things we want to protect account for a large operating cost of the school. It’s not that no cuts will be made in those areas, but maybe the ones that will be made there are relatively minor.” While speaking about the possibility of cuts, Mr. Hodgson also mentioned the prospect of an online chat room in which faculty would be able to converse about more ideas on how to keep the draw from the endowment funds at no more than 5.5 percent per 13 fiscal quarters. Still, the spending reductions to the academic program have already forced West Quad South Cluster Dean Peter Washburn to cancel last Wednesday’s cluster munch in an effort to meet the new budget – an adjustment that has elicited immediate reactions from across the cluster. Mr. Washburn, who announced in a voice message left to WQS students that he would have to call off two munches before the end of the year, stated, “We are having to go through some across-the-board school budget cuts – about three percent – and that affects all of us, including cluster deans.” The Working Group will transfer its tasks to the Strategic Planning Group in the spring.