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‘Beloit Forward’ plan hopes to tackle college’s deficit

In response to its ongoing financial issues, Beloit College has announced the initiation of its “Beloit Forward” plan. Officially revealed on Thursday, Aug. 23, the plan is described as a “collaborative effort” that focuses on “confronting an array of complex challenges that threaten the financial and social underpinnings of the college.” Beloit Forward outlines a “multi-year financial plan” that intends to help Beloit College regain a stable financial status.

President Scott Bierman announced late in the spring 2018 semester that the college would face a $7 million deficit for the 2018-2019 fiscal year, a significant and unexpected increase from the $3.3 million deficit of the 2017-2018 fiscal year.

As a result, Beloit College’s Budget Imperative Committee proposed what would eventually become Beloit Forward in May, and– after the approval of the Budget and Planning Committee of the Board of Trustees– the plan was put into motion this past summer.

“The deficit requires that we initiate a significant number of budget reductions,” Bierman told The Round Table. “There’s no way to do budget cuts that do not have an impact on people at the college.”

Most notably, the plan includes “a significant reduction in personnel– both faculty and staff– and a reduction in salary for continuing faculty and staff starting in 2019-20 for those earning more than $45,000 per year,” according to a joint email from administration to the Beloit College community. Senior staff at the college will also see a reduction above 10 percent.

“It hurts,” Bierman said. “This is a wrenching moment for the community. All these things are very real and will have an impact on our faculty, staff and our colleagues. They’re productive, they’re great citizens, and they work exceptionally hard to make quality of life for students as good as it can be, so it is wrenching to be in a position where some of those people are going to be asked to move away from the college.”

Reduction in the number of faculty positions will be done “primarily through retirements,” according to Bierman, “and those positions not being replaced as frequently as they have been.” Bierman noted that the departures we have seen since the end of the 2017-2018 academic year– such as Provost and Dean of the College Ann Davies and Associate Dean of Students John Winkelmann– were voluntary and not provoked by Beloit Forward. However, the current vacancies in those positions give the college options as it considers the reconstruction of its administrative offices. Overall, at least 30 administrative staff positions will be eliminated.

No academic programs will be cut as a result of Beloit Forward, Bierman said.

In developing Beloit Forward, the college first identified “four critical areas” crucial to Beloit’s success: “understanding and responding to enrollment declines, retention declines, and the campus experience”; “addressing the budget imperatives and ensuring the long-term financial health of the college”; “telling the story of the critically important work happening every day at Beloit College”; and “attracting support from alumni and friends and enlisting their assistance in building the future of Beloit College,” the joint email said.

Based on those four goals, four committees were developed, each meant to specifically research and work towards each goal. The teams consist of Beloit College faculty and staff, each taken from different levels of faculty to ensure diversity among the teams. Members of each committee were selected via “special elections” by other faculty and staff, according to Bierman.

The first committee– the “Budget Imperative Team”– is co-led by Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer Stacie Scott and Professor of Russian Donna Oliver. The team also includes Vice President for Human Resources and Operations Lori Rhead, Director of Athletics and Recreation Tim Schmiechen, Associate Professor of Biology Katie Johnson, Professor of Economics Bob Elder, and Professor of Political Science Beth Dougherty. The Budget Imperative Team’s task is to eliminate the budget deficit “in a realistic and sustainable way, in the shortest time possible… while maintaining a Beloit College that retains its fundamental character and a financial future that sets the stage for demand development initiatives to find purchase,” the email said.

The second team, which focuses on “enrollment, retention, and campus climate,” is led by Professor of Spanish Sylvia Lopez; former Dean of Students Christina Klawitter co-led the team prior to her resignation. Professor of Sociology Charles Westerberg, Professor of Art George Williams, Director of Strategic Research and Assessment Ellie Anderbyrne, Associate Dean for Inclusive Living and Learning Cecil Youngblood, Director of the McNair Scholars Program Atiera Coleman, and Vice President of Enrollment Rob Mirabile round out the committee.

The “Telling Our Story” team features Chief Communications and Integrated Marketing Officer Tim Jones and Professor of English Shawn Gillen as co-leads. Also on the committee are Professor of Anthropology Lisa Anderson-Levy, Professor of Philosophy Matt Tedesco, Assistant Director of Athletics (Development/Alumni Relations) Dave DeGeorge, and writer Jennifer Oskin. The storytelling team’s job is to ensure that “the story of the college is and will continue to be a powerful narrative of the people, the place, and the work committed to the college’s mission with unwavering conviction.”

The “Turnaround Team,” whose aim is to connect with current students and alumni alike, has the largest roster. Vice President of Development and Alumni Relations Amy Wilson and Professor of Physics Britt Scharringhausen serve as co-leads while Professor of Biology Yaffa Grossman, Secretary Dan Schoof, Senior Associate Dean of Students Ryan Bouchard, and Associate Professor of Spanish Amy Tibbitts round out the team. College trustees Steve Mahle, Cecily Majerus, Greg Hopper and Jim Packard are also members.

“It’s very important to know– and I’m absolutely confident this is true– that every one of these committees comes at their work from the perspective of, ‘We must keep the mission of the college directly in our sights in all of the work that we’re doing,’” Bierman said. “So of course as we work through these changes… [we] recognize that they will have an impact. In every instance the effort has been, ‘How do we do this in a way that has the least negative impact on the quality of the student experience,’ and, in [most cases], we hope this provokes us to improve the quality of the student experience.”

The full reports from each of the four Beloit Forward committees are available at www.beloit.edu/forward. Bierman and members of the Beloit Forward teams will host a Q&A for students at 7 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 27, followed by a Q&A for college employees during common hour on Wednesday, Aug. 29.

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