220th Session Committee Summaries

The 220th session of the Dartmouth Alumni Council was held virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions, the first virtual meeting of the Council in its 107-year existence. Alumni Council President C. Alec Casey ’88 opened the meeting with a greeting, and Vice President for Alumni Relations Cheryl Bascomb gave brief welcoming remarks. First on the agenda was a report from the task forces on representation, chaired by Casey, and committees, chaired by Council president-elect Rachel Bogardus Drew ‘98. Casey led off with a review of the Alumni Council mission: to sustain a fully informed, representative, and engaged exchange of information and sentiment between alumni and their College, and to enhance and inspire alumni involvement that furthers the mission of the College. He provided context for the discussion. In 2019-2020, the Alumni Council Executive Committee, in consultation with Alumni Relations, formed two task forces to examine the current representation and committee structure of the Council. The task forces sought to answer two key question sets: Is the current make-up of the Alumni Council optimal? Are there changes we should consider to make alumni representation more effective while maintaining our current size? Are the current committees maximizing Alumni Councilor engagement while providing benefit to Dartmouth? Should we consider updating the committees and their missions? Both task forces participated in an informative and deliberative process that included historical review, surveying of councilors, interviews with key stakeholders, and establishment of criteria. Casey explained the task forces were composed of council volunteers and thanked them for their service. He introduced the recommendations of the representation task force. Additions to the Council would include two new international representatives, for a total of three. Dartmouth’s alumni body is increasingly more global. It is hoped representatives will be drawn from three key regions (EMEA, Americas, Asia Pacific). Two representatives will be added for Women of Dartmouth (WOD), a robust alumni organization with 12 regional organizations. The mission is aligned with Council and Alumni Relations, and WOD will provide a source of sentiment not previously represented on the Council. The older classes would see their representation increase; classes 56-60 years out would each have their own representatives as alumni are living longer, and those classes are very active. There will be one representative for the post-60th reunion classes. The task force recommended that representation be reduced in the following categories: that class officer associations be reduced from five to one, as they serve alumni/class officers who are already engaged and informed; and that club officers association/Communities Executive Council be reduced from three to one, because they serve alumni communities who are already engaged. Both sets of officers have the opportunity for direct connection with Dartmouth via Vox weekend. Regional representatives would be reduced by four, as they include regions with high levels of connectivity, and this shift in structure would allow regional representatives to focus on regions where they can positively impact engagement. Association of Alumni (AOA) representatives would be reduced from three to one, as AOA representatives serve all alumni, which is duplicative with other representation, and the College’s steady governance state means the connectivity with the AOA remains important but can be covered by the AOA president. General recommendations of the committees task force included moving the selection of the vice chair to the fall of the second year on Council, which would allow new councilors time to become familiar with the Council and committees, while retaining the benefit of transition and apprenticeship with the current chairs. The task force also recommended that new councilors receive more detail on mission, activities and responsibilities before committee selection, and that committee materials are updated annually. The committees task force recommended that three standing committees be dissolved. The first is Athletics, as the function is duplicative with staff efforts and the Athletics Advisory Board. Regular updates on athletic programs and initiatives will be provided to the full Council. As the Communications Committee’s purpose has transitioned with adoption of the new Council communications paradigm, it was recommended the Communications Committee be dissolved, with the Alumni Liaison Committee absorbing any remaining communications needs. The mission of the Young Alumni Committee is broad and duplicative of existing outreach efforts, and its status as a secondary committee has hindered participation, so dissolution was recommended as well. The committees task force also recommended change of mission/structure for four committees: Academic Affairs, to shift its mission to supporting opportunities for alumni lifelong learning; Alumni and Student Engagement, to shift its mission to focus on supporting the transition from students to alumni; and Professional Development, to reaffirm its mission of supporting alumni career development, and to increase focus on alumni-to-alumni networking. The Honorary Degrees Committee would convert from a secondary to a primary committee of the Council. During the ensuing discussion, members of the Athletics Committee expressed their disagreement with the recommendation to dissolve their committee. Casey and Drew reiterated that the College highly valued Athletics and the contributions of the committee and its members, and that all councilors would benefit from hearing plenary presentations that they could then share with their constituents. There was a discussion about whether to split the vote between representation and committees. The chairs explained that the two task forces felt strongly the recommendations should be considered holistically as one package. The Council voted to approve the recommendations and proposed amendments to the constitution. The vote passed 73-18. Next on the agenda was a report from the Nominating and Alumni Trustee Search Committee. Council President Casey thanked the alumni councilors who ran for leadership positions. He outlined the purpose of the committee: to identify, recruit, and attract the best alumni to serve on the Board of Trustees, in Alumni Council leadership positions, and in other critical alumni leadership roles. The composition of the Nominating Committee is purposefully representative of the alumni body, composed of the president, the president-elect, the past Nominating Committee chair, one appointed councilor, and six elected councilors. In the late summer and early fall of 2020, the Nominating Committee will consider recommendations for one upcoming alumni-nominated trustee seat. The committee has met several times this year, and its working agenda also includes consideration of Alumni Council leadership roles, the Nominating Committee slate, the Alumni Liaison Committee slate, and the president-elect slate; the Alumni Council at-large appointments; affirmation of class, club, and affiliated group councilor appointments; and affirmation of appointments specified in the Alumni Council constitution. The Council acknowledged the appointments of the undergraduate representatives, graduate program representatives, and affiliated group representatives. Casey called for a vote to approve the Alumni Liaison Committee at-large members and the Alumni Council at-large representatives. Casey then presented the nominated slates for the president-elect, Alumni Liaison Committee, and the Nominating Committee. An electronic voting process enabled councilors to vote virtually, and councilors were reminded to cast their votes, with the election results to be announced later in the plenary. The Council will hold a webinar this summer for councilors to educate them about the NomCom process, and the Council will vote on whether to put forth one or two candidates for the trustee vacancy. There is a process by which alumni may petition to become a candidate. Casey encouraged councilors to recommend outstanding alumni to be considered for alumni-nominated trustee. After a break, Casey welcomed former councilors to the meeting and thanked them for their participation. He then introduced President Philip J. Hanlon ’77. President Hanlon greeted the Council and offered examples of what is inspiring him at this time. The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a bright light on Dartmouth’s mission of creating leaders who show empathy, compassion and an understanding of the human condition; appreciate the complexities of society and economics and the links between them; have a respect for and comprehension of science; are fluent in mathematical and statistical reasoning; and recognize the capacity of the arts to elevate the human spirit. Equally important is Dartmouth’s research mission. The nation is looking to leading university research hospitals to help deal with COVID-19. Dartmouth faculty like Dr. David Lieb at Geisel are making breakthroughs on battling the corona virus, and alumni thought leaders such as Susan Dentzer, Dan Lucey, Joanne Conroy and Emily Wroe are contributing as well. Also inspiring to Hanlon is Dartmouth’s efforts to help both the state and Upper Valley. Dartmouth donated truckloads of personal protective equipment to DHMC, and other supplies to the Hanover police department; worked with the state to designate West Gym as an alternate DHMC surge care facility; made housing available for first responders and health care professionals; and provided rent relief for April and May to a dozen Hanover businesses, among other acts. Finally, the Dartmouth faculty sprang into action to launch virtual learning this term. 94% of scheduled spring term classes were offered as planned. 884 courses were transformed in two weeks’ time. Faculty are committed to the education of Dartmouth students, even while facing challenges at home. Students are being patient and flexible, even while they may also face challenges at home and are missing their friends and being on campus. Many groups such as the Hop, the Hood, the Rockefeller Center and the DOC have put together robust programming for the community and alumni to enjoy. The greatest antidote for uncertainty and turmoil is a resilient, creative and determined community. Dartmouth, like all of its peers across higher education, will face immediate and long-term consequences for four key reasons. There has been a significant loss of revenue, most notably $15M from room and board for spring term, while keeping Residential Life and Dining staff on board. There has been an enormous spike in students’ financial need. Early estimates suggest that our financial aid expenditures will exceed budget by a minimum of $8M in the upcoming fiscal year. The College anticipates a decrease in philanthropic revenue, especially contributions to the annual fund, due to economic uncertainty. Institutional investments have seen significant declines. Dartmouth is projecting an $80M loss on the fourth quarter of this fiscal year, and additional losses in the $40-50M range for the next fiscal year. Dartmouth had taken steps to prepare for an economic downturn. In early April, the College announced a series of actions including a salary freeze, a hiring freeze, and leadership reductions in salary. There will be a second round of actions in late June or early July. Hanlon is confident Dartmouth will overcome these financial challenges in a way that reflects the values of the community. At the end of March, Dartmouth offered admission to 1,881 applicants to the Class of 2024. While financial aid was already our number one priority in our Call to Lead campaign, its importance and urgency has skyrocketed. Hanlon has committed to giving back 20% of his salary to support financial aid. Hanlon has announced the formation of a special Presidential Commission, led by Leslie and Bob Dahl and Julie and Dave McKenna, to mobilize the community around financial aid. In the past, students whose families earned $100,000 or less received a financial aid award that meets or exceeds the cost of tuition. In response to the current crisis, the aim is to increase that threshold to $125,000. President Hanlon noted that the Alumni Council was born in the wake of the Dartmouth Hall fire, persisted through two world wars, the Spanish flu and the great Depression, and has been there for Dartmouth in its most challenging moments. He issued a twofold call of action to the Council: to help the Presidential Commission carry the word about financial aid to the entire Dartmouth family, that Dartmouth’s education should be attainable for all students regardless of their financial circumstances; and to lift up the Class of 2020, who have missed their senior spring and are entering an uncertain world. Let the ‘20s know that the Dartmouth fellowship is there for them. He thanked the Council for their support. Alumni Council president-elect Rachel Bogardus Drew ‘98 opened the second plenary session. She introduced a campus leaders briefing on Dartmouth’s response to COVID-19. Elizabeth Smith, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, spoke about the rapid transition faculty and staff needed to make to make classes virtual. Every year an enormous number of students work closely with faculty on projects ranging from honors theses to lab experiments, and now the concepts students would have acquitted in person must be learned virtually. The challenge presented by COVID-19 will reaffirm the value of a liberal arts college. Dartmouth’s pillars, such as scholars who love to teach and a sense of place, will be strengthened. Dean Smith expressed her gratitude for her Dartmouth colleagues. Dean of the College Kathryn Lively described the students’ response to the challenge of being off campus. Dance productions and arts performances have moved online. Students are missing their friends and some are facing financial difficulties. They might be missing senior spring, sophomore summer or internships. Dartmouth provided a great deal of support in the transition to virtual learning. Student governance is ongoing, and the Student Assembly election had the second highest turnout ever. Emotional support is being offered through the house communities, telehealth, and the undergraduate deans who carry a full caseload. The Center for Professional Development is offering job services, especially important with the specter of job or internship loss. Dean Lively reiterated how proud she was of how student life was continuing on. One example is the success of a recent Trivia Night on Zoom. In Hindsight is a newly created program that is encouraging students to examine their Dartmouth experience together. Alexis Abramson, Dean of the Thayer School of Engineering, described how the Thayer curriculum is immersed in an experiential, hands-on experience. Coursework is tied to real applications. She gave several examples of how Thayer’s faculty and staff worked to integrate this hands-on approach into virtual learning. Labs sent lab kits with materials to students for use at home. For some classes that provided design credit, the school shipped 3-D printers to the students. Funds were made available for students to purchase materials themselves. The machine shop produced ventilators. Alumni generously provided support and expertise. Lee Coffin, Vice Provost for Enrollment & Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, divided his remarks into three aspects: hope, worry and creativity. The pandemic shut down the College 10 days before admissions decisions were released for the Class of 2024. As the Dimensions revisit program could not be held on campus, virtual events were held every day. Alumni hosted 56 virtual admitted student events. The class was filled on schedule. For the fourth year in a row Dartmouth did not go to the waitlist. Dartmouth’s story is being told with clarity and confidence. More students will need scholarships. There are questions surrounding international students and travel, and whether recruited athletes will play sports in the fall. A significant number of students are considering a gap year. The urgency to increase scholarship funds will continue. As the Admissions Office prepares to recruit the Class of 2025, they will do so without prospective students being able to visit campus. It is unlikely that admissions officers will be able to travel. This will be the 100th year that Dartmouth will use holistic review in the application process. Grades and testing requirements may shift. Next on the agenda was a conversation with five members of the Board of Trustees: Laurel Richie ’81, the chair of the Board and member of the Governance/Nominating Committee; Emily Bakemeier ’82, the vice chair of the Board and chair of the Academic Affairs Committee and member of the Governance/Nominating Committee; Dave Hodgson ’78, the chair of the Advancement Committee and member of the Investment Committee; Caroline Kerr, chair of the Student Affairs Committee and member of the Advancement Committee; and Rick Kimball ’78, chair of the Investment Committee and member of the Finance Committee. Chair Richie described how this is an unprecedented time for all. The Board is doing its best to navigate and lead. The health of students, faculty, staff and the Upper Valley community are of the utmost priority. The community is adapting to new realities. Dartmouth must stay true to its pledge of financial aid, and the need for it is growing daily. Provost Joe Helble is hosting a weekly community conversation, and all are welcome to participate. The Board will meet June 12, and this will be a key time for decision making on future plans. Board vice chair and former Council president Bakemeier described how the Academic Affairs Committee is working with the deans to keep the academic mission front and center. Dartmouth is fortunate have a strong leadership team. They are continuing to recruit and retain outstanding faculty. Chair of the Student Affairs Committee (and former councilor) Caroline Kerr explained the committee is thinking about how students live, learn and lead. The committee has supported important initiatives such as Moving Dartmouth Forward, the Campus Climate and Culture Initiative, and the creation of the house communities. The Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies was launched in partnership with Dean Jon Kull, Dartmouth’s first new school in 100 years. Student Affairs is grappling with the residential experience, support for first generation students, and the distribution of health services. Alumni can help with financial aid support, while embracing students by celebrating those who are graduating and those who remain at home. Kerr urged councilors to consider how they can mentor and model for students. Rick Kimball, chair of the Investment Committee, talked about how Dartmouth’s endowment is designed to be invested and intergenerational. The typical draw is 5 percent and makes up about 25 percent of the operating budget. When the value of the endowment increases or decreases, there is a new calculation, or smoothing formula, used. This spring Dartmouth incurred the loss of room and board revenue and pledged to increase financial aid $8-10M over the next few years. There is the potential for decreased gift revenue. Alumni and parents want to help. Support for financial aid is needed. President Hanlon is a fiscal hawk, and the Call to Lead campaign has accomplished a great deal thus far. Dave Hodgson, chair of the Advancement Committee, spoke about the strong partnership the committee has with Alumni Relations and Development. Institutions with an endowment like Dartmouth will survive this crisis. Alumni who care about the institution are a critical asset, and now is the moment for councilors to bring that critical asset to bear. The graduating class will be very challenged finding a job, and alumni can help. Alumni can also support the Dartmouth College Fund, which provides financial aid. The open forum commenced. Drew announced the Alumni Council leadership election results. Laurie Lewis Shapiro ’95 was elected president-elect of the Alumni Council. Jhilam Biswas ’05 and John Harpole ’87 Tu’95 were elected to the Nominating and Alumni Trustee Search Committee, and Hadley Mullin ’96 and Nestor Paz-Galindo ’93 were appointed to the same committee. Belinda Chiu ‘98 was elected to the Alumni Liaison Committee (ALC), and Latia Curry ’98 and John Mathias ‘69 were appointed to the ALC from the alumni body. An open discussion period for councilors followed, along with an open microphone for alumni. The meeting was adjourned. Meetings of the Academic Affairs, Alumni and Student Engagement, Alumni Liaison, Alumni Service, Athletics, Enrollment and Admissions, Honorary Degrees, Nominating and Alumni Trustee Search, and Professional Development committees met virtually.