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Fall Conversation: a recap

November 1, 2011

Priorities for the future, efforts to sustain the college’s TRIO programs, and the new grounds management arrangement were some of the main discussion points during President Scott Bierman’s annual fall conversation Tuesday in Moore Lounge.

The audience seemed to be most interested in the future of grounds maintenance and food services, as about 15 to 20 students arrived carrying protest signs and most of the audience questions addressed these topics.

Bierman announced last week that the college will be contracting with a Clinton-based landscaping firm to manage grounds, but he assured the campus community that no college employees were eliminated or their pay and benefits affected.

The president made this decision, he said, after close review of many alternatives and consultation with senior staff. Following the retirement of the college’s grounds manager last year this option was seen as a way to bring a wealth of expertise and equipment to the grounds operation at no added cost to the college.

Asked about the aims of the Food Task Force (a group of staff and students currently surveying the campus community about the college’s food options, facilities, and needs), Bierman assured attendees that the group’s work was underway and their recommendations unwritten at this point.  

“This is about improving the quality of food service for students – not saving money,” Bierman said. “The agenda is to figure out what the college community aspires to have in food service and what’s the best pathway to make that happen.”

The president also discussed the threats to the college’s TRIO programs, which are imperiled by potential federal budget cuts. He said he and Provost Ann Davies have already begun discussions about how the college would attempt to deal with any impact to these important programs. The college could assemble a grant-writing team to seek additional funding or organize an on-campus group to figure out how to move forward, he said. Funding for the McNair program is, however, in place for this summer.

In other news, Bierman said he recently identified to the board of trustees his top three priorities for the future as people, programming, and place.

He said the administration is already preparing a budget for the next fiscal year that should allow for a 3 percent overall compensation increase for employees. Bierman also discussed plans to increase the deferred maintenance budget by 10 percent.

Finally, he confirmed that the college has been considering ways to address the need for a new student center. Bierman said so far only preliminary conversations have taken place.