Trustee Meetings, November 30-December 2, 2023

To the Amherst Community:

The Board of Trustees convened for its winter meeting last weekend, November 30-December 2, 2023, and I’m pleased to offer you a summary of the meeting.

Most trustees arrived on Thursday and met with 18 students as part of a pilot for a series of conversations connecting students to alumni through structured conversations. 

On Friday, trustees heard an update on the campus climate related to the conflict in the Middle East and the support, resources, and programming the College has offered and will continue to offer. During that meeting, I discussed with the trustees the College’s policies related to freedom of expression and protest on campus.

Several Trustee Committees met on Friday (or via Zoom prior to the meeting):

  • Advancement Committee (via Zoom on November 20): Co-chairs Bill O’Malley ’84 and Elizabeth Shelburne ’01 reviewed the fundraising process, heard an update on the aforementioned alumni and student engagement program, and reviewed the FY24 goals for Advancement.
  • Audit and Risk Management (via Zoom on October 25): Chair Nick Zerbib ’93 reviewed the annual Financial Statements for FY23, and the committee met in executive session with the college auditors, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
  • Budget and Finance: Simon Krinsky ‘96, reporting for Chair Dave Novak ’91, reviewed the FY24 year-end projections, the termination of the “swap” agreement between the College and Bank of America, and the endowment distribution formula for FY25 and beyond. The committee then met jointly with the Human Resources Committee to review data regarding trends in staffing at the College over the last ten years.
  • Buildings and Grounds: Chairs Dave MacLennan ’81 and Dwight Poler ’87 reviewed the status of the Student Center and Dining Commons project and the Climate Action Plan and discussed the planning process underway that will address deferred maintenance.
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Chair Chantal Kordula ’94 reviewed college-wide partnerships, collaboration, and engagement with alumni of color. The committee also heard an update on the ODEI division.
  • Human Resources: Chair Rejji Hayes ’97 reviewed the updates in dining services, including the interim leadership plan until a new director is hired and the launch of the new, college-wide Foundations of Supervision program.
  • Student Life: Chair Beth Cisneros ’89 introduced a panel of five students who discussed their experience as athletes on campus.

The Board of Trustees convened on Saturday, and trustees voted to approve several routine matters, including the approval of the FY23 audited financial statements and a revision to the use of the Copeland Colloquium Fund.

The Board of Trustees then adjourned. That afternoon, several trustees attended the Commissioning Ceremony of Timothy Swope ’23 as a second lieutenant in the United States Army.

Sincerely,

Michael

Trustee Meetings, September 21-23, 2023

To the Amherst Community:

The Board convened for its fall meeting September 21-23, 2023, and I’m pleased to offer you a summary of the meeting.

Most Trustees arrived on Thursday prior to the meeting and heard an endowment briefing from Chief Investment Officer Letitia Johnson, and met with over 40 student leaders later that evening for informal, small group conversations.

On Friday, the Trustees received an update from the dean of admission and financial aid on the implementation process of the Supreme Court’s decision on race in admissions and an overview of the athletics admission process.

Several Trustee committees met on Friday (or via Zoom prior to the meeting):

  • Advancement Committee: Co-chairs Bill O’Malley ’84 and Elizabeth Shelburne ’01 reviewed the FY23 Amherst Fund results and the fundraising process for the Student Center and Dining Commons project.

  • Audit and Risk Management: Chair Nick Zerbib ’93 reviewed the top risks and related mitigation efforts, and the committee heard an update on compliance and cybersecurity.

  • Budget and Finance (via Zoom on September 19): Chair Dave Novak ’91 reviewed the preliminary results of the FY23 operating budget and the preliminary FY24 budget. The committee also discussed town and local government relations.

  • Buildings and Grounds: Chairs Dave MacLennan ’81 and Dwight Poler ’87 reviewed the completed Lyceum project and the ongoing Student Center and Dining Commons project, the Climate Action Plan, and other upcoming capital priorities.

  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Chair Chantal Kordula ’94 introduced Sheree Ohen, Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer; the committee heard an update on the division’s priorities for the future.

  • Human Resources (via Zoom on September 12): Chair Rejji Hayes ’97 reviewed the results of the staff survey and the compensation study.

  • Student Life: Chair Beth Cisneros ’89 reviewed the mission, vision, and values of the student affairs office. The committee also heard about the rebuilding of the student engagement and leadership office (formerly student activities) and enjoyed a panel discussion with five student leaders.

The Board of Trustees convened on Saturday. The board chair began the meeting by reading a memorial minute for the late K. Frank Austen ’50, who was a trustee from 1981-1999 and a life trustee until the time of his death in June. The board discussed the College’s financial support for Town services, as well as progress on the Jones Library building project. Trustees voted to approve several routine matters: 24E degree cases, a tenure-line faculty appointment, visitor appointment, fellow appointments, renewal of contract, changes of appointment, senior sabbatical fellowships, and the committee on student fellowships, as recommended by the administration.

The Trustees then adjourned to participate in the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Student Center and Dining Commons.

Sincerely,

Michael

Trustee Meeting May 25-28, 2023

To the Amherst Community:

The Board convened for its Commencement meeting last weekend, May 25-28, 2023, and I’m pleased to offer you a summary of its meeting.

Before the meetings began, several Trustees arrived on Thursday and had the opportunity for an informal conversation with several town officials, including Town Manager Paul Bockelman, State Representative Mindy Domb, Town Councilors Lynn Griesemer and Anika Lopes, Executive Director of the Amherst Business Improvement District Gabrielle Gould, and Amherst Regional Public Schools Director of Communications and Operations Debbie Westmoreland. The gathering was meant to give Trustees a chance to learn more about the challenges and opportunities before the Town of Amherst, with the intent of laying the foundation for a stronger, more strategic relationship between the College and its community.

On Friday, the Trustees received updates on the Student Center & Dining Commons project and on the impending Supreme Court decision on race in admissions. The Board also heard an update from the College’s Committee on Priorities and Resources, and attended a presentation by several students about their senior thesis projects. 

Several Trustee committees met on Friday:

  • Budget and Finance: Chair Dave Novak ’91 reviewed the final fiscal year 2024 operating budget and the current program to evaluate bank risks.
  • Buildings and Grounds: Chairs Dave MacLennan ’81 and Dwight Poler ’87 reviewed local real estate developments and possible opportunities for the College.
  • Human Resources: Chair Rejji Hayes ’97 reviewed the Dining Services cultural assessment summary and the preliminary results of the staff survey, and received an update on the ongoing staff compensation study.
  • Student Life: Chair Beth Cisneros ’89 reviewed priorities for the Division of Student Affairs and received an update on the organization of the division. The committee also received an update on the wellbeing and mental health resources and initiatives from the Center for Counseling and Mental Health and the Wellbeing Steering Committee.

The Board of Trustees convened on Saturday and voted to approve degree cases for the class of 2023, faculty appointments and promotions recommended by the administration, and several other routine matters. The Saturday meeting included two other notable votes:  

  • The Board voted to approve the budget for fiscal year 2024. The approved budget includes support for a salary increase of 4% for eligible faculty, staff and casual employees. A more detailed budget memo will be sent to the campus community next week.
  • The Board also approved the beginning of construction on the Student Center & Dining Commons, pending final negotiation of the construction contracts.

The Trustees then adjourned to participate in the activities of the 202nd Commencement of Amherst College—and thoroughly enjoyed celebrating the graduating students of the class of 2023.


Sincerely,


Michael


Michael A. Elliott
President, Amherst College

Trustee Meeting February 16-18, 2023

To the Amherst Community:

With this letter, I am beginning a new practice of providing regular summaries of the meetings of the College’s Board of Trustees. These summaries will be archived on the Trustees webpage. Last weekend—February 16-18—the Board convened for its third regular meeting of the academic year. This meeting has long been designated “Instruction Weekend,” and it is devoted primarily to offering our Trustees the opportunity to learn about our academic mission and to meet with faculty and students about topics relating to our curriculum.

On Friday, the Trustees heard a panel discussion moderated by Advisor to the Provost on Campus Initiatives and Director of Community Engagement, Sarah Barr, showcasing ways that community engagement can be embedded in the academic curriculum. The panel included Sara Brenneis, professor of Spanish, who spoke about her department’s work to integrate engagement with the Spanish-speaking community in Holyoke and elsewhere into its major; Jeffers Engelhardt, professor of music, who spoke about the music department’s work with the town’s new music venue, The Drake; and Anna Martini, professor of geology and environmental studies, who discussed her and her students’ research and involvement with local environmental issues. Trustees also heard an update on course enrollments and the distribution of students across the curriculum from Provost and Dean of the Faculty, Catherine Epstein, and from the Committee on Educational Policy (CEP) on their work. The Trustees met in executive session with members of the Faculty Executive Committee (FEC)—a meeting that continued the tradition of meeting with the Committee of Six, the FEC’s predecessor. That evening they dined in small groups with members of the faculty.

Several Trustee committees also met on Friday:

  • Advancement: Co-chairs Bill O’Malley ’84 and Elizabeth Shelburne ’01 gave an update on FY23 fundraising results to date, including the cumulative $626 million raised toward the Promise campaign and fundraising plans for the proposed Student Center/Dining Commons project.
  • Audit/Risk Management: Chair Nick Zerbib ’93 discussed the FY23 audit plan and the appointment of PricewaterhouseCoopers as auditors for FY23.
  • Budget and Finance: Chair Dave Novak ’91 discussed the preliminary FY24 operating budget and the proposal for the FY24 comprehensive fee. The Board will vote on the comprehensive fee later in the semester and will review the administration’s budget proposal in May.
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI): Chair Sarah Bloom Raskin ’83 introduced interim Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer (CEIO) Sheila Jaswal. Angie Tissi-Gassoway, who served in the interim CEIO role previously and is now serving as our interim chief student affairs officer, highlighted the accomplishments of the past 14 months in the Office of DEI; and Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Matt McGann updated the committee on the search process for our next CEIO.

 The Trustees convened on Saturday and voted on several routine items of business, including officially approving the appointment of Mike Thomas as our new chief financial and administrative officer; the promotion of five faculty to the rank of associate professor, with tenure; and several student prizes that will be awarded later in the semester. The Trustees also met in executive session.

Finally, before the meeting began, several Trustees arrived on Thursday and had the opportunity to engage with the community outside of the official meetings. Andy Nussbaum ’85, chair of the board, met with first-year Association of Amherst Students (AAS) senators to continue the Board’s effort to increase engagement with the Amherst community and to discuss matters of current interest to AAS. And many Trustees attended a panel discussion that evening reflecting on the events of the Amherst Uprising of 2015

That event—featuring alumni who participated in the Uprising as students—was especially meaningful, and Trustees throughout the meeting referred to the necessity of continuing to engage in the work of cultivating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive community that serves all of our students, staff, and faculty. The Trustees continue to be concerned by—and to prepare for—the results of the anticipated Supreme Court decision regarding the role of race in admissions decisions. As articulated in the brief that we filed in the case before the Court, the Trustees believe strongly that our current practice of considering race as part of a holistic admissions process is both legal and essential to our mission. Should the Court rule against the use of race as a factor in admissions, we are prepared to be an institutional leader in responding with vigor and determination to continue our work in admitting and supporting a racially diverse student body.


Sincerely,

Michael


Michael A. Elliott
President, Amherst College