The recession is challenging colleges and universities across the country, and while Colorado College is no exception, a majority of faculty members here say the hardship here has less to do with the nation's economy than it does with the leadership of one man — CC President Dick Celeste.
The liberal arts college's faculty voted overwhelmingly this week to request a meeting with trustees to discuss "grave concerns" about the college's financial situation, and about Celeste's role in bringing it about by "enforcing unsustainable policies."
Deficits were projected for the next three years before the economic recession took hold, stated a proposed letter to the trustees, "symptomatic of a pattern of ill-considered excessive spending that has been outpacing our ability to raise funds."
The letter also states that Celeste, who was hired in 2002, has a history of ignoring faculty on financial matters and tends to act unilaterally.
"He comes from a very different background where decisive, forceful, top-down leadership is important and appropriate," says Marlow Anderson, a math professor who chairs the faculty executive committee. "The academic world is just a little different."
Celeste's résumé includes time spent as governor of Ohio and ambassador to India.
Marlow says the letter was sent following the faculty's vote, which ended at noon Monday. Now, a meeting involving members of the faculty executive committee, other faculty and trustees is set for Friday, just three days before graduation day. The 32 trustees make up the college's central governing body, and were scheduled to be in Colorado Springs this week for a regular meeting.
Celeste responded to concerns raised in the letter at a faculty meeting Monday. Speaking Tuesday to the Independent, Celeste said he told the faculty he intends to "listen more and assert less."
"I hope they will consider me a pupil, and they are all teachers," he said. "Together, [I hope] we find a way to work positively."
The faculty letter does not mention specific expenditures, but it questions efforts to achieve the college's "Vision 2010" goals using the operating budget and short-term gifts, rather than with long-term capital.
A $300 million fundraising campaign started in 2003 with the goal of putting a new shine on the college by adding faculty and improving campus life. The recently opened Cornerstone Arts Center, which cost around $26 million, was a centerpiece of that campaign, and some faculty dislike that the college issued bonds for its construction instead of first raising all the needed cash.
Celeste says because interest rates amount to about half a percent on remaining debt, it's having little effect on the budget; expanded financial aid for students, he says, is a bigger factor.
The college's budget, which this year was around $100 million, has been trimmed by almost $8 million, Celeste says. The most noticeable cuts ended the varsity football, softball and water polo programs, but about 50 staff positions were eliminated, and all employees have had to look for savings.
On a brighter note, the college expects strong enrollment next fall and has filled six tenure-track positions.
Ted Lindeman, a chemistry professor, sees the vote as a call for fiscal caution and a new approach from Celeste.
"I don't hear, 'Off with his head,'" Lindeman says. "I hear shouts of, 'Let's make everyone be thrifty for a change.'"