Summary of the January 2023 Board of Trustees meeting

To the Williams community,

The Board of Trustees convened on campus last Friday and Saturday for their January 2023 meeting. I want to offer my usual summary of the business they conducted during the meeting.

The Board’s plenary sessions fell into two broad categories: one group was devoted to imagining and planning for Williams’s future. The other focused on the Trustees’ fiduciary responsibilities. Throughout, they also considered the crucial relationship between the two, especially in a time of market volatility and inflation.

In the forward-thinking category, the board devoted attention to the future of the arts and overall campus planning:

  • Pam Franks, Class of 1956 Director of the Williams College Museum of Art, joined by representatives from our architectural partners at SO-IL, facilitated a Board conversation about design concepts for the new art museum. Their attention to the future of the arts at Williams and its role in our curriculum parallels our renewal of facilities for the sciences, social sciences and other humanities disciplines. The Board expressed enthusiasm for the general direction so far, and encouraged the design team to continue honing the concept as they move into the schematic design phase.
  • Associate Vice President for Campus Planning and Operations Rita Coppola-Wallace, with members of her team and representatives from design firm Sasaki, led a presentation about long-term planning for our physical campus. The Board then voted to endorse the work, and we will now complete the final version of the campus planning document. This visioning document works from some of the themes that emerged during strategic planning and other campus discussions—e.g., the integrative arts, academic vibrancy, wellness and community-building—and will be used to encourage creative thinking about how such priorities can be woven into our future building decisions. The document will include hypothetical scenarios to illustrate a few of the many ways this could be done. In practice, the virtually endless possibilities will be filtered through our campus governance processes to take into account current needs, resources and opportunities. Indeed, the Trustees emphasized that support for the plan is conditional on the college’s long-term financial health and continued progress toward our climate and sustainability goals.

The second category of Board work was focused on fiduciary matters:

  • The Board received reports from Vice President for Finance and Operations and Treasurer Mike Wagner on FY23 budget projections; Vice President for College Relations Megan Morey on college fundraising; and Chief Investment Officer Collette Chilton on endowment performance. As I announced earlier today, Collette will retire next December, and the Trustees look forward to celebrating her extraordinary service to Williams.
  • The Board also heard and discussed a detailed review of next year’s budgeting process and projections, presented by Vice President for Finance and Operations and Treasurer Mike Wagner and Provost Eiko Maruko Siniawer ’97. As you know, we are under financial pressure from the combined influence of volatile investment returns and high inflation. The Board asked me to convey their appreciation for the hard work done by our community to reduce budgets and protect our commitments to Williams’ people and academic mission.

Finally, the Board also voted on several items of business:

  • They reviewed and formally approved a recommendation from the Committee on Appointments and Promotions to promote eleven faculty members to associate professor with tenure, effective July 1, 2023. You can find their names and information in the announcement on Williams Today. Please join me in congratulating them on this achievement in their academic careers.
  • The Board also approved construction of a new college boathouse, funded entirely through donor support.
  • The Board approved the 2023–24 comprehensive fee. As always, we will provide details in our annual tuition letter to students.
  • The Trustees received an update on the ERP implementation (also known as the Peoplesoft replacement or Collaboratively Optimizing Williams) and reaffirmed the importance of the project and its expected benefits for the entire campus community of system users.
  • Finally, the Board agreed to contribute a total of $5M toward construction of Williamstown’s new fire station at a rate of $1M per year over the next five years. Our campus community relies heavily on local first responders, including student and staff volunteers, and it is important that Williams help the district provide them with a modern and safe facility.

During their visit, Board members also attended a dinner with faculty and a series of dinners in Paresky with student representatives from this year’s four TAPSI communities and other campus constituencies. The Trustees concluded their visit with an engaging dialogue with students, during an open student forum in Griffin on Saturday afternoon.

I want to thank all those who took time to talk with them about Williams as you live it, and to express my gratitude to the Board for their continued partnership in seeking and securing Williams’ best future.