Summary of the October 2019 Board of Trustees meeting

Dear faculty, staff and students,

Last Friday and Saturday was our fall Board of Trustees’ meeting. As usual, I’d like to share a brief summary of some of the topics, discussions and votes. Past reports are always available on the News from the Board website.

This meeting was the first to be led by Liz Robinson ’90 as incoming board chair. In addition to leading the meeting itself, Liz was among a group of trustees who met with student leaders and participated in the board’s open student forum—more about those events below. This is just one example of the trustees’ interest in understanding the experiences of all of us who call Williams home.

The topics we covered included:

  • The Board welcomed two new trustees, Michele Rogers ’79 and Nate Sleeper ’95, both of whom will serve terms through 2024. I’m grateful to Michele, Nate and all of our trustees for their devotion to the college.
  • The trustees voted to confirm the 2020-2021 comprehensive fee. We’ll send details in the annual tuition letter to students, which this year will be sent out in November. The Board had customarily voted on the fee at their January meetings, but recently decided to move the vote up to October so that families could receive the information earlier in the year.
  • The Board and its committees received updates on the outreach and early findings from our eight strategic planning working groups, learned about the strategic academic initiatives, and held round-robin discussions with representatives of several groups. You can always find information about this project on the Strategic Planning website.
  • Provost Dukes Love recommended that the board consider the former Williams Inn site as the location for a new Williams College Museum of Art. The Board agreed that, when and if the college constructs a new museum, it should be built on the site of the former Inn. We would want to pair any such project with a renovation of Lawrence Hall, potentially as a center for the interdisciplinary arts. As a next step, the Board is looking forward to hearing from arts faculty and those involved in our Strategic Academic Initiative on the integrative arts about a vision for the arts at Williams.
  • We also discussed the report of the Ad Hoc Committee on Inquiry and Inclusion, and I reviewed for the Board the steps the college has taken to implement the nine recommendations embedded in the Committee’s report.
  • Vice President for College Relations Megan Morey reported that the Teach It Forward campaign came to an extremely successful close on June 30, raising more than $707 million. Seventy-four percent of alumni made a gift to the college during the campaign, along with numerous parents, friends and others. And an equally impressive 87.6% of alumni engaged with Williams during the same period by mentoring students, hosting internships or attending reunions and college events, among other activities.
  • Chief Investment Officer Collette Chilton reported positive endowment performance for fiscal year 2019. Especially in a volatile economic year, we’re fortunate to have a talented, mission-driven Investment Office team generating resources to support our financial aid and academic programs. The year’s returns will be included in the Investment Office annual report when it’s published later this fall on the Office’s website.
  • The Board voted to name the new CDE building Fellows Hall. The name was proposed by donors to the project who wished to honor 60 years of accomplishments by the CDE and its fellows, as well as the fellows who’ll live there in the future.
  • The trustees voted to approve one faculty appointment at the associate professor level with tenure. The Board normally approves such decisions at their January meeting, but is occasionally asked to vote on off-cycle appointments in special circumstances.
  • The Board’s Student Experience Committee members met with a group of student leaders to explore ways to enhance trustee-student interaction. The trustees and student leaders will continue these efforts together during the January 2020 Board meeting.
  • A group of trustees also held a forum on Saturday that was open to all students.

As always, various Board committees continued their work supporting trustee oversight of everything from campus planning and the budget to college relations and public affairs. You’ll find information about their work on the Committees page of the Board website.

The trustees and I were a little envious of everyone who was participating in Mountain Day! I was able to sneak away for long enough to enjoy the all-campus picnic. It was great to see so many of you outside, enjoying each other’s company and a delicious meal together.