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A Message From the Board Chair

Dear Vassar Community,

These are unprecedented and very difficult times—throughout the globe, in our country, and at Vassar. I spend a fair bit of time checking in with other Board chairs and college governance professional associations, and can tell you that all colleges and universities are facing extremely challenging decisions about the fall, and some are facing even existential decisions. I am writing today to hopefully allay some anxiety while also trying to be realistic about the future.

No one can know how long the pandemic will last, how it will influence our enrollment and financial aid needs, or its impact on our fundraising and endowment value. We are preparing for a set of scenarios from a relatively brief shock to a fully changed landscape for higher education beyond Vassar. I can tell you that having worked with many CEOs and executives over my 40-year career, I can safely say that in President Bradley and the senior team, you have extremely competent, open-minded, creative, and dedicated leadership. President Bradley’s recent appointment to Governor Cuomo’s NY Forward Re-opening Advisory Committee is a testament to how many people in the state and beyond value her insights and capabilities to lead through this public health calamity.

What does this mean for campus?

Right now, it means we should not jump to conclusions, and we must explore multiple scenarios because of multiple changing factors. It is the obligation of College to consider options, and we are not interested in just going down one road, without considering others. We must be evidence-based in how we proceed, informed heavily by our estimated enrollment and financial aid numbers, which remain in flux for a few more weeks. See here for national concerns about higher education enrollment. Additionally, it means that we have to pull together and must focus on how we adapt to this shock in ways that retain what is the heart of Vassar—the ability to give the highest quality liberal arts education in a diverse and inclusive community. When we emerge from this—and we will emerge from this—we want to be stronger, ready to embark on the 5- to 7-year plan we had been working towards, and cohesive as the unique community that is Vassar.

Thank you all for the extra work you have put in this semester, even as you are balancing families, home life, health challenges, and any number of other pressures. President Bradley has told me many stories that illustrate the dedication and creativity of faculty, staff, and administrators throughout this crisis. I am awed by your strength and commitments.

The Board is in regular contact with President Bradley and we will be making decisions for the path ahead at the upcoming Board (Zoom) meeting at the end of May. Please be assured that we will keep our principles in mind—doing our best to protect the most vulnerable among us, designing responses to be as equitable as possible, and maintaining our commitment to our shared mission.

Please take care of yourself in these perilous times, and thank you again for all that you are doing to support Vassar and its students, faculty, and all employees.

Tony Friscia
Chair, Board of Trustees