Opinion | Staff Editorials

Brown's successor has a precedent to follow

Finances have long been a source of difficulty for Barnard. Though the endowment, at $240 million, is the highest it has been in recent years, the college has still had to make cuts to stay afloat. These cuts include reducing the gym requirement to one semester, closing Barnard’s pool, and requiring that all students be registered full-time. Additionally, over the past 15 months, Barnard has successfully incentivized 16 administrators, 10 professors, and five clerical workers to retire early as part of efforts to cut up to $8 million from the college’s operating budget. Now, the most senior administrator responsible for Barnard’s financial well-being is also leaving the school.

Greg Brown will leave Barnard this coming April to accept the position of vice president of finance and administration at Swarthmore College. Brown began at Barnard as vice president for finance and planning in 2006, becoming chief operating officer three years later. Although his position has been largely invisible to the majority of the student body, it would be difficult to overstate the importance of his role, given the significance of Barnard’s current financial woes. Brown, unlike many senior administrators, was fairly open with students, attending SGA meetings, holding town halls, and hearing students’ questions. We would like to see his replacement not just live up to the precedent he established, but exceed it. 

All too often, financial and administrative decisions on both sides of Broadway are shrouded in secrecy. As always, we call for openness so that students are better able to understand and appreciate the difficult decisions administrators are forced to make every day.

There has been vast and largely unnecessary miscommunication between the Barnard administration and students regarding financial decisions over the past few years—a mandatory meal plan, housing debacles, and the elimination of partial enrollment have all been poorly explained decisions.

This issue is even more important when considering who will fill Brown’s shoes. We believe that the vast majority of students are willing to make concessions so that Barnard regains its financial stability, but only when these changes are explained to them with the appropriate reasoning. Transparency and financial solvency should be the top priorities as Barnard looks to the future.

In addition, Brown’s departure provides the college an opportunity to potentially rethink its long-term financial strategy. At the present time, the college is planning for the complete demolition and reconstruction of Lehman Hall, facing a housing landscape that is strapped for space, and preventing students from enrolling part-time—all of which can be traced to financial challenges.

We hope that Brown’s successor will take up these issues with enthusiasm and ensure that Barnard makes its way to solid financial ground.  

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To respond to this staff editorial, or to submit an op-ed, contact opinion@columbiaspectator.com.

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