Then and Now

We have repeatedly emphasized that what Chatham confronts right now is not primarily a financial question, but rather an enrollment and critical mass question.  Perhaps it has not been clear what that means.

Chatham University as a whole is not an organization that is in “trouble” ; we are not in the kind of position that we were in the early ’90’s when we really had limited funds to support deficits and had to lay off 20% of our faculty and staff just to get breathing room to innovate. Our situation now is one in which one of our operating parts—our Women’s College—is requiring far more to support it, $5 million this year alone, than it provides through either tuition or fundraising revenue. Projections show it worsening.

We could easily say we are in the circumstances of the two colleges whose recent cuts of faculty and consideration of coeducation in one case have been announced. Article links here:

College of St. Elizabeth Cuts 17 Faculty Jobs and May Consider Admitting Men
Marietta College Cuts 20 Jobs to Relieve Budget Pressures

Saint Elizabeth and Marietta both are cutting significant numbers of faculty in order to be able to invest to attract students and grow.  Two decades ago we followed the same path, and we do not wish to do it again.   We, too, have a mismatch between student enrollment and faculty in the undergraduate college, both in numbers of faculty and fields in which they are teaching.  Some programs and courses are under enrolled.  So far, we are able to make the choice not to cut faculty or staff because we have a small  financial cushion, and because we have a significant commitment to undergraduate education.  We must grow enrollment quickly if we want to keep our excellent teaching faculty.

This current imbalance in student enrollment and faculty staffing cannot last very long, however.  If we deliberate another year, we lose yet another recruiting cycle.  We must act now to make a decision about coeducation.  We can only impact the class that is incoming in the fall of ’15, if we act quickly.  Some of you will say that we should use that time to seek to recruit more women to the undergraduate program.  Those of us who have toiled at this for two decades, and who watch the megatrends, know that both coeducational and women’s colleges are struggling to get enrollment  and believe it is very unwise to continue to focus on the small portion of the college going population who want to go to a women’s college.

Women’s educational needs have changed, and as Donna Brazile said in a recent speech in Pittsburgh to women lawyers, women need leadership training, in a situation in which women are the majority in many law schools.  Chatham will not give up our mission to women and their leadership preparation, but we must seek to admit a broader spectrum of women, as well as men who could want to come to Chatham University, which we all know offers an excellent undergraduate institution in a wonderful city.

Esther B.

  1. Sarah Wilkie says:

    Dr. Barazzone,
    I do agree with you that it is increasingly more difficult to recruit young women for CCW. However, what evidence do you have that a coeducational school will increase enrollment to critical mass? Carlow is the closest school in comparison to Chatham, and they only had an 11% increase in students. For Chatham undergrad, that would approximately be (rounding up) 11 male freshmen. Is it worth compromising the mission of CCW for 11 male students?

    Sarah Wilkie ’08

  2. Kate Buffum Newmark says:

    Maybe it is harder to recruit full-tuition women in the limited market of Pittsburgh- so why not expand to larger, richer metropolitan areas? It seems that there is more of an interest in recruiting locals (including males) than there is in getting Chatham’s name- and reputation- out there. (When I went job interviewing in NYC in 1999, nobody had heard of Chatham College. Have things changed?) I know I would be HONORED to host staff from Chatham coming to North Jersey or NYC recruiting fairs.

    Another thing that I would like to see- no matter what happens with the make-up of the school- is for the antiquated mental health policy to be updated to reflect a supportive, community environment. I know I wouldn’t send a single one of my 5 out-of-state, full-tuition children to Chatham knowing that they would be penalized (expelled?) for demonstrating self-harm behaviors and reaching out for help in their undergraduate years. I do not support an environment that punishes students in need with legitimate medical/psychiatric illnesses if they call out for help. THAT, my friend, is not the Chatham I went to or a college I will financially support in any way, shape, or form.

  3. Susan Peirce says:

    Dear Chatham Sisters and Family,

    Please know that our Chatham is very much in my thoughts. With a 30+ year career devoted to higher education, I carry wounds and wisdom of knowing much of what our community is facing. I can attest to the situation being handled with much greater strategy and finesse than previously!

    While not compelled to share my personal thoughts on the issue, I am moved to express my admiration of President Barazzone. Her strength, courage, and integrity are shining brightly. Many leaders would have taken the easier path…to close one’s tenure with being celebrated among most fruitful presidents and allow a successor to face the difficult issues, unpopular decisions. She walked into a college at its weakest point. I must say that Esther’s leadership is greatly admired, respected and of much renown.

    I’m thankful to the many who have given time, talent and treasure over the years to keep our alma mater strong on its forward path. Always cheering for Chatham, I am so proud of and thankful for the experience I forever will treasure. I will continue to support her as I have done since graduation day. Every part of my purple heart knows that amazing days lie ahead of my dear alma mater.

    Many thanks for this opportunity.

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