Letter from Alumnae Trustees

The following letter was e-mailed to CCW alumnae on Monday, March 24th with an active e-mail address on file with the Office of Alumni Affairs. A print copy is also being sent to all alumnae with active addresses.

Dear fellow alumnae,

We would like to take this opportunity to update you on what’s been happening at our Alma Mater. You learned in a recent letter from Dr. Barazzone that the Board of Trustees adopted a resolution at the February meeting that states:

The Chatham University Board of Trustees, having worked for more than two decades to assure enrollment growth and quality undergraduate education to women only, has nevertheless now felt it necessary to study other options to continue to assure academic quality and access. As a consequence, the Board is receptive to a proposal to make undergraduate education at Chatham University coeducational. The Board intends formally to consider a proposal on or before its June 2014 meeting.

Both the Board and the administration welcome input from the Chatham University community on this important issue.

Since that time, we have heard from many of you, and the reactions are a mix of sadness/excitement and disappointment/understanding. There have been many very good questions, lots of misinformation and consternation, and many supportive responses. We have held meetings for alumnae in Pittsburgh (3), NYC, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington DC, Florida (2), Chicago, and Columbus. The meetings in Pittsburgh were webcast to allow alumnae across the country to hear the facts and to submit questions during the live forums. The Power Point presentation from the Pittsburgh meeting is on the University’s official blog for reference, and a video of Dr. Barazzone’s presentation will be linked soon so that anyone can watch at their convenience. We have met with faculty, students, and friends of Chatham. During this three month period, it is our goal to listen to alumnae, gather ideas, study options, and be prepared to act on the resolution.

A few things are essential to know.

  1. First and most importantly, there is NO thought of giving up our mission of educating women. All the things we know that are important to educating women and all the benefits we alumnae received as Chatham College for Women (CCW) students will not be lost. Any changes will wrap around this fundamental core value. But, the truth is, we have a product that is not in demand due in part to a diminishing pool of applicants, and we need to find a way to repackage ourselves to be current, wanted, and of the highest quality so it will be desirable. In short, we want to build a bigger and better Chatham. Many options are being considered, e.g., a residential women’s college based on the Douglas/Rutgers model, a Women’s Leadership Institute within Chatham University, joint study programs, an honors college, and enlarging our Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship and/or the Pennsylvania Center for Women in Politics at Chatham University.
  2. CCW is experiencing a severe downturn in enrollment. This is true for most small liberal arts colleges and especially for women-only institutions. This is not a new problem, and the Trustees and administration have worked for many years to find ways to shore up the revenue and educational offerings for CCW. To that end we have allocated millions of dollars to support CCW with revenues from our graduate programs, which are doing well. In fact, our graduate programs have been subsidizing CCW’s deficits for several years; this year, the subsidy will be $5 million, despite the attribution of all Annual Fund gifts to CCW’s budget.  Moreover, we have built athletic facilities in order to be more competitive and that has helped, as about 30% of current CCW students are athletes. We have added new buildings, new courses, new programs, etc. And yet, fewer and fewer young women—about 2% of high school graduates—say they are even willing to consider a women’s college. As enrollment goes, so go our finances; this drain on the overall financial health of Chatham University cannot continue long term. We feel that for 22 years we have explored all options and that now we are at a point where time is of the essence. We now need to find a way to have Chatham University and, in particular, undergraduate education at Chatham University survive and thrive while we are still able to make the changes necessary, and we cannot wait until we no longer have the resources to do so. We must diversify our prospective audience, in large part by bringing in the 98% of the women who say they are not interested in a women’s college, and while some might be persuaded, they are very expensive to recruit.
  3. All of higher education is facing severe difficulties, not just Chatham.  All colleges are drawing students from a shrinking demographic pool. As prices soar and the potential applicant pool shrinks, we need to find new ways to help students afford an education and to increase our market share from continuing education students, women, men, and returning adults. We intend to address these issues by ensuring that our students leave Chatham with applied skills and career options, as well as a background in the liberal arts.
  4. The gift of Eden Hall Campus and our Falk School of Sustainability are an important addition to our future. They are not, as has been suggested, a drain on our resources and the culprits that have hurt CCW. In fact, quite the opposite. They have helped to shore up CCW and to get the word out worldwide about the exciting activities at our institution.
  5. President Barazzone’s salary is unrelated to CCW’s deficits. The salary reporting has been greatly misunderstood and was the topic of a letter sent to alumnae last year to explain it in detail and to be transparent. In short, in 2006 the Board approved awarding Dr. Barazzone a deferred compensation retirement package to make up for inadequacies in retirement funding for her first 14 years as President. For tax reporting reasons, these and other funds were in effect double counted in 2011, as she became vested and the funds had been paid in over a period longer than six years, not all at once. Her base pay remained the same as in previous years and in no way would have warranted her inclusion in the list of highest paid presidents of 2011.
  6. Chatham University is not in danger of going bankrupt. We are strong and feel we need to make a change to support undergraduate education while we still have the funds to do so and not when we are so weak we cannot invest in good programing.
  7. We have tried to communicate, listen and be transparent. We have posted information and data about Chatham on the website. In addition to the town hall meetings, we have set up a feedback blog, written letters and emails, and taken and placed phone calls. We are serious about learning. We welcome ideas for building a better Chatham, but now we need to make the core decision of whether to include more women and men in our admissions pool by making the institution coeducational.
  8. We believe men will come to Chatham as undergraduates.  Why?  For the same reasons women do:  the excellent academic programs with attractive offerings geared for today’s world, including programs in sustainability and the health sciences, and a beautiful campus in a city repeatedly judged as one of the best in the country. We do not expect that men will ever represent 50% of our undergraduate student body.  What we do expect, however, is that by opening ourselves up to men and to the 98% of women who do not want to attend a women’s college, we will attract interest from and ultimately will enroll significantly larger numbers of women in addition to recruiting men.

We know that these decisions are difficult and change can be hard. We intend to enhance our strengths and build a more robust, sustainable Chatham.

Please visit Chatham University’s official blog for more information and to share your feedback: http://blogs.chatham.edu/chathamfeedback/. Know that your responses are being forwarded to the Board of Trustees for our review and consideration. If you wish to talk with us personally, contact the alumnae Office at Chatham and they will forward your responses to us. We will be in touch.

We are honored to serve you and Chatham as alumnae trustees and we extend our sincere thanks for your passion for and commitment to our University.

Sincerely,

Louise Royster Brown ’67
Jane Coulter Burger ’66
Annette Calgaro ’84
Marty Haase Carsen ’62
Terri Price Dean ’77
Cordelia Suran Jacobs ’60
Joanne Laipson, ’82
Brenda Marsh ’76
Jane Grisell Murphy ’68
Jennifer Potter ’66
Mary Templeton ’68
Bonnie Westbrook VanKirk ’81
Nancy Follett Waichler ’55