David Finegold named new university president

-UPDATE- 03/03/2016, 9:25 p.m.

Chatham students, faculty, and staff, as well as the board of trustees and presidential search committee, filled the chapel on Thursday, March 3, in anticipation of the announcement of who the next university president would be. It was announced that Dr. David Finegold would be Chatham University’s next president.

Since President Esther Barazzone announced her retirement last June, the Presidential Search Committee — made up of trustee, alumnae, and two students — went on the hunt for a worthy candidate.

After nine months, the Presidential Search committee unanimously recommended Finegold, and the Board of Trustees unanimously voted to elect him as the university’s 19th president.

Finegold was introduced as having over 30 years of experience in higher education including impressive statistics showing how he increased funds and faculty size at other institutions. During his speech to the community, he made several points about his beliefs and where he plans to take Chatham in the future.

Finegold began by commending Chatham’s environment and innovative history of providing resources to women. He addressed the gender inequality in the world and the opportunity Chatham has as a newly coeducational university to educate male students on the value of gender equality.

Finegold also addressed his work with American Honors, a program that is dedicated to making higher education available to all students. Finegold is the Chief Academic Officer of this program and plans to use these values to also make Chatham as accessible as possible to all.

Before wrapping up, Finegold brought up ideas such as reforms in undergraduate and graduate education, improving retention, enhancing Chatham’s schools and amenities such as the arboretum, and getting alumnae and Chatham stakeholders more involved with students. He said he wants Chatham to be the “go to” for those who are “eco-minded” and those who want to learn to be global leaders. Finally he spoke about wanting to support and expand the Women’s Institute and bring more women leaders to campus.

Finegold said his goal is not for radical change, but to follow through and give attention to things that have already been implemented while also working with Chatham’s limited resources.

Finegold was eager to hear from the Chatham community and encouraged the audience to look out for town halls, forums, invitations to Greg House, and possibly a chance to do yoga with his wife, Sue.

-ORIGINAL COPY- 03/03/2016, 12:24 p.m.

In an all campus update meeting on Thursday, March 3, Dr. David Finegold was announced to be Chatham University’s 19th president. His presidency will begin on July 1, 2016.

Finegold, who has worked in higher education for over 30 years, cited continuing Chatham’s tradition of working towards gender equity and engaging alumni as some of his goals for his presidency.

This appointment comes exactly nine months after current president Esther Barazzone announced her retirement on June 3, 2015. She has served as president of the university for nearly 25 years.

President Barazzone holds meeting about the future of Chatham

On Tuesday, April 8, President Esther Barazzone, students, and staff met in the Mellon Board Room for an informal conversation about the potential changes that face the undergraduate program and the university as a whole.

In her welcome, President Barazzone emphasized her commitment to undergraduate education and to women, as well as to the graduate program, which has financially supported itself and the undergraduate program since not long after its founding.  According to Barazzone, this system is no longer possible in the current economy.

“We can’t damage one member of our family to protect another member of our family, and we’re getting dangerously close to that,” Barazzone said.

Barazzone welcomed questions, comments, and suggestions from students.

“I want to be responsive to you,” Barazzone said.  “I’m rather more interested in hearing what you’re thinking.”

One major concern, voiced by first-year Maryann Fix, was about the future of Chatham’s diversity if the College for Women ceases to exist.  Fix was “worried that the feelings of respect, being comfortable, and feeling that your identity is being accepted and loved” might be compromised if men were to be admitted into the undergraduate program.

In response, Barazzone explained that it is Chatham’s existence as a small liberal arts college (not its being a women’s college) that impacts its acceptance of all races, sexualities, and gender identities.

“Small institutions are dedicated to the development of every individual who comes,” she said.

Dean of Students Zauyah Waite agreed, adding that the value of diversity will not go away because “it’s what drives us.”

In order to preserve Chatham’s dedication to women, Barazzone has proposed a women’s institute that would conduct training and orientation for incoming faculty to ensure nondiscriminatory, gender-balanced classrooms if the college becomes coeducational.

Dean Waite also reminded students that the changes upon becoming coeducational would likely be gradual.  According to Waite, undergraduate men would be a minority at first, and the “World Ready Women” of Chatham would be responsible for welcoming them.

President Barazzone brought up the potential for “a more subtle conflict between the women who come because it’s no longer a women’s college and the women who came because it’s a women’s college.”

Senior Liz Sawyer reminded the president that a divide already exists between students who do not want Chatham to become coeducational and those who would not mind the switch.

Barazzone understands this divide, but she encourages a “respect for differences of opinion,” and a “desire to create a productive environment,” among all students.

Regardless of whether or not the undergraduate program becomes coeducational, students and staff agree that more intensive marketing programs are necessary.

“We’re a great school with great Student Affairs activities, but there are so many academic programs that people don’t know about,” first-year Tahmina Tursonzadah said.

Vice President of Marketing and Communications Bill Campbell is also concerned about Chatham’s lack of academic marketing. According to Campbell, undergraduate education is evolving to mimic graduate education’s focus on academics and career preparation, and quantitative and qualitative market research shows that the college must put forth more academic marketing to attract prospective students.

In addition, President Barazzone would like to see undergraduate academic programming undergo a restructuring no matter what the board’s final decision on coeducation will be.

She believes that academic programming in its current state is not flexible enough and that self-designed study should be encouraged.

Barazzone also has problems with the current structure of tutorial.  She believes that it should span across all four years of one’s study so that students can benefit from the process earlier in their education.

Both President Barazzone and students suggested and discussed many possibilities for academic changes and future programming, but none have been officially adopted yet.

President Barazzone proposed having a summit to discuss changes and suggestions for Chatham’s future regardless of whether or not the institution becomes coeducational because she and the Board of Trustees value student feedback.

“We’ll have another get together.  I always learn a lot, and I thank you for it,” Barazzone said.

A summit could occur in May or early next semester, but official plans have yet to be made.

Open letter to Chatham’s Board of Trustees and President Barazzone

To Chatham’s Board of Trustees and President Barazzone,

First, I know that my letter is long, but I hope that you will accord me the same consideration I gave your e-mail and read it until its conclusion. I have agonized over the words I wish to write in response to the information that I received today and ultimately have decided to follow my heart and begin with an anecdote.

I was a student who wrote that I would never consider a woman’s college when I filled out the questionnaire before the PSAT. I said that because I did not truly understand what a woman’s college was or how it could benefit me. Then I saw Chatham on Fastweb and clicked for information only because I thought the name sounded interesting. Needless to say, I was a bit shocked when the brochure arrived and I realized that Chatham was a woman’s college. Admittedly, my first instinct was to discard the materials, but then something in the countenance of the young woman on the front cover stopped me and I began to read.

Chatham promised the opportunity for young women to discover their voices and passions and to exist in a place, for a few years at least, unlike most other places in this country. Chatham offered, without stating it blatantly, a place where a high-school kid could discover her identity and grow strong in it away from the ever-oppressive influence of patriarchy—so that when she re-entered that society, she would do so transformed—she would do so world-ready. It is a place where girls enter and, at its very best, women emerge. I was so intrigued that I traveled nearly 1400 miles to visit and upon setting foot on the campus, my decision was made.

The years that followed changed me in a way that no coed institution could have managed. I was forced to speak in class and discovered that my thoughts had value. While I had participated readily in elementary school, I had grown silent as I matured (a fate that statistically befalls most girls as they become increasingly self-conscious adolescents), but I found that silence was not an option at Chatham—in fact, it even hurts your average. I had the privilege of participating on Chatham’s soccer team where I formed lifelong friendships and memories. Also I held my first high-level leadership positions, including a stint as VP of Chatham’s student government—something I never would have attempted at a coed school. I became increasingly certain of my scientific aptitude even in the face of subjects that challenged me beyond what I had been prepared for in high school. Succinctly, I had the opportunity to experience and benefit from everything that Chatham College had promised to offer and it altered my life trajectory in a way unlike the way coed institutions altered the lives of friends I’ve made in my time after Chatham. But enough of the sentimentality, let’s talk stats.

First, I applaud your desire to study the effect that introducing co-education might have on the Chatham community. Your desire demonstrates a thoughtfulness and thoroughness that most governing boards lack. I too agree that there has been a great deal of growth and evolution at Chatham recently. The name of the school and its designation changed, buildings were acquired, and the endowment grew. These are all admirable and worthy achievements—they are things of which the Chatham community can be proud. I can even understand your concern, that the undergraduate population seems stagnant, and I too wish to find a solution to this issue. But here is where our visions diverge. I recognize Chatham as being something unique in the greater Pittsburgh area, an area that boasts more than twenty-five four-year public and private institutions. It is the only remaining woman’s college in the area and so it inhabits a unique niche in the city. A statistic shared in the e-mail I read this evening stated the following: “80% of first-year college students attend a school within 200 miles of their home.” This statement underpins Chatham’s need to maintain its unique status as it allows it to easily stand out against the backdrop of the many other “moderately selective” colleges and universities in the greater Pittsburgh area. The decision to go coed would rob it of this designation and thereby increase the likelihood that it could be out-competed by similarly sized, structured, and funded institutions.

The appeal of opening up the undergraduate population to potential male students is understandable. One could view this act as potentially doubling the applicant pool since males make up approximately 50% of the global population. However, I find that outcome unlikely and my reasoning will point you towards Carlow University. Chatham seems to be following a very similar trajectory to Carlow—although, admittedly, it will have held onto its single-ed designation quite a bit longer. At Carlow 7% of the students are male, despite the fact that Carlow was only a woman’s college for sixteen years and a coed institution for nearly sixty-nine. This statistic leads me to conclude that Chatham’s undergraduate population growth would be minimal and might even be nil. I would challenge the board to ask the current undergraduate population, how many of them would have still chosen Chatham had it been coed at the beginning of their college careers. If only 10% of the current student populations says they would have chosen differently, then Chatham can conclude, quite reasonably, that being coed would actually be detrimental to undergraduate population growth.

In order to address the concern that Chatham’s undergraduate population is not keeping pace with that of the graduate population, I would state that a little more than a decade ago, when I began Chatham, the undergraduate student population was a little more than 400 (436, if I remember correctly); whereas now, according to the 2013 statistics on your website, the undergraduate enrollment is 973. Even allowing for the February 18, 2014 statistic in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette that sets the undergraduate population at 588, one would consider this change to have a positive trajectory. There are fluctuations in growth in any organization and while there is always room for improvement, it makes little sense to me to abandon a growing population simply because it is growing slowly. In my experience, sustainable change happens slowly and over great lengths of time.

When I first began teaching, it was at a school that had not had success on any AP science test in the school’s recent memory.  The first year I taught an AP science course, we earned a passing rate of 0%, the second year 16%, and the third 36%. The growth my students and I earned was small, and some might even argue insignificant; but, it was growth and that growth was, for some, transformative—encouraging several students to tackle college majors (environmental engineering) they’d never before considered. Chatham is such a place for its students and to change it would be akin to me no longer teaching AP science courses because my students fail to keep pace with the national passing rate. Such an action, I am certain, we would both consider misguided at best.

 I am most concerned though that Chatham believes that gender equity issues still found in our society (pay disparities, ongoing issues concerning a woman’s right to her body, and a barrage of disparaging stereotypes to name a few) can be best solved by abandoning its mission. Chatham’s motto espouses the intent to create women who are so strong and who shine so brilliantly that they might function as cornerstones in our society. Such women are leaders. Such women must necessarily understand the role of diversity and gender in the workplace. So, I would contend that so long as Chatham stays true to its motto, it will invariably achieve these ends. What’s more, I sincerely believe that if it chooses to go coed, it will have begun a path to undermine them.

According to USNWR, less than a third of the top 50 colleges had a woman as president of the student body despite the fact women make up the majority of college students in this nation. At Chatham, women fill 100% of the leadership roles on campus; such a statistic would only decline if Chatham were to go coed. Chatham would actually begin to train fewer female leaders because some of its male students would, rightly, seek out leadership roles on campus. Such a reality would be counter-productive to Chatham’s stated mission.

 I agree though that women will only learn to understand the role of diversity and gender in the workplace if they experience a workplace that is both diverse and inclusive of all genders. Thus, I would encourage the board to consider creating a mandate that all students engage in an off-campus internship before graduating. Not only will this raise Chatham’s profile in and effect on the Pittsburgh community at large, but students will also be able to exercise the leadership skills they have developed at Chatham. I would then recommend that the students return to campus in order to participate in a series of reflective discussions with their classmates in order to determine the impact that women leaders might have in their workplaces. Such a discussion would be occurring in a safe space, one where women are statistically more likely to speak out and take risks in their thinking, and so change in our society would be much more likely to occur.  The studies completed by the Women’s College Coalition (WCC) already affirm this reality.

The WCC has found that women attending single-sex institutions are more satisfied with their college experience, more likely to choose a traditionally male discipline as their major, have higher self-esteem (women in coed institutions actually experience a drop in self-esteem after their first two years of college), are more likely to further their education, go to medical school, earn more money, and report a higher level of happiness in their lives. Given this data, if Chatham’s leadership truly wishes to continue to advance the position of women in our society, it will choose to remain a women’s college.

The role of higher education is changing in our society and Chatham is in the midst of weathering that storm as it has done many times in the past. Chatham initially taught women how to maintain a home and now it teaches them how to build one. It once encouraged women to aspire to become a Mrs. and now it challenges them to tackle master’s degrees. Could it do all these things as a coed institution? That depends, are all schools the creators of world ready women? Or is Chatham something special? Does it, as it exists at this moment, warrant all the energies once offered to the struggling graduate school that is now thriving? I think so. Chatham’s graduate growth proves that it has leaders who are capable of such innovation and creativity. I encourage you to draw on those attributes now and ensure that Chatham’s undergraduate college remains a college for women. In whatever way you require and I am able, I will certainly do the same.

One day, when I visit Chatham with my own daughter, I will rouse her imagination with stories of a campus where previously silenced voices learn to speak and previously tentative spirits learn boldness. I will ask her if she too feels that the air here settles a little more lightly in the lungs, if her step has become a bit more emboldened, and if she just got the funniest sense that impossible has been saddled with two extra letters.  When she quirks a brow (for she will already be significantly louder and bolder than me) and asks: “Is that what this place was?” My greatest hope is that I will be able to say: “Oh, no, that’s what this place is.”

With faith that Chatham will remain a women’s college,

Stephanie Morris

Class of 2007

*Edited 2/19/14 – misspelling

President Barazzone calls all campus meeting to release news from the Board of Trustees

On Tuesday, February 18, students, faculty, and staff met in the Campbell Memorial Chapel for a Campus Community Update led by President Esther Barazzone with regard to decisions made by the Board of Trustees during their February 12 to 14 meeting.

The Board made three major decisions during their most recent meeting.

First, they unanimously passed the beginning of phase 1B of the construction of the Eden Hall Campus for the Falk School of Sustainability.

Phase 1A of Eden Hall construction, which allowed for the construction of a public venue, field labs with research facilities, a café, and below ground infrastructure, cost $17.7 million.

Phase 1B, which will encompass the construction of a common area and a residence hall, will cost $27.7 million.  Construction will begin in April.

Second, the Board passed a 3 percent increase in tuition, board, and fees.

President Barazzone acknowledged the student petition against tuition increase.  In reference to the Board, “They are hearing you, but they simply could not honor that request, with great regret,” Barazzone said.

The final decision was to reevaluate Chatham College for Women’s feasibility as a single-sex institution and to vote in June about the college becoming coeducational.

Although the university’s enrollment, endowment, and assets have significantly increased since Barazzone’s arrival in 1992, undergraduate enrollment has not.

Despite a spike in 2008 when 729 students were enrolled, current enrollment is 543, just 25 students higher than it was in 1992.  Chatham has experienced an average decline of 9 percent each year since 2008 “not for want of trying.”

Barazzone said a “critical mass” of 800 to 1000 students is “necessary to create a vibrant campus community and provide appropriate numbers of faculty and classes.”

According to current survey records, only 2 percent of high school girls would consider attending a women’s college.  Three of every four women’s colleges experienced declining enrollment from 2010 and 2012.

In response to first-year student Margaret McGovney’s question concerning the better performance of women students at single-sex institutions, which gained applause and cheers from students and staff in the audience, Barazzone said, “No matter how perfect a product you have, if only two percent of prospective college students want to come, you need to think about how to solve that issue.”

The Board of Trustees has considered other options, including marketing Chatham as a “transfer school” to which students transfer after community college or doing away with undergraduate programming entirely; however, they saw no options other than going coed as desirable.

Board Chair S. Murray Rust III said, “We’re looking for ways to move forward that best preserve what we have while appealing to a broader group of students.”

Vice Chair Sigo Falk added, “We really can’t think of anything but a major reorganization now.”

“This is not a way of bringing men to Chatham,” Barazzone said. “It’s a way of bringing more women to Chatham.”  This statement was followed by a burst of laughter from the audience.

This was not the only scorn about the possible switch to coeducation expressed at the meeting.  As the sun set and the chapel dimmed, Barazzone answered many questions from concerned students.

Students brought up issues ranging from housing to sexual assault.

Students including first-year Meg Scanlon and junior Karen Salaverria expressed concerns about possible loss of single-professor departments and dual-enrollment programs.

Others, like first-year Maryann Fix, expressed frustration at the possibility of Chatham going coed because of the “promise” that had been made for four years of single-sex education.

President Barazzone addressed questions and concerns until she had to leave to address alumnae.

Students continued to discuss matters after the meeting concluded, and many took to social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter, to express their reactions.

Sophomore Melissa Garret believes a move away from single-sex education would be a mistake.  “This just isn’t what Chatham is about.  Women need to know just how successful and empowering they can be.”

A self-proclaimed feminist, Barazzone seems to agree about the importance of women’s education, but she is concerned about Chatham’s ability to survive as a single-sex institution.

“This is an interesting place, and the problem is not enough people have access to it,” Barazzone said.  “We have a vibrant university, and we are committed to keeping it vibrant.”

Chatham raises tuition three percent and considers going coed

At 4 p.m., Tuesday, February 18, a campus-wide meeting was called for students and faculty. Very little details were given prior to the meeting, but students speculated it would be about the rising tuition. They would be in for a surprise.

Officially the meeting was a “community campus update.” It was broken down into three sections, first the progress of Eden Hall, second the tuition raise, and last the prospect of going coeducational.

The first two parts of the meeting were expected, however the third part was not. Even the Chatham Student Government was caught off-guard by the proposition to go coeducational.

While the enrollment overall at Chatham has been increasing, the enrollment in Chatham College for Women has stayed stagnant. In 1992, when Chatham first considered going coeducational, the enrollment was 518. Today the enrollment is 542. While there is slight growth, it is not enough to keep the Women’s College viable. Growth in the future is also looking pessimistic. The first year class of 2013 is almost 50 percent less than the first year class of 2008.

Polls of female high schools seniors have shown that “only two percent would consider enrolling in a women’s college.” This puts Chatham in a niche market. With the economic downturn, college enrollment, especially in single-sex institutions has decreased significantly.

Some students believe that going coeducational is not the solution to Chatham’s enrollment problem. “One of the main reasons I decided on Chatham was because it is a woman’s college. If Chatham goes coed it will be going against a main component the university stands for. I think many women who can transfer out will,” junior Katie Roman said. “I think if we’re coed there won’t be as much focus on women’s education and empowerment.”

Chatham has made all the efforts it can to market towards female students. It has spent $4.5 million on advertising for the College for Women, which doubles the amount spent on any of the other Chatham colleges.

2015 is the proposed year for Chatham’s transition. In 2014, there will be male undergraduate students at Chatham with the introduction of the Falk School of Sustainability. Questions on where to house the male students in the future have yet to be answered officially, although the students next fall will be housed in the Hicks Estate.

To keep the spirit of the Women’s College, Chatham proposes to start an “institute for leadership and gender equality.” Female students could still earn a certificate in leadership studies, and study issues involving women.

Alternatives to going coed were suggested. Other suggestions were to lower requirements for transfer students, cut faculty and major programs, or to close the undergraduate program altogether.

Some students understood why these changes were proposed and supported the decision if it meant saving the school. Junior Jade Lawson said, “I’ve been going to an all women’s college for three years and appreciate all that it has offered me. But after watching President Barazzone nearly break into tears after telling us the news, I knew this was one of the hardest decisions for them to make.”

“I have my opinion that I have learned more in a single sex classroom but I also see that single sex colleges are failing. I am excited to see how this works out in my last year with the coed Falk School of Sustainability and how it may play for the rest of our college,” Lawson said.

Other students were quite upset with the changes. Sophomore Kenzie Saunders said, “I think Chatham would be completely treading on every principle they’ve been trying to instill in us by going coed. It would betray every positive aspect of going to an all women’s college. The magic would be gone.”

Three of the Board of Trustees members were present and spoke to support the decision to go coeducational. All three of these board members were male; aside from Dr. Barazzone no female board members spoke at the meeting.

Some students are looking at the positives of having an integrated undergrad. Sophomore Marie Soukup said, “I feel that even though we are a traditionally all women’s college, we as women will still be able to lead in the classroom and it shouldn’t effect how we learn and grow as students. I think it will be good for us to apply what we have learned about being leaders and world ready women.”

While the news about going coeducational was shocking and seemed to be the focus of the meeting, the status of Eden Hall and the rising tuition should not be overlooked.

This year phase 1A of Eden Hall was completed. Dr. Barazzone announced that this phase cost the school $17.7 million. This phase included finishing a public venue for gatherings, and creating a field lab.

Next year phase 1B will start. This phase will be focused on preparing the campus to be used by the School of Sustainability. The living facilities will be prepared to house 250 students. This phase will cost $27.7 million. When all is completed the campus should boast a 70 percent energy reduction and a 100 percent sustainability rate.

It was also announced that the tuition for 2013-2014 will be raised by 3 percent. Dr. Barazzone did note the petition effort by Chatham Student Government to stop the raise, and acknowledged that students are struggling to afford college. Despite this she stressed that a one-time increase will prevent a loss of funding, and that colleges similar to Chatham have increased their tuition by a greater amount. Also, the tuition raise will prevent Chatham from making cuts to faculty and programs.

While it is clear Chatham is considering some drastic changes to keep the undergraduate program alive, until Tuesday, the undergraduate students have been kept in the dark.