As Sierra Nevada College finds its footing in the realm of financial security, the budget remains as delicate as ever, and the college faculty have certainly felt the pinch.
“In general, salaries at the institution are something that we are very concerned about,” Provost Shannon Beets said. “We know that the unemployment rate is going down in our part of the world, we know that there is more competition in the market for good employees, and we know that as we sort of find our feet institutionally in terms of financial sustainability, we need to reinvest in our people.”
The college’s revenue stream has indeed been growing over the last few years. SNC’s IRS 990 forms shows a deficit of -$1,393,525 in the 2009-2010 calendar year, and a revenue of $519,834 in the 2012-2013 calendar year.
“In the last few years our finances have become quite stable,” President Lynn Gillette said in a September 2014 Eagle’s Eye interview.
Although the college’s revenue is growing, growth in the faculty salary portion of the budget has been slow compared to national trends such as inflation and growth in the local cost of living.
A cost of living adjustment to faculty wages was recently approved by the SNC Board of Trustees outlining a 4 percent raise for every faculty member, effective Nov. 1, 2014. This was the first cost of living adjustment for faculty since 2009, Beets said.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics website, the rate of inflation between 2009 and 2014 was approximately 11 percent in total. Cost of living has grown by approximately 10 percent since 2008, according to Suzanne Gollery, SNC professor and Science and Technology department chair.
I’d like to address my concerns regarding the building of a presidential residence on campus. I, along with many other students whom I’ve spoken to on this subject, have grave concerns regarding the impact of this project. These include the environmental impact on the proposed building site, the image of our college that such an endeavor will alter, the economic concerns regarding the use of donor funds, and the hypocritical nature of such a project as it goes against the core values of this school.
The project’s “focus on marketing and branding” [sic] has the potential to be a detriment to the students. This focus detracts from providing a better environment for the students, faculty, and staff to live, work, learn, and play. Rather than presenting an image of affluence and prestige, the energies spent on “marketing and branding” should involve creating actual affluence and prestige. There are several ways in which this generous donation can be used that do not involve a fancier place for faculty and Lakeshore Blvd. residents to party – “a president’s house on campus would be a place to easily host potential and current students, faculty, donors and visitors.”
A couple examples for better use of donor funds may include:
– Increasing budgets across all departments would help to provide for a better education for the students that are already here. This could take the form of better equipment and infrastructure, and/or more campus events (i.e. film festivals, Writers in the Woods candidates, etc).
– Increasing faculty salaries and creating more full time/tenured faculty positions. This would increase the level of educational expertise this school can provide, which in turn would improve this school’s image in the academic community.
Currently, planning and permitting is in action to build a residence on campus for Sierra Nevada College presidents by 2016. Funded by donors, a president’s house on campus would be a place to easily host potential and current students, faculty, donors and visitors.
With the high academic quality and growth mode in motion, President Lynn Gillette explained that the president’s house fits in with the school’s future.
“We are starting a major focus on marketing and branding,” Gillette said. “This is about the campus; it is not about the current president,”
If the plan goes as scheduled, construction will begin May of 2015. The project will take roughly 12 to 13 months, meaning completion sometime during the summer of 2016. The 1.2 million dollar project will be completely funded by an anonymous donor, with other donors possibly contributing. The house has been estimated to be 3,000 square feet.
Many students and faculty have been wondering why a house for the president is even in the master plan for the school, and some raise concerns over the proposed location, and loosing the demonstration garden.
Senior Rachel Blum, who will be graduating in December does not agree with the decision to build the house.
“Why would we build an exclusive house for the president when we could build a community space for the students or an amphitheater that could be used for outdoor classes, readings, or performing arts. I think that would be cheaper and more beneficial for the students,” Blum said.
With the admissions department involved in both the school’s branding and marketing,
Dean of Admissions, Steve Berry, points out the benefits of building a president’s house.
“I think it’s great for admissions in the sense that one of our biggest selling points right now is that our executive team, meaning our president and provost, still teach classes on campus,” Berry said.“They’re actively engaged within the campus community, they’re visible on campus.”
“Having the president’s house on campus will add more credibility to what we’re preaching to the students when they know our president lives on campus,” said Berry. “He’s accessible, he’s visible and he’s very student centered which is something we’re proud of here at SNC” Berry said.
Chair of the Interdisciplinary Committee Katie Zanto explains that having an active president living on campus will be good for the school and its students.
“I think that having a president on campus who is involved in campus events and is very involved with knowing the students and their interests will definitely benefit the school,” Zanto said.
One thing that has not yet been decided is the location of the house. Gillette shared that the board is still figuring out where the house will be built; this will depend on parking and utilities.
“There have been about four sites under review. We’re looking at how different sighting impacts the master plan, utility delivery to that site, parking availability to the site,” Gillette said.
According to Gillette another geographic aspect the board has been considering during the decision making process is, “keeping the residential core whole and the academic core whole.”
As the fall semester continues, the permits for the project may or may not be granted. If they are granted, a location will be decided on and building will begin. The four locations that have been proposed are shown below on the campus’s map.
When he speaks, students listen. When he stops speaking, most people wish he’d continue. Rick Normington is an individual who is capable of captivating an entire room with his business knowledge gained from more than 30 years of private sector work, and he is always willing to assist or mentor anyone who crosses his path.
Opening an outdoor sporting goods shop in what was once a Porters is a big gamble when it comes to a new business venture. Redemption Sports is a premium sporting good store located next to Incline Liquor on Tahoe Boulevard.
Kapilananda Mondal, a businessman from India, will speak at Sierra Nevada College from 5-6:15 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 12, in Prim Library. He will also visit 12 other schools this year to talk about how he is using microfinance to create a sustainable community.