Letter to the Editor: Strategic Planning costs

By Garikai Campbell

Dear Editors,

First, I would like to commend you and the members of the Phoenix staff for covering the recently released update, “Strategic Directions for Swarthmore College,” in your news article on September 8. This is a critical stage in the strategic planning process, and we on the Strategic Planning Council are eager and excited to gather constructive feedback. The community’s ideas and reactions will help us shape this update into a final plan that we can present to the Board of Managers this winter. The primary vehicles for receiving this feedback are small group conversations such as the open sessions for students on Monday, September 26 and Sunday, October 2 (in the Scheuer Room of Kohlberg Hall starting at 8:15 and 8:00, respectively) and online at the strategic planning website (http://sp.swarthmore.edu). We encourage all students to participate in one of discussions or to offer their thoughts online.

I would also like to provide some context regarding some of the good points raised in last week’s editorial, “Strategic Planning draft should outline cost, overall plan.” In particular, the editorial accurately points out that we do not discuss the details of cost at this point in the planning process. Many of the ideas in this draft are ambitious and will require a variety of strategies to support them. The most important of these strategies is a capital campaign equal in ambition to those ideas and according to our current analysis, one that may have a goal of raising between $350 and $400 million. In addition, we expect some of these ideas to be supported by creating efficiencies that come from using technology appropriately, and from being thoughtful in the repurposing of old facilities, even as new spaces are built, just to name two examples. Note that these too are broad ideas. All of this is intentional.

As was stated in the strategic planning document, “This strategic plan is designed to give Swarthmore a broad vision … for our future together. It is meant to be an organic document that can adjust both to additional community input and new challenges or opportunities as they arise.” (p. 29.) We think this is the right type of document for this stage of the process, and that it is consistent with how we (and other Colleges and Universities) have planned in the past. The Honors program, for example, emerged from similar origins. In that instance, Frank Aydelotte shared with the community what was then the radical (to American higher education) concept of an Honors program with outside examiners and small groups of students engaged in intense, often independent, learning, tested the program’s soundness and resonance and ultimately set the College on a course that would positively and remarkably alter its future. This was done first as a “broad vision,” a combination of a new idea, solid research and extensive consultation with our own community. It was then followed by careful, thorough stewardship of the College’s resources as final decisions were made and the idea implemented.

We have followed that same model here, having added to it extensive consultation with our entire community in the development of the plan from the outset. It is our hope that by hearing from the community this fall, we will be most informed about which ideas need further analysis, and how to prioritize these ideas; we hope the discussions we will have over the next few weeks will set us on the right course for doing all the hard work necessary to turn our ideas into a concrete plan for our future together.

Sincerely,

Garikai Campbell
Associate Vice President for Strategic Planning
Associate Professor of Mathematics

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