The Board of Trustees approved the first phase of work to renovate Alumni Hall, which includes the exterior work already underway.
The board’s meeting during the last weekend in October, which was the first of the year and the first with Teresa Amott as president, also addressed the budget, the endowment, an audit of the college’s finances and the campus “housing crisis.” The board also named Roger Taylor president emeritus.
Alumni Hall moves forward
With respect to the Alumni Hall renovation, the exterior work was unanimously approved, and Holabird and Root was again named the architect for the project, according to Chair of the Board of Trustees Jan Koran ’71. Koran said that company was chosen several years ago through a vetting process, but there was no funding for the project and it fell apart.
“The board also endorsed Teresa’s concept of just leaving the shell of the exterior and gutting the interior of Alumni Hall and having Holabird and Root design it from literally the ground up,” Koran said.
The next step of the process, Koran said, will include a report being put together by Amott and Dean of the College Larry Breitborde. The report will detail what will be housed in the building, and that will serve as the basis for drawings developed by the architect.
The college started this fiscal year with a $3.6 million budget deficit, and Koran said this was a major topic of discussion for the board. But she said the board is still waiting for more information from Amott and Vice President for Finance Tom Axtell in the coming months.
“We are in a deficit situation and have plans afoot to address the deficit,” Koran said. “But it’s going to be very tough this year and next year to balance the college’s budget.”
Koran said it is a “likely situation” that the college will have to dip into unrestricted bequests to balance the budget at the end of the year.
Sophomore Senator and one of the student observers to the board Esther Farler-Westphal said the trustees seemed worried about the endowment. However, the endowment was invested and saw a good return, as the return as a percentage of the overall size was comparable to that of Columbia University.
Koran said the independent auditor reported that there were no issues with the fiscal year 2010-2011 budget.
The campus “housing crisis”
Farler-Westphal talked about the so-called “housing crisis” on campus addressed by the board, and she said she is worried about the near-full capacity of campus housing.
“We’re at 99 percent capacity. [Associate Dean of Students] Craig Southern has had to do a lot maneuvering — that has been unfortunate that there are a lot of displaced first-years this year,” Farler-Westphal said. “That’s not necessarily a good situation. … It’s usually better for first-years to live with other first-years.”
She added that the crisis is mainly due to consecutive years of over-enrollment and students not moving off campus as much. And while this may be good for the endowment, it is not good for housing.
Farler-Westphal cited campus Wi-Fi and the misconception that students cannot be on board if they live off campus as possible reasons that students are staying on campus.
President Emeritus Roger Taylor
The board voted to name Roger Taylor president emeritus, a title that has been given to former presidents E. Inman Fox (who served as president from 1974 to 1982) and John McCall (1982 to 1993).
“Roger already has started doing some writing and other things,” Koran said. “In order for him to have a title related to Knox would be an honor for him in thanks for all of his years of work and also recognize what he thinks about the college.”
Farler-Westphal said she sees the new title as an honorary one, and that “He remains in our hearts, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.” But she also said it is important to recognize Amott’s work.
“I think it is important to make sure that Teresa knows we appreciate her, and that we’re not thinking ‘he’ll always be the president in our hearts,’ Farler-Westphal said. “It’s time to move on.”
As this was Amott’s first board meeting as president, Koran said she is pleased with the job Amott has done so far in her first few months.
“I think she hit the ground running,” Koran said. “She’s reading a lot, assessing a lot, and I think she and the senior staff have really gelled. So on all fronts, I think things are going well.”
“If I had to have one overall impression, I guess the sense that faculty, students and staff are all excited and upbeat and having a good first term,” Koran said. “A lot of that is due to stuff like the construction fence around Alumni Hall and some movement on a lot of subjects. I’ve seen the place look better and feel more upbeat than it has in a long time.”