The first year of Colgate’s third century, academic year of 2019–20, was, by almost every measure imaginable, historic. For just the third time in the University’s history, the college suspended traditional, in-person instruction — with the first two stoppages related to the onset of world wars. This past year’s closure was made in response to the emergence and wide spread of the coronavirus and resulting pandemic. In March of this academic year, students returned to their homes, instruction moved to an online format, and the University responded to a resulting severe economic downturn. By April, the campus was profoundly quiet. In May, commencement was held virtually, with degrees conferred over the internet. These turn of events was shocking, profoundly unsettling, and sad.
Simultaneously, the University and the nation were called on to reckon with the role racism has played in all of our lives. The death of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor demonstrated, more acutely than ever before for many, the real cost of racial injustice in the lives of the nation and the functioning of all of our institutions — including this University. While our faculty, students, and staff witnessed these events away from the campus, the effect of this moment of reckoning was profoundly felt by us all and among our alumni.
It would be easy or tempting to have this inaugural University Report speak only to these events. But the first year of Colgate’s third century was also a time of progress on a series of plans that had been put into place prior to the interlocking health, economic, and social crises. It is important for Colgate to take the long view and to pursue excellence along a determined path for a sustained, if not perpetual, period. This report is part of that effort.
What follows within this report is a listing of actions taken in service of key institutional plans. In the first section, we offer the current version of plans as authorized through both the Board and campus governance processes. Then specific updates to each of these plans follows. Finally, this report offers an overview of the University’s finances.
By placing all of this information in one report, we can make more intentional the processes through which we determine our path forward. It is important that there be agreed-upon strategic plans. This is the reason why we offer, within this report, the current version of authorized plans. Should the plans be formally modified in any year, they will be updated in the next annual report.
By reporting through this structure, Colgate can strengthen its governance culture, make institutional plans apparent to all, and create a campus community in which progress toward desired ends is manifest.
The Strategic and Planning Work of the 2020–21 Academic Year
While the exact landscape of the 2020–21 academic year is unclear at the time of this writing, with the intention to resume in-person instruction carefully set but still at risk, the following are the actions in planning and execution that should occur in the service of moving Colgate forward.
- Update The Third-Century Plan (3CP). 3CP was originally written in the 2018–19 academic year. Formally updating it through campus- and Board-based discussions seems in order, particularly to ensure that the plan more directly addresses diversity concerns and to make more specific plans for the renovation and transformation of Broad Street.
- Better integrate the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Plan (DEI Plan) with 3CP. The University’s first DEI Plan was written during the truncated 2019–20 academic year. Since its formal acceptance in late 2019, comments and suggested amendments to the plan have come from various offices and divisions. These need to be considered as part of a potential update to the DEI Plan. Further, the DEI Plan needs to be better integrated into 3CP and not sit somewhat astride from the University’s formal long-term strategic plan.
- Similarly, the University’s Sustainability Plan both needs to be updated and, much like the DEI Plan, better integrated into 3CP.
- Finally, the University should take all steps necessary to bring together a variety of capital planning projects into a more cohesive whole so that a long-term campus plan emerges that can guide capital decisions for years, if not decades.
Governance, Planning, and the Work of the University
In addition to the work of the Board of Trustees in service, the following specific governance actions should be undertaken to ensure that University governance aligns with strategic planning.
- The Advisory and Planning Committee should coordinate the processes through which The Third- Century Plan is updated and related plans are more directly integrated.
- The newly formed DEI Advisory Committee should coordinate the review and updates, and communicate the implementation of the DEI Plan.
- The University’s Sustainability Council should work on a new sustainability plan now that the first five-year plan is coming to its completion.
- A multi-constituent effort should be brought to bear to develop a long-term residential life plan for Colgate, with specific emphasis on housing for juniors and seniors. The state of the houses on Broad Street calls for an intervention, and concerns about diversity and inclusion call for a wider set of experiences in this region of campus.
- Finally, the campus-based University Property Committee and various Board-based committees should see how best to integrate and prioritize a series of emerging capital plans.