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Open Forum on Financial Priorities

The first in a series of open forums on the financial priorities planning process took place October 29. Students, faculty, and staff members gathered in the Student Lounge to listen as President Arthur Levine and other senior administrators explained how the planning process is going to work.

The College hopes to embark on a capital campaign next year. But first it must set priorities on how the money would be spent. The forum is just one of many ways President Levine is trying to encourage the TC community to participate in setting those priorities.

"We have a real chance to do some exciting things at this College," he said. Setting financial priorities is going to have "a very important bearing on the future of the College."

Joseph Brosnan, chairman of the Financial Priorities Committee (FPC) and Vice President of Development and External Affairs, was frank with the students in the audience. The work of the committee will benefit future students more than the current student body, he said. "Having said that," he added, "there will be certain projects, such as ramping the main entrance to Main Hall, that will be an immediate improvement."

Discussions about long-term leveraging of financial aid to shape our student body may influence short-term planning about the kind of financial aid the College currently offers, he said.

The students welcomed proposals for more financial aid, but they had other concerns that they urged College officials to address.

Stephanie Lee, a master's student in philosophy and education who commutes to the College, is a single mother with a three-year-old daughter. She said that being a working mother and a student is exhausting. She asked College officials to consider providing housing for single parents and more child care.

Alison Rabil, a doctoral student in higher education, would like the College to provide more teaching assistantships. She suggested that if the College can't provide them, it should designate someone to help students apply for grants and fellowships.

Administrators in the audience noted the students' comments and concerns. In addition, Julie Orio, Vice President of the Student Senate and a member of the Financial Priorities Committee, said that the Senate would set up tables to solicit more input from students.

Comments about financial priorities may be sent by electronic mail to fpc@columbia.edu. There is also a newsgroup on Usenet (accessible via Pine, Netscape or other browsers), columbia.tc.fpc, where faculty, students and staff can discuss the strategic planning process.

Information about the financial planning process is available on the TC Web site at http://www.tc.columbia.edu/~newsbureau/. On that Web site are back issues of the TC Communiqué, a new publication that will detail the work of the FPC. The full membership list of the committee is on the Web site along with details from committee meetings.

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