Comfort and Joy

It is late November and the cold, raw wind has arrived. Leaves have fallen from the trees, though some cling stubbornly to the branches. The unseasonable warmth of early fall is a memory. Frost comes at night and the days are short. Thanksgiving is almost upon us and we are sliding into winter.

And with winter come the family gatherings of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa, sacred, joyous times for each of us.
It’s been quite a year. At the national level, the academic community has been embattled on many fronts. While we successfully fought off proposed reductions in federal research support for another year, we now find ourselves fighting a proposed tax on tuition waivers in the House bill for graduate students who teach or do research. This would really hit home: according to the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, about 60 percent of graduate students who receive these waivers are pursuing degrees in the sciences and technology.

Additionally, the House bill repeals the student loan interest deduction, which allows student loan borrowers – including medical and graduate students – to lower their taxable income by up to $2,500, potentially saving hundreds of dollars in taxes. Also, we resist the principle of an excise tax on endowments and we want our staff to make use of undergrad tuition benefits for their children without being taxed. Bottom line: there is comfort in Congress’s support for biomedical research excellence but we stop well short of joy on the proposed impact of the tax bill on higher education.

In partnership with the University, we are following these tax measures closely. CWRU's offices of Finance, Human Resources, and Financial Aid have calculated the potential impact of the tax provisions on CWRU's faculty, staff, and students and we have communicated this information and our concerns to our members of Congress. President Snyder, who is incoming chair of the American Council on Education and an Executive Committee member of the Association of American Universities, has been playing an active part in advocacy efforts on behalf of the education community. I will keep you posted on this matter as it develops.

At the School level, we have seen great success. In fiscal year 2017, our basic science departments saw a 10 percent increase in NIH funding, validating the strong science that is taking place. We have seen the commercial sector invest over $30M in our technologies in just the last few months, with the hope that they will come to benefit patients. There has been strong investment on the nonprofit side for our technologic advances as well – from both the federal government and private philanthropy. These funds bring us the comfort of being able to do our work and the joy of discovery and advancing our work toward patients.

There is also good news on the education front. Re-accredited for eight more years, we can continue moving forward with our innovative curricular ideas in partnership with our great students, ultimately sending them into residencies to do us proud. The long term of accreditation is comforting – but the joy comes from seeing the success of our students!

As the winter settles in around us, we can take comfort and joy in our accomplishments and look toward the future with hope. ’Tis the season to put aside the minor aggravations, fight the good fight for things that are important, and renew our commitments to discovery and passing on our wisdom.

Happy Holidays!