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January 16, 2009

President and Provost Welcome Community Back to Campus

To Case Western Reserve University Community:

Barbara R. Snyder

As the new semester begins, we write to update you regarding progress on some of our key priorities for 2009. First, however, we want to congratulate all of you for the remarkable accomplishments of the past year. Any one of our greatest collective successes – record-level fundraising, elimination of our budget deficit or completing a strategic plan – would stand as an impressive achievement in itself. That we managed all three in 2008 testifies to the enormous talent and dedication of this community. Both of us deeply appreciate the contributions you have made to the University’s progress, and are eager to build on our growing momentum in the coming year.

These advances have taken place at a time when the national economy is experiencing challenges of historic proportions. As we noted in our November 4 communication, we are watching these developments closely in planning for the University’s future. We remain committed to investing in our highest priorities, but also recognize that responsible stewardship requires that we be fully prepared to adapt to changes in the broader financial landscape.

The discipline that allowed us to finish 2008 with a surplus has helped position us well for current challenges. Standard & Poor’s last month pointed to significant improvements in the University’s financial operations in upgrading our credit rating outlook. In addition, our endowment is highly diversified and exceptionally well managed. Over the five years preceding June 30, 2008, for example, compounded returns averaged 13 percent annually. Still, just as the nation’s dramatic market changes have influenced your personal financial situation, they also have affected the University’s long-term financial assets. We are still finalizing year-end investment performance, but estimate the value of our total endowment assets at about $1.4 billion as of December 31st, a figure that represents a 20 percent decline over the previous six months.

In that context, today’s extraordinary times demand that we be even more careful in administering our daily financial operations and in preparing for the future. We already have conveyed to deans and other leaders the imperative of evaluating every expense to ensure that it is truly essential to University operations. At the same time, we are reviewing various financial models to inform our budget deliberations. We have no immediate plans for significant spending or personnel reductions in Fiscal Year 2010, but we also cannot rule them out altogether. We will continue to devote resources to areas that enhance the excellence of the institution, but in a time of constrained resources that may mean reallocations of existing dollars – rather than major infusions of new funding.

Part of our sensitivity regarding expenditures centers on our concern for our students and their families. We are working to reduce significantly the amount of our tuition increase for the next academic year, and to continue our substantial institutional commitment to financial assistance to our students. We plan to schedule an open forum early this semester where the Provost and some of his team can discuss these issues with students. 

Amid this broader economic uncertainty, however, it is even more important to recognize the concrete progress the Institution has made in recent months. For example, our Office of Undergraduate Admissions relocated to Wolstein Hall in November, a beautiful space that more fully conveys the quality of the institution to prospective students and their families. Vice President for Enrollment Management Randy Deike and his team also are more effectively targeting recruitment efforts; as of last week applications are a full 20 percent ahead of this time last year – a figure that translates to an increase of more than 1,000 applications.

Meanwhile, we are continuing to strengthen our capacity in both communications and fundraising. Our new magazine, Think, is an outstanding example of the ways we have become more sophisticated in conveying our powerful story. Senior Vice President for University Relations and Development Bruce Loessin and his staff are being just as thoughtful in identifying and securing new resources, even as we continue to rebuild relationships with our many longtime supporters.

In addition, we have taken significant steps to execute key initiatives cited in our strategic plan, Forward Thinking. Working groups comprised of faculty, staff and students are detailing and launching plans to advance key initiatives in internationalization, faculty and staff compensation, student advising, and the assessment of our doctoral programs.  We are convening a leadership retreat in early February where participants across the campus will establish an agenda that identifies the University’s highest and most immediate priorities.  We will provide you a more detailed update on their work after that event.

As you recall, Forward Thinking calls on the University to build on strengths. Even a cursory review of news from the past year demonstrates that we have them in abundance. While we must be vigilant in our efforts to meet the challenges of the current economy, we are convinced that still greater success is yet to come. Thank you again for an outstanding 2008, and we look forward to an even more wonderful New Year.

Sincerely,

Barbara R. Snyder
President

W. A. “Bud” Baeslack III
Provost