October 6, 2015

Dear Trinity Faculty, Staff, and Students,

We are now a full month into the fall semester, and I suspect that you, like me, can feel the energy everywhere you go on campus.  The pulse of campus life has quickened with the arrival of first-year students and the return of their upper-year peers, all fully engaged in classes, research, extracurricular events, athletic competition, and social life ’neath the elms.  As the leaves begin to turn, it seems there is no better place to be than on the campus of Trinity College.  Members of the Trinity Board of Trustees also witnessed the excitement and high levels of engagement among our students when they were on campus for the Board of Trustees meeting on October 2 and 3.  At our meeting, the trustees learned more about the College’s key initiatives for this fall and began to work with me to articulate a vision of Trinity’s future.  They also had several opportunities to speak with students and faculty.

As I have done before, I’d like to share with you the highlights of the Board of Trustees meeting:

  • Enrollment and Student Success.  Angel Pérez, Vice President for Enrollment and Student Success, engaged the board in a discussion of Trinity’s admissions and financial aid.  Angel joined Trinity on June 1, bringing to the College his vast experience in admissions recruiting, deep knowledge of the changing geographic and demographic landscape of today’s and tomorrow’s college applicant pool, and a thorough understanding of best practices in enrollment management.  Angel shared ideas of how he intends to strengthen the College’s relationships with high school guidance counselors, recruit strong students in new markets both nationally and internationally, and use our financial aid dollars most effectively.  Angel outlined a vision of attracting and retaining the very best students to Trinity, which includes a more holistic review of applicants, focusing on the full spectrum of predictors of student success in college.  Research shows, for example, that high school GPA is a stronger predictor of success in college than standardized test scores.  Our Admissions team has reintroduced a Trinity-specific essay and is retraining in order to search for criteria in the application materials that are highly correlated with college success.  To expand our reach in attracting and retaining the best students, Trinity will join other colleges across the country that have made the submission of SAT or ACT scores optional for applicants, beginning with the current admissions cycle.  In doing so, we join other colleges such as Middlebury, Wesleyan, Bates, Smith, Pitzer, Dickinson, and Union.
  •  Student Life.  Joe DiChristina, Dean of Campus Life and Vice President for Student Affairs, led a discussion of student life on campus, starting with the successful launch of the Bantam Network. Joe described the high level of engagement of our newest students, the enthusiasm of our Trinsition Fellows, the involvement of our faculty mentors, and the ever-growing sense of community within the individual Bantam Nests.  Trustees visited several of the newly renovated kitchen-lounge areas in our first-year residence halls, which were gutted and re-outfitted this summer in preparation for use by the first Bantam Network students.  Chaplain Allison Read described the intensive work of the students in the five student working groups who are leading the Campaign for Community initiative on campus, helping us to define and articulate the kind of community we wish to be.  Trustees were invited to join faculty, staff, and students on November 7 to attend a Campaign for Community presentation by the student working groups and to engage in a discussion about campus community.
  • The Coed Mandate.  Following on my letter to the campus on September 4, the Board of Trustees voted to continue to uphold the recommendations of the Charter Committee, which have resulted in many positive changes in campus life for students, but to rescind mandates requiring coeducation of selective social student organizations, including fraternities and sororities.  A solid majority of trustees voted in favor of eliminating the coed mandate.  As I stated in my letter, the College will continue to enforce the other rules related to selective social organizations, such as the minimum GPA requirement and the ban on pledging.  As a College, we also expect all students to treat others with respect and civility.  We have made considerable progress in building a strong campus community in recent years, and I have every expectation that this progress will continue as we move forward.
  • The Budget.  The College entered the 2016 fiscal year on July 1 following a year when our budget was buoyed by strong returns from our endowment portfolio, careful spending, and a special draw on the endowment.  Paul Mutone, Vice President for Finance and Operations and Treasurer, reminded us that this year, we face lower revenues and weaker investment returns.  As a result of a multiyear anticipated revenue decrease, I have asked my Cabinet, which is comprised of senior representatives from across the College, to work together to identify$2 million in savings for the current fiscal year.  Finding ways to share resources across departments, identifying work that can be done differently and at lower cost, not filling vacant staff positions – these and other approaches will all be considered as we seek to balance our FY2016 budget.  In the longer term, our goal is to establish a sustainable budget for Trinity, one that incorporates both smart and efficient operations and new revenue streams, all in alignment with our mission.  So the work before us is twofold: bring the current year’s budget into balance, and plan a long-term budget that is sustainable and supports our educational goals.
  • On Campus and in Hartford.  New construction continues to reshape the look of the campus. Work is progressing on the exciting new Music Rehearsal and Performance Hall adjacent to Austin Arts Center, with an anticipated opening in January 2016.  We are about to break ground on Crescent Street for the new bookstore and café.  Scheduled to open this summer, this new facility will be a vibrant addition to the southeast corner of campus. As for downtown Hartford, we have received architectural renderings for the space Trinity will use within our new building at 200 Constitution Plaza, and we are engaged in conversations with organizations interested in leasing space and ways to support the Hartford downtown community.  I remain excited and optimistic about the possibilities this new downtown facility holds and potential collaborations with Hartford academic institutions and other members of the Hartford community.

We continue to make progress toward our most important goals, the core of which is providing the highest quality education to our students.  As the institution spirals upward, I invite you to engage in Trinity’s future.


Joanne Berger-Sweeney
President and Trinity College Professor
of Neuroscience