February 11, 2021
Dear Trinity College Community Members,
Much in our lives has changed since the February 2020 meeting of the Board of Trustees. Just one year ago, we gathered in person—in grand style—for the 50 for the Next 50 celebration, one of the culminating events of our commemoration of the 50th anniversary of coeducation at Trinity. We honored our history and looked forward to a very bright future, never imagining the scale and scope of challenges that lay just ahead.
A year later, we have risen to those challenges, and we are boldly creating our own future in a changing landscape. So, at this board meeting, we focused on a theme of “reenvisioning the Trinity experience,” considering the ways in which we have changed and will continue to change in response to both the coronavirus pandemic and the intensified movement toward racial and social justice.
We began the board meeting with a stimulating conversation about the connections between entrepreneurship and the liberal arts, led by entrepreneurs extraordinaire Lou Shipley ’85, Elizabeth Elting ’87, and Danny Meyer ’80, P’20. Danny aptly reminded us that entrepreneurship is a mindset, not simply learning how to launch a business. “Rather, it’s a developed ability to sense and identify problems (often ahead of others) to imagine winning solutions, then to persuade people to join the team and others to adopt the solution,” he said. I can’t think of a better description of the Bantam spirit over the last year!
We then discussed the many lessons learned last fall in navigating our community through a pandemic. We looked at the patterns of COVID-19 transmission we saw, as well as our efforts to mitigate the spread through an extraordinary surveillance testing program and thorough contact tracing, quarantine, and isolation protocols. Just as importantly, we focused on the experiences of students, staff, and faculty and previewed results from surveys conducted about those experiences. We’ll share more of that information with the community in town halls for students and families and for faculty and staff next week.
Trustees also heard firsthand about students’ co-curricular experiences from the fall and our preparations for the spring return to face-to-face learning.
Trustee Michael Gary ’86 shared a first report of the board’s new Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, recapping its meeting with the Umoja Coalition and work to create a DEI dashboard. The committee also shared its recommendations for trustee education and self-awareness in support of creating a more inclusive community.
A reminder of our primary academic mission and the excellence of our faculty, we celebrated the promotion to full professor of Carol Any (language and culture studies), Lin Cheng (engineering), Eric Galm (music), Beth Notar (anthropology), and Mitch Polin (theater and dance). We also recognized devoted, outstanding years of service, awarding emeritus status to retiring faculty members William Church (chemistry), Diana Evans (political science), Ronald Kiener (religious studies), Katharine Power (theater and dance), Gary Reger (classical languages), Maurice Wade (philosophy), Lucy Ferriss (writer-in-residence), and Michael O’Donnell (principal lecturer and laboratory coordinator in biology). Congratulations to all!
Board members were gratified to hear of the faculty’s overwhelming vote in January to create a flexible process that eliminates the long-standing cap on the size of the tenure-line faculty and allows elected faculty committees to work with the dean of the faculty to recommend new positions to the president and Board of Trustees. The board commended Trinity faculty for their ongoing commitment to shared governance.
We also shared that Trinity’s decision to hold flat the comprehensive fee for 2020–21 had the effect of moving the college from last year’s position of most expensive NESCAC institution to seventh among the 11 schools this year. This is good news as we work hard to continue to appeal to prospective families from across the economic spectrum. The board will take up a vote on the comprehensive fee for 2021–22 in its April meeting. Additionally, the board agreed to delay a vote on the FY22 operating and capital budgets until June, given the continued uncertainty related to the pandemic.
We have much to consider together this spring, including the conversation begun by the President’s Commission for Trinity’s Future. The board is thinking about how best to engage the wider Trinity community in that conversation, to carry forward the priorities developed in our strategic plan, Summit, in a post-pandemic world and a changing higher education landscape.
Throughout the meeting, trustees praised the remarkable flexibility and resilience of the entire Trinity community in navigating well the unprecedented fall semester. They expressed pride in and gratitude for our collective work on behalf of Trinity in preparing bold, independent thinkers who lead transformative lives. Together, we have shown our entrepreneurial spirit in full measure, and our future continues to be bright.
President and Trinity College Professor of Neuroscience