To: The Faculty Executive Council and Executive Administration
From: David Clay/Jonathan Brand
Date: March 14, 2001
Re: Strategic Planning Process/Budget Formulation
It has become clear from discussions with President Osgood, Jim Swartz, and Bob Grey and recent discussions at faculty and Executive Council meetings that our budget process would be strengthened by a stronger linkage with the process for articulating our strategic direction and priorities. With the assistance of the President and the Treasurer, the Board of Trustees focuses primarily on broad budget parameters over the long-term; the Board's process and the on-campus budget process could both benefit from interfacing more while both are occurring.
This memorandum suggests a structure and process through which the campus community can work together to ensure that hard budgetary choices (which are necessary for developing a disciplined annual budget) reflect a common mission and agreed-upon strategic direction. At colleges like Grinnell, the budget process should include communication among various groups and encourage an ethos in which members of the campus community understand that making budgetary choices necessarily means weighing various proposals ranging from, for example, faculty positions/curricular choices to increased financial aid, salaries, facilities, increased investments in the community, administrative endeavors, or other expenditures. We cannot ensure that everyone will be happy with decisions; but we can ensure an equitable and open process for reaching decisions. To succeed, this new planning and budget process would draw on the strengths of Grinnell's current governance system.
I. Long-Term Goals for Planning
We have a number of longer-term institutional goals related to strategic and budget planning that can guide our efforts. They are as follows:
- Develop a greater sense of common mission/purpose;
- Develop a culture of strategic thinking- which programs to add, maintain, or drop and where to reallocate funding;
- Develop greater budget awareness and responsibility, including the fact that increasing revenue and the ability to expend more resources are directly related;
- Develop greater interaction/dialogue between the Board-focused budgetary process and the on-campus budgetary one; and
- Develop a greater overall sense of satisfaction in institutional strategic planning and the budget process.
By keeping in sight these longer-term goals, we will work better together in furthering the mission of the college.
II. Purpose, Values, Mission, Strategies, and Tactics: What Is Grinnell College and Where Is It Going?
The ongoing quest to fulfill the college's central purpose began with the founding of the college and continues to the present day. Through each iteration, there has been common agreement that Grinnell College is, essentially, a residential liberal arts college. We believe that the highest quality academic experiences flow from our intimate and active learning environment set in a residential community. If there is already widespread agreement on the mission, it also appears that certain strategies are already clear and enjoy broad support. For example, we must develop initiatives to encourage faculty to continue to be exceptional teachers and leaders within their respective fields, the liberal arts community, and higher education. We need to enhance the local community in a manner that strengthens the college. This is, in part, the motivation behind the location of the new Admission/Welcome Center and the Old Glove Factory. Finally, we need first-rate facilities which support our academic program and provide a superior living and learning environment.
This collective sense of direction continues to develop; most recently, for example, the Executive Council has committed itself to participating in revising a draft mission statement devised by members of the executive administration and others and now posted on the Web with a global invitation to members of the Grinnell community to respond. It would be desirable for this focus on the college's goals and ideals to guide a revitalized and more broadly based process for setting institutional priorities underlying the annual budget of the college.
III. Understanding Shared Governance
Shared governance is at the heart of our decision-making process. Members of the campus community, including the executive administration and Executive Council, need to discuss periodically the concept of shared governance and the decision-making process as it relates to the full range of college-related issues. This discussion would clarify exactly where decision-making authority lies for specific areas. Reviewing the logic behind our structures of governance will be particularly important as a way to ensure appropriate working relationships among campus groups and to develop realistic expectations among all members of the campus community, as an important step toward creating a successful and sustainable budget process.
IV. A Strategic and Budget Planning Committee
The college's annual budget is approved by the Board of Trustees upon the recommendation of the President. People throughout the college community need to take a clear and active role in setting priorities within their areas and in conveying these priorities to a more central, representative group that can advise the President on how to structure a budget that accords with the highest values and priorities of the institution. That is, it would help to have a group of people on campus who are in a position to speak knowledgeably about the various interests of different areas of the college, and who, at the same time, bring an institution-wide perspective to the task of advising the President on the formation of the budget.
We believe that the President should establish a new committee for institutional budget planning, to replace the present structure of the Campus Budget Advisory Committee. Instead of two faculty members appointed by the President, this committee would include the Chair of the Faculty and a second faculty member of the Executive Council. In addition to the Vice-President for Academic Affairs and the Treasurer, the other Vice-Presidents (who represent areas of the college that have not been represented in the process, such as Alumni Relations and Development and Student Services) and the Dean of College Services would also be included. (The Assistant Treasurer would continue to provide financial analysis to support the budget planning process.) This committee would review the overall budgetary parameters and goals, the current college statements of values, priorities, and strategies, and the totality of budget proposals submitted by each area of the college. The committee would make recommendations to the Presi dent on the difficult trade-offs in budget decisions, possible reductions, the possible re-allocation of resources, opportunities and goals for bringing new resources into the budget, and competing claims on fresh resources. Those involved at all stages of the process would be charged with recognizing the finite nature of the base budget and the importance of deciding which budget lines should shrink, grow, move, or be added to the budget for the coming year.
V. Relationship between the Strategic and Budget Planning Committee and Existing Governance Structures
Because the academic mission is central to the college, the Strategic and Budget Planning Committee and the Executive Council would be the most significant collective bodies for strategic planning to assist the budget process. The Planning Committee would bring budgetary matters to the Executive Council for discussion. For those budgetary issues that affect our traditional faculty prerogatives such as the curriculum, the Planning Committee would accord the most respect to the priorities and choices made by the Executive Council with the guidance of the Dean. In other areas, the Planning Committee would bring issues to the Executive Council for advice.
In addition to consulting with the Executive Council, the Strategic and Budget Planning Committee should also consult with other groups, such as the Student Government Association, at appropriate points during the budget process to ensure a voice for different campus groups. At the same time, in keeping with current practice, each area on campus would continue to hold responsibility for reviewing its own programs and endeavors and preparing a budget proposal that sets out its priorities and requests for the coming year. For example, within the rubric of information technology, ITS would submit a proposed budget after reviewing all information technology-related programs/endeavors, evaluating them, and setting out priorities. To the extent that priorities are presently set in discrete areas through a shared governance model (or other model that people believe works well), we should endeavor to maintain these structures and maximize their utility.
We have a world-class academic program at Grinnell. We spend more money per student than most of our peers and offer our students a level of personalized attention that is rare even in the liberal arts. Although as a whole our programs have been very successful, we cannot be sure that all of them have made the best use of our dollars in achieving our mission or will do so in the future without careful review. We need to continue developing a strategic plan and strengthening our collaborative decision-making process for making hard choices. We need a process and culture in which all campus groups participate in developing a disciplined and realistic budget for the college.