Dear Members of the Mount Community:
An empty classroom – without students, faculty, staff, or administrators – graced the front page of the last issue of The Mountain Echo. The only things out of place in the picture were that the lights were on and dust had not yet begun to collect on the desks.
An empty classroom was a fitting image for an issue dedicated to criticizing recent decisions by university officials to cut employee healthcare and retirement benefits. And not because it was empty journalism – although there were a number of important details conveniently missing from the Echo’s manufactured set of stories. For example, the issue did not address recent personnel dismissals that were difficult but necessary to increase administrative efficiency. The empty classroom was a fitting image because, in the absence of tough decisions, the Mount could potentially join the ranks of colleges and universities that have been forced to close. It is a real possibility that all of our classrooms could be empty.
Over the last two decades, colleges and universities across the country have been caught up in an “arms race” to improve facilities and enhance student services – turning many campuses into country clubs. The Mount found itself doing the same thing to keep up – building, spending, and expanding – but money was spent naively on glamour projects and not on improving educational opportunities for our students. For example, we built Founder’s Plaza while our competition developed programs in data science, entrepreneurship, and cyber security. Our long-term debt and annual debt-service increased, while competition for students remained fierce. More discounts on tuition were offered to prospective students, so revenue declined while costs increased. Even our first-year business students understand that this is a recipe for disaster: empty classrooms.
We teach our students that businesses have a responsibility beyond the profits they make – to their employees, to their customers, and to the communities in which they operate. But without profits, businesses cannot serve these constituencies. Even though we are a non-profit, the same holds true for the Mount. If we are out of business, we cannot serve anyone. The recent decisions by our administration were not easy to make, and they were painful for all involved. As we move forward, faculty must be consulted in the decision-making process. But difficult decisions will continue to be necessary.
What gives me great hope for our future is the common purpose that all Mount employees share. We serve the Mount for our students. We guide our students on their path to a life well-lived; we prepare them for a successful career; and we teach our students to enrich the communities in which they live, work, and play. Almost every Mount employee could be making more money in another industry. But we are at the Mount because we are committed to improving our students’ lives.
With prudent management I know our classrooms won’t ever be empty. Look closely at the classroom on the front page of the last issue of The Mountain Echo. It is a modern room that is conducive to learning. It has functional desks with power outlets, sturdy chairs, drapery and blinds on the window – all made possible by a donation through alumni at the accounting firm CohnReznick. It was not a “country-club” expense; it did not increase our debt; and it was not paid for by student tuition. It is actually a fitting symbol of why the Mount is great and why the Mount will continue to be successful. Our alumni – the former students we served – are with us and want to see us educate future generations for many years to come.
Dr. Karl W. Einolf
Richard J. Bolte, Sr. School of Business