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From: Theresa Leary
Sent: Friday, September 26, 2003 4:41 PM
Dear NAAC members,
It has come to our attention that there is some misinformation circulating about dining services at Smith. I am attaching a copy of a letter sent by Ann Shanahan '59, Chief Public Affairs Officer to one individual who wrote to the college.
We were also forwarded an e-mail by a student who reported that a decision has been made to close all but 4 dining halls on the campus. There is absolutely no truth to this assertion, we cannot even make a guess as to where it originated. Ann's letter provides more details on the process the College is engaged in as it explores dining options for students.
Please feel free to share this e-mail and the attached letter with AAC's, and to contact me and other members of the admission staff if you have any questions.
Associate Director of Admission
Northampton MA 01063 USA
Thank you for writing to us about student dining at Smith.
Unfortunately there seems to be some misinformation circulating regarding the present status of dining services at the college.
To set the record straight, I think it would be helpful to give you a chronology of the events that led us to this point.
Last year, President Carol Christ appointed a task force on housing and
dining (made up of students, faculty, staff, trustees and alumnae) to advise
her about whether the college should consider changes in the current housing
and dining system in order to better meet the needs of our current students.
You can read the full report of the task force at http://www.smith.edu/rltaskforce/survey.php
In the area of dining, the most important finding was that, while the majority of students prefer to keep dining options as they are, a substantial minority (30 to 40 percent) would like increased options, including broader menu choices, longer dining hours and more freedom to choose where to eat their meals.
Meanwhile, Smith, like many colleges and universities, is facing some budget challenges, caused by a reduction in the value of our endowment (the result of stock market declines), rising health insurance costs for employees, sharply increasing needs in financial aid and some reduction in unrestricted giving (again the result of the economy).
To meet these budget challenges, we are taking a hard look at every aspect of our operation, while at the same time seeking to protect our core activities—the academic program and the financial aid program that enables many, many students to enroll who might otherwise not be able to attend Smith.
To address dining issues we have established an implementation committee made up of staff and students and engaged a consulting firm experienced in dining trends, costs and configuration. In its deliberations, the committee will evaluate scenarios suggested by the consultants and take into account longstanding Smith traditions as well as the need to achieve efficiencies and budget savings.
As you can see, we are at the beginning of a complicated process, and there are no foregone conclusions. The implementation committee has met only once; it will meet again early next week and hold an open forum for students during the following week. We are anxious to hear from students, and those who have strong opinions one way or the other have begun to share them with us. The president has urged us to think imaginatively and radically and to have free and vigorous discussion; this is the best way to understand what the priorities are for Smith going forward and how we can best balance student concerns, budgetary constraints and important traditions while supporting new ideas and initiatives.
I hope I have provided helpful background and allayed your concerns about the current process and goals for reviewing Smith’s dining system.
October 7, 2003: An update can be found at http://www.smith.edu/president/letters/092903.html