Colgate makes its decisions in great secrecy. The Scene, while interesting and somewhat informative, is largely a propaganda machine. The real work and decisions are largely not reported upon until the die has been cast. Thus, we alumni never really have much of a chance to comment upon proposals before they are in place.
The only thing they seem to want from alumni is our money. Since we started reviewing the minutes of the Trustees and Alumni council they have delayed their release by more than six months and heavily sanitized them. They no longer contain enough information for any outside alumni to understand the rationale for decisions or how they were arrived at.
Cost. Four years at Colgate now approaches $250,000,00. Middle class kids like myself are mostly shut out by this exorbitant cost. Most of the increases have resulted from Colgate engaging in massive building projects, buying up much of the town and adding dozens and dozens of administrators to the payroll. The employee (includes faculty) to student ratio is now 1: 2.3. I sent a letter to each and every Trustee and the president last year about this issue; I received one reply denying all my concerns.
We need some trustees and alumni council members elected at large to provide some alternative thinking in the decision making process. Currently, a committee of just five or six members of the Trustees decide who is appointed to the Board of Trustees. This is not a decision of the body as a whole but done in secret by less than 20% of the body who then tell the other members who they have selected. This inbreeding, has in my view, led to very narrow thinking.
I read every Board of Trustee minutes from 1996 until 2009 when they stopped releasing them in a timely manner and in detail. Over those 13 years, there were 35 Trustees voting on some 200 resolutions. In those 13 years, there was only one single “no” vote cast by one single member. That vote was against approving a third cost increase for the library which was projected at $39,000,000 and ended up costing more than $60,000,000. At the same time, Colgate raised tuition by 7.5% as the recession was upon us.
As a former member of three Boards of Education and one city council, I can assure you that such a deliberative body isn’t doing its job properly if all of its votes are unanimous. Colgate’s Board of Trustees are supposed to oversee the University and as such have a responsibility not to be a rubber stamp. During my reading of the minutes, I came across a report from a Board committee indicating that they had just completed the task of impressing upon its newest members their responsibility to being loyal to the Board’s decision making tradition, whatever that means. I took it to mean they were to not challenge openly recommendations from leaders.
Colgate has become a nanny state. College is a place for young men and women to enlarge their perspective. That is hard to do when the faculty is largely left-leaning. The historic concept of the academy is that it is to be a place for intellectual diversity, open dialogue, debate, diverse ideas and a crucible for growth. Colgate has so tightly defined the atmosphere and rules and regulations that there is no longer any room for self-direction, self-governance and the chance to make a small mistake with the opportunity to self-correct without being punished for it. Colgate has become a very rigid environment.
A Better Colgate is not the enemy but rather a constructive critic for what is in the best interest of the students. For me, Colgate was a glorious place where I grew into a confident, self-directed adult. I think Colgate, while intending to accomplish this for today’s students, has just over-thought and over-restricted the environment resulting in a less positive place than when I was there. I have visited Colgate over a dozen times in the last twenty years and did most of my research on the Trustees minutes sitting for days in the Colgate library. I believe I have a reasonably accurate feel for the campus and students with whom I have had many candid conversations during my visits there.
I have extensive experience serving on a deliberative body. I believe that my loyalty to Colgate will be best expressed by keeping the welfare of the young students as my first principle, just as it was every day as a school administrator. I often had to remind my teachers and colleagues that schools are first, second and last for the kids and not for the welfare of the staff.
Jim Muzzy ‘67, Vice Chairman, A Better Colgate