Fall 2021 Campus Update
Haverford news and happenings from President Wendy Raymond
Haverford students are joyous to be back on campus: joyous to be learning with incredible professors, eating in the Dining Center with friends and new acquaintances, walking and playing outdoors unmasked, socializing safely in all kinds of venues across the Bi-Co, and engaging the campus and wider communities in all manner of action. They are studying hard and experiencing freedoms they have not had for a year and a half, all in the context of taking care of themselves and caring for others. I do not think our students are taking their relative freedoms for granted—freedoms afforded by their 99.6% vaccination rate and their care for their own and others’ well-being. It is wonderful to see the return of so much joy in learning and living in an engaging residential campus community.
I do not mean to suggest joy is universal or constant—we continue to work through challenges! Yet a sense of joy is palpable every day and across many quarters.
Faculty are energetically engaged in scholarship, research, teaching, mentoring, leadership, building community, and questioning together how best to continually improve Haverford. This is what Haverford faculty always do; I would venture the opinion that this work is simply more evident and unimpeded because we are back teaching 100% in person on campus with a 97.5% employee vaccination rate. I feel continually inspired by the intellectual engagement between faculty and students here at Haverford.
Our exceptional staff make all this possible, whether their contributions are student-facing, behind-the-scenes, and anywhere in between. Haverford staff provide a level of care and professional excellence that makes our exceptional living and learning environment possible.
Despite many challenges and significant uncertainty, we are thrilled with the outcome of last year’s admission process for the Class of 2025. We experienced a substantial increase in applications, and the process concluded with enrolling a first-year class of 411 students—the largest, most diverse, and most qualified in the College's history. This was an unexpected result, especially in the context of the ongoing COVID pandemic. We take it as a signal of the continued appeal of a Haverford education.
This extraordinary Class of 2025 arrived for Customs Week—the distinctively Haverfordian first-year orientation program—and, from the very start, experienced Haverford in new ways. To begin with, first-year students no longer live in the Haverford College Apartments (HCA): all are housed in the campus core in Gummere, Tritton, and the North Dorms (Comfort, Jones, and Lunt). This intentional move of first-year students closer together toward the center of campus comes hand-in-hand with filling the Apartments with sophomores, juniors, and seniors. So far, students report being happy with these rearrangements. It will be interesting to learn whether these geographic changes, coupled with an intentional effort by Customs to connect first-year students across residential spaces, are contributing to community-building in ways that were not as readily accomplished previously.
To accommodate our larger Class of 2025, we've added proportional faculty positions in the Writing Program, Mathematics Department, and elsewhere to maintain our 9:1 student:faculty ratio. We also added staff positions in student affairs as well as in academic support, Campus Safety and Facilities. We converted common spaces in the North Dorms to bedrooms, which took away some of the usual spaces for social gatherings but also made it possible for us to provide housing for all of our students.
Students have been engaged in offering helpful feedback toward improving residential facilities, evolving our COVID protocols in a continually changing COVID environment, and partnering with Campus Safety toward more community-oriented approaches to monitoring student safety and well-being.
Student leaders, together with staff in the Dean’s Office, are reimagining some aspects of Customs in order to more fully meet the needs of students. Some of the changes underway include providing compensation and more robust training for Customspeople in order to better equip them to facilitate our multilayered peer orientation program. The program continues to be one of Haverford’s most time-honored traditions, and we are working with this generation of Fords to make it even stronger as we look toward the future.
The changes to Customs represent only one manifestation of administrative reorganization of pre-major advising and student support in the dean of the College’s division. New Dean of the College John McKnight, in partnership with last year's Interim Dean Joyce Bylander and staff members in the division, collaborated on these changes.
The student-administered Honor Code, ratified last spring, includes a number of important revisions in response to the ongoing campus work and dialogue on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. The latest iteration of the Code acknowledges the past as it works to facilitate a more equitable present. Some faculty and students are raising concerns about various aspects of the current Honor Code, with the aim of building a community in which all students can thrive academically and socially. I will remind us that 'concern about the Code' has been a regular and healthy part of the Haverford experience ever since the Code's inception more than a century ago. As recently as 2018, the Code's failure to pass at plenary sparked a crisis that Honor Council documented on a dedicated web page. I have every confidence that our students will effectively steward this cornerstone of Haverford life and culture.
The return to a fully in-person learning environment is putting all students and faculty together in classrooms, labs, studios, and libraries for the first time since the COVID pandemic began. Though a mask requirement still exists for all indoor spaces (except where people eat and drink, reside together in a dorm, or are working in small private groups), even that is proving to have an upside in the resulting and frequent outdoor class meetups. With tents remaining on Lloyd and Leeds greens, and Adirondack chairs in pretty much every direction you look, the natural endowment—our arboretum setting—has never had greater value.
A number of our faculty are taking advantage of being back on campus together with a new initiative called the Social Inquiry Hub. Still in its early days, its creators describe it as “a space (in the Whitehead Campus Center) where faculty, students, staff, and alums come together, share ideas, collaborate as educators, develop scholarly partnerships, extend collegiality, and have fun.” They’ve hosted talks, brown bags, and social hours—just one example of the fresh generative energies that are gaining traction this fall.
Faculty members have also continued to earn external recognition and support for their work. Laura Been has earned an award from the National Institutes of Health for her scholarship in psychology, and Kristen Whalen (biology), Daniel Grin (physics and astronomy) and Ryan Lei (psychology) all received grants from the National Science Foundation.
Asali Solomon's new novel was published in October and has made several "most anticipated books of the fall" lists (Vulture, Washington Post, Time); she got a rave review in the New York Times. I had a chance to have wonderful conversation with Asali about her work during Family & Friends Weekend, the recording of which I invite you to view. Jon Wilson published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on how low temperatures shaped forests by limiting their distribution, work then recognized in Popular Science; Sorelle Friedler was asked to join the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; and Brook Lillehaugen's open-access Zapotec language-teaching pedagogy collection won the inaugural LASA Archives, Libraries, and Digital Scholarship Award.
Music faculty, their students, and music-loving audiences are thriving in the new Michael Jaharis Recital Hall. Attached to Roberts Hall, the building provides outstanding classroom, library, office, and practice spaces while creating new visual connectivity with the North Dorms, Lloyd, and the Duck Pond. And speaking of new facilities, just last week the College's Lutnick Library received a Citation Award in the 2021 AIA New England Design Awards Program – Placemaking Through Architecture. Thanks and congratulations to the many who made the library renovation and music building possible!
If last year planted any doubts about the value of being together in physical community to create a vibrant undergraduate liberal arts experience, our experience together this fall is putting them to rest. Our faculty and students only eagerly await the possibility of unmasking in their learning spaces so they can more fully realize the human benefits of our shared learning community.
Preparing Students for Global Citizenship
Haverford seeks to develop students into citizens who will make a difference in their communities throughout their lives. One dimension is Fords’ long tradition of engagement in the democratic process, with students engaged in critical public policy questions within and beyond the curriculum. During election season, the College Democrats and College Republicans are always activated. A recent analysis marked Haverford as the #3 college or university in the nation for voting, a point of pride we seek to maintain by facilitating voter registration for all eligible students and encouraging turnout on election days.
Haverford students also work to shape the future in myriad ways outside of the voting booth, and you will see enhanced support for such opportunities reflected in core elements of our emerging strategic planning framework. This generation of students understands that environmental issues will increasingly shape human experiences over the next century, and many Fords use their time on campus to explore and model sustainable choices. This fall, enterprising students on the Committee for Environmental Responsibility have begun a new compost collection system for the Haverford College Apartments to complement the existing biodigestion system in the Dining Center. Other students are organizing a clothing swap to help peers meet their wardrobe needs while keeping extra garments out of the waste stream. Together, these and other waste-reduction initiatives landed Haverford a #4 national ranking among Atlas-Certified Zero Waste campuses. This academic year we will continue work on waste reduction among Haverford’s various sustainability initiatives, which include a commitment to reach carbon neutrality by our bicentennial in 2033.
Financially, despite unprecedented challenges, we have lots of good news to share. Going into last year’s pandemic-affected academic year, we had many reasons to worry: at Haverford, like all our peer schools, on-campus enrollments were down, we were incurring unexpected new expenses to support community health, and we did not know what the year had in store. In response, we held other expenses down by eliminating travel and catering, freezing salaries, implementing a hiring chill, reducing the contribution rate and suspending retirement benefits for two months, and delaying some Renewals & Replacements (R&R) expenses. These sacrifices were painful, and they allowed us to avoid furloughs and layoffs, which was not the case across our sector. Moreover, even as the College prudently managed costs, Haverford continued to prioritize the important work of enhancing the safety of the community and made important investments supporting this priority.
Thanks to this hard work, and with federal government support and thoughtful philanthropy, we were able to effectively achieve GAAP (full accrual) breakeven last year, despite strong headwinds, as originally planned over the last decade. Simultaneously, Haverford’s endowment has performed well. Buoyed by the recent market surge, the endowment investment performance was approximately 32.1% for fiscal 2021, generating $158 million in investment gains. This investment performance was above our internal benchmarks and the preliminary Cambridge Associates median of 30.9% for institutions with endowments of $500 million - $1 billion. When considering the $26.3 million in spending from our endowment and $6.5 million of gifts and inflows during the year, the total endowment increased a net $138 million, or 27.4% during the year.
Our student-athletes are elated to be back on the field and playing like it, with all of our fall teams enjoying strong seasons. The headliner has been our field hockey team, which finished the regular season with a #19 national ranking before falling to Swarthmore in postseason play. Men’s cross country clinched the Centennial Conference championship this weekend, their sixth in seven seasons, and the women’s team took third place. The volleyball team, powered in part by an outstanding first-year class, has earned a 22-4 record and enter their conference tournament as the #2 seed. Women’s and men’s soccer both have had competitive seasons, with the women’s team edging Swarthmore in double overtime over the weekend and the men losing a heartbreaker to their rivals, also in overtime. And even though many leaves are still on the trees, winter sports are already starting up, with women’s and men’s squash defeating Swarthmore in their respective opening matches last week. It is so gratifying for our student-athletes and their fans to be returning to the competition and camaraderie that make up such a vibrant part of Haverford.
Meanwhile, Jessica Lopez ’21, a Haverford track & field star - who I had the pleasure of seeing this past weekend during Friends and Family weekend - , was named a Top-30 Finalist for NCAA Woman of the Year, which recognizes graduating female student-athletes who distinguished themselves in academics, athletics, service, and leadership throughout their careers. Jessica was selected in the top 30 out of 535 nominations, and the overall winner will be named on November 9.
This year the Athletic Department is being led on an interim basis by Mike Vienna, who has served as director of athletics at Emory University and Salisbury University. Dean of the College John McKnight has launched a search for our next continuing athletic director. The department has also made a number of great new hires in its operations and coaching staff.
Alumni/Family Engagement and Fundraising
After a year of limited campus access, we’ve had a chance to welcome families, alums, and friends to Haverford on numerous occasions this fall. Move-in Day was an uplifting (and hot!) day for parents and families who accompanied their students to campus. Family & Friends Weekend (October 29-31) brought guests to campus for a festive weekend of programs and gatherings that gave everyone there a chance to join in our vibrant campus life. We’ve had a steady stream of alums coming back for visits, including as guest speakers, for alumni games and matches, supporting student career development, or just enjoying their time on the Nature Trail. We are very much looking forward to Alumni Weekend 2022, in person and on campus, May 27-29.
Fiscal Year 2020-21 fundraising was a success with nearly $20.5M in support of Haverford College, and FY 2021-22 is off to a good start, with almost $6.5M in support as of September 30, 2021. I am exceedingly grateful for the abiding support of our alums and friends, whose unwavering support and commitment to Haverford’s enduring values enable the College to educate our students to meet the world’s challenges.
Charting Our Path
Each year, the Senior Staff and I develop a set of leadership goals that highlight priority work for the year, beyond the regular business of the College. These goals bridge our ongoing strategic priorities and the operational pieces that allow us to realize them in our daily work.
- Reconnect community and build community anew across students, staff, faculty, and alumni, toward longer-term resilience and grounded in our four guiding principles and the values to which we aspire.
- Expand inclusive student thriving and belonging by focusing on the student experience across academics and co-curricular endeavors.
- Substantially complete a galvanizing and inspiring strategic plan, guided by the Strategic Planning Steering Committee with input and participation across students, faculty, staff, alumni, Board, and others.
- Make and implement strategic decisions about resource allocations in order to continue to strengthen Haverford’s financial foundation, manage risk, and provide budget resiliency consistent with our mission and values.
The Strategic Planning Steering Committee (SPSC), which I chair, has continued its iterative and consultative process through the summer and fall. In the spring we shifted our proposed framework for the strategic plan from five emerging areas to three, and this fall, after receiving additional helpful input from faculty and alumni, we have landed on four key areas:
- Enriching a vibrant learning community
- Structural change toward equity and inclusivity
- Reciprocal community connections
- Sustainability and action in planetary crisis
Over the past half-year, this developing strategic framework has been interrogated from multiple vantage points across the Haverford community, including helpfully from the Board. It is better for that engagement. The SPSC heard and sought to respond to questions about what’s implicit versus what is explicit in this framework. Will the eventual strategic plan support critical programmatic needs in the academic program and beyond? Will it enhance the student experience? Will it advance Haverford’s competitiveness and fiscal sustainability? The answer to all of these questions is—and needs to be—a resounding YES. In the next months of planning, four task forces will develop concrete goals that articulate how we plan to realize this strategy for Haverford. Over the next year, we will go through multiple iterative phases with the full community. Our goal is a plan and ensuing capital campaign that support our abiding commitments to our historical mission: to create a community of inclusive academic and scholarly excellence anchored in Haverford’s Quaker ethos.
Deriving Strength and Resilience from Challenges
This time last year, we were six months into the global COVID-19 pandemic. Hundreds of College staff members worked on campus throughout the pandemic, creating a foundation on which we built our capacities to adapt. Looking back, we see that much went well, with limited infection rates and adaptations that continued to make possible the close faculty-student and staff-student interactions that are at the heart of Haverford.
As we continue to live with COVID’s curveballs, we also continue our campus-wide commitments to building diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging into Haverford’s fabric. The work, which includes responses to the 2020 student-led strike for racial equity, is now enhanced by the newly-created Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Access under the leadership of Interim Chief Diversity Officer Norm Jones.
As we all process both the unsettling and activating aspects of our times, I have found that turning to Haverford’s history can be helpful. A 1933 history of the College(1), published at Haverford’s centennial, is in many ways a delightful—and startling—read, in part because so many of the themes and events it documents feel so familiar. One internal summary aptly describes the College in a way that is recognizable to a Ford of any era: "Throughout its history, the invisible college has always outrun the visible one. The intellectual and spiritual assets have always far overpassed the material assets."
As we consider the ground we have covered in the recent past, I was struck by another section of the book. It reveals something about how Haverfordians respond to crisis, and how that distinctive response was both ideally suited, and yet particularly vulnerable to challenge, last year.
It involves the on-campus administration of authority in the early 1880s. At the time, the College relied on a top-down, 'now hear this' approach to managing student affairs and did so via an employee bearing the title 'governor'. "Unfortunately," the book's account begins, "he was not thought of as a friend and fellow human being, but rather as an officer of discipline… No matter how kindly his intentions might be, or how eagerly he wished to promote the students' best interests, he was doomed to be thought of as an "enemy" to be conquered, or as an "obstacle" to be overcome. His life was bound to be miserable, and his term of service was in the nature of things destined to be short… The college men of this period resented the type of guardianship to which they were subjected."
Enter Isaac Sharpless, a now-legendary leader who served 30 years as president, from 1887 to 1917. His Haverford career began in 1884, when he was appointed dean of the College. One of his first acts was to scrap the then-current system of the governor and his subjects. "Petty oversight and nagging guardianship ceased. Leadership took the place of rules. The new Dean had a far greater confidence in human nature than his predecessors had shown. He immediately put himself en rapport with the students." In short, according to this report, Sharpless appealed to "their honor," and students "instantly recognized his qualities and welcomed his leadership." It is worth noting, and is not surprising, that the Honor Code was born under Sharpless's watch.
I mention this for three reasons. First, I find it helpful to be reminded of origins of the unusual degree of agency accorded to, and embraced by, Haverford students, and the extent to which the processes of shared governance play out across the collegiate experience. We come together in order to work through our issues, address our shortcomings, and overcome obstacles. Yes, that can bring challenges of its own. And the approach is grounded in what has proven to be timeless and well-placed faith in human nature and one another.
And yet, during our COVID year of separation and isolation, we had limited access to such an approach to institutional and individual growth. We rely on working together, on bridging differences through dialogue and engagement. Yet the pandemic frustrated all manner of coming-together: it's hard to solve problems collectively while living and working apart. Connecting by Zoom, email, texting, phone, and social media made our 2020-21 academic year possible, and we learned a lot. And we do not wish to need to take such measures again, or experience the duress of that time.
Finally, it's worth noting that the 1933 history of the College referred to above was authored by Rufus Jones, a storied character in Haverford history. Alumnus, faculty member, Quaker scholar, activist, and Nobel Peace Prize recipient on behalf of the American Friends Service Committee, there was much to admire about Jones's work—though his involvement with the eugenics movement is not among them. For me, this excerpt from history serves as a reminder that no single one of us has all the answers, or infallible judgement. It takes each of us, in individual reflection and in community, to listen, discern, gain a sense of “the meeting,” and then move on that best path forward, and to do so for everyone's benefit.
Which is why I am so joyous at being engaged in the work at hand: we—all of us as individuals, and collectively as Haverford—are back, in so many ways.
(1) Jones, Rufus. Haverford College, A History and an Interpretation. New York, New York, The Macmillan Company, 1933