FROM: JOHN C.
CALL TO ACTION FOR MORNINGSIDE COLLEGE
At several critical
junctures over the past 105 years, circumstances have threatened
the dreams of our original founders. But in each instance,
led by such sturdy examples as Lillian Dimmitt who would not
abandon her "college in the cornfield" and Earl
Roadman who balanced a budget by exchanging livestock for
tuition, the Morningside community has always summoned the
vision, creativity, and initiative to prosper and prevail.
We must never forget what those who went before us
believed in so strongly, nor how much they were willing to
sacrifice. Their legacy is to be found in the face
of every student whose life has been transformed--or could
be transformed--by the Morningside experience.
Once again we find
ourselves at the crossroads. As all of you know from
our small-group discussions over the past months, budget deficits
have returned to threaten our ability to pursue our historic
mission. If we are to pay true homage to those whose
courage kept Morningside alive, we must do as they would do:
look critically at the present and devise a strategy
with which we may march boldly toward the future.
Today's public is
not necessarily inclined to share our belief in the value
of an education based on the liberal arts foundation and delivered
in the small-college setting. Numerous surveys bear
this out and suggest that the number of small private institutions
will be reduced by one-third over the next twenty-five years.
We can all agree
that modern advancements, particularly in technology, have
ensured that teaching and learning will evolve in the decades
ahead--as it should. It is our task to make it equally
evident that the most productive focus for shaping new pedagogies
in higher education is to be found in traditional places like
Morningside. Only in environments such as ours can
students grow not only through the acquisition of knowledge
and skills but also through the guided development of personal
and spiritual perspectives; only here can they come to understand
that learning is not encapsulated in a four-year program but
continues throughout a lifetime. Students who graduate
from Morningside take with them much more than a degree; they
venture forth with relationships and experiences that will
sustain them long after they have exceeded our immediate influence.
The world outside our walls must come to learn how
and why we strive to produce the genuinely college-educated
person, not simply another addition to the work force.
With these thoughts
in mind, we can see that the goals of our summer task forces
and five-year planning process must not be reduced to financial
considerations alone, although those concerns are of great
importance. What lies before us is a critical opportunity
in this third century in which we have existed to revisit
the goals of our past, realistically define ourselves for
today, and rededicate ourselves to sensible rigor. The product of this process will permit us to describe who
we are and aim to be-to ourselves and to that skeptical marketplace
in which we compete. Our self-examinations must result
in a clear articulation of the unique and valuable symbiosis
we construct between our liberal arts and pre-professional
programs. Our goal of financial health must be fully
integrated with a compelling argument for the worth of our
THE PLANNING PROCESS
It would seem self-evident
that a planning process should produce tangible measures that
ensure long-range, positive results. Yet a surprising
number of such processes fail this simple test; they defeat
themselves from the outset through the planning process itself.
Noted planning authority George Keller instructs us
in the necessary characteristics of process that can prevent
must be participatory and controversy-tolerant. There
must be urgency in the process because the fate of the institution
matters and is at stake. Looking outward is important
because the environment is changing and competitive. There
is an attitude of active control over the institution's
future rather than one of passivity or desperation. Real
planning is about setting priorities and making choices--difficult
choices. It is about having goals and dreams, but
it is also about recognizing limitations and letting things
go. Planning must concentrate on specific decisions and
actions based upon well-defined priorities, and it must
provide the means for achieving goals rather than stop with
the goals themselves. The process will be imperfect, and
it never really ends.
It would be my hope
that each individual task force would begin with a thoughtful
consideration of Keller's directives and that it would review
his words regularly throughout its deliberations. While
the issues we explore will differ with each task force, Keller's
words must serve as the touchstone that unifies us in our
As the task forces
meet regularly over a six-week period spanning June to early
July, they must be committed to engaging in the kind of candid
conversation that goes on daily in our community--but usually
only behind closed doors or over the coffee pot. This
planning process provides the occasion for an open airing
of our deepest concerns and our highest aspirations. To do anything less would be a disservice to each individual,
to the constituencies they represent, and most importantly,
to the College itself.
Each group will be
given a specific area to examine, but should regard perceived
boundaries as permeable; such boundaries are, after all, somewhat
artificially constructed for the sake of organizing our discussions.
When it is logical and in the best interest of the
institution for a task force to venture into what seems like
another group's territory, it should feel free to do so.
At the culmination
of our discussions, the task forces will deliver their recommendations
to me. It will be my responsibility to imagine the
pieces as a whole and to integrate ideas within the comprehensive
five-year plan that will be presented to the Board of Directors.
While I will make no claim that I will accept the recommendation
of a task force in its entirety, I will give clear credit
for those suggestions that are incorporated and note significant
difference of opinion if and when they exist.
Throughout the deliberations
of the summer task forces, several guiding principles, beyond
those that Keller offers, must be applied. They are
must be guided by an insistence on the "greatest good
for the greatest number." This approach--academic
Benthamism, some would call it--requires a shift
from the disproportionate ways in which Morningside's resources
have sometimes in recent years benefited a minority and
not accurately reflected institutional priorities.
must begin with the assumptions that we have a student body
well worth serving and that while we must continually strive
to increase diversity, the characteristics of our student
body will remain relatively the same. Only if we
are realistic about who we are (and who we are not) can
we arrive at a coherent program of study and advising that
will allow students to develop academic skills, intellectual
confidence, and moral and social awareness--in short, an
education for life as well as for a career.
must acknowledge that in the current educational market,
we cannot continue to offer everything we presently offer
and do it well enough to be competitive. At a time
of necessary reduction and consolidation, our solution cannot
be to become a smaller version of what we are at this moment.
Rather, we must identify areas of distinction or
potential distinction and allocate resources to encourage
strength in these areas. Only in this way may Morningside
differentiate itself from those "generic," "vanilla" liberal arts colleges with which we are often lumped--and
sometimes for good reason.
GOALS FOR THE
Our five-year plan
must be driven by three goals that are interdependent:
1) To achieve fiscal
stability, i.e., a balanced budget within five years.
2) To ensure challenging,
rich academic and co-curricular experiences for students.
3) To create a satisfying
place for our faculty and staff to work.
CHARGES FOR THE
INDIVIDUAL TASK FORCES
1) To develop mission
and vision statements for the institution.
2) To define the appropriate
role of intercollegiate athletics at Morningside.
3) To identify the
criteria for assessing strong academic departments and programs
that are central to Morningside's mission.
4) To conduct a thorough
review of all tuition revenue issues including undergraduate
full- and part-time opportunities, graduate programs, and
5) To search out inefficiencies
through an investigation of the non-personnel related expenditures
of the institution.
6) To examine student
life at Morningside with an eye toward developing a more fully
integrated academic and co-curricular environment on campus
that will help to retain greater numbers of students.
OBJECTIVES FOR THE
MISSION STATEMENT AND
This group will include
the co-chairs of the five task forces, the senior staff, the
chairman of the Board of Directors, the president of the student
body or his/her designee, the president of the alumni association,
the president of Faculty Senate, and the president of the
College. The coordinator of the task forces will preside
1) To assess our current
mission statement for its content and concision.
2) To define what
it means to be a "college educated person."
3) To review our
competition and comparison schools (including local publics
and community colleges) vis a vis our strengths and weaknesses.
4) To look carefully
at demographics in the Midwest and evaluate other external
factors for the opportunities they afford or challenges they
5) To carefully analyze
the composition of our student body using the following measures:
- Demographic information
- Interest areas
- CIRP data
- Satisfaction surveys
- Retention information
- Graduation information
6) To establish "dashboard indicators" and determine what statistical
information is needed to gauge our effectiveness in reaching
the goals of our five-year plan.
7) To examine the role
of college governance in the ongoing nature of planning.
8) To develop a skeletal
outline for the vision of Morningside based upon the work
of the other task forces.
EVALUATING THE APPROPRIATE
ROLE FOR INTERCOLLEGIATE ATHLETICS
To examine the appropriate
role of intercollegiate athletics at Morningside by answering
the following questions:
1) Can we sustain
the monetary costs of remaining in Division 2?
2) Are Division 2
athletics consistent with our mission and vision?
3) If the response
to #2 is "no," then what are our options?
4) What are the potential
institutional ramifications for changing divisions?
5) What are the financial
ramifications in terms of costs, fund raising, and new revenue
opportunities if we should expand the number of sports that
CRITERIAL FOR EVALUATING
DEPARTMENTS AND PROGRAMS
1) To establish and
prioritize the criteria to evaluate academic departments and
programs that are central to ensuring Morningside's long-term
survival. This process should include but not be limited
to questions regarding enrollment trends, market demand, historic
institutional strengths, strengths of our current faculty,
distinctiveness, redundancies with our competitors, and our
strong desire to deliver a quality, well-rounded education.
2) To define Morningside's
niche in the academic marketplace.
3) To discuss how restructuring
might impact the core and the ways in which we can address
this issue within our governance structure and in a timely
AND PART-TIME OPPORTUNITIES
To devise strategies
for attracting more students, which, in turn, will generate
additional revenues. This will be done by answering
the following questions:
1) What graduate
opportunities make sense?
2) What part-time opportunities
might attract a new population?
3) Are there niche
markets we should explore such as LD, dance, debate, new athletic
To examine all non-personnel
items in our budget by answering the following questions:
1) Are there efficiencies
that can be achieved?
2) Are there collaborative
opportunities with other institutions that can be explored?
3) Is a dramatic
price reduction a viable strategy?
STUDENT LIFE AT
To examine the issues
surrounding retention and the graduation rate at Morningside
by answering the following questions:
1) Who are we losing?
2) What are the significant
issues regarding retention?
3) What short-term
and long-term strategies can we employ to improve retention?
4) What goals are
realistic for the retention/graduation rate?
5) How can we effectively
blend the academic and co-curricular aspects of the students'
6) What are the critical
student life issues on campus? How do we best address
7) Is theme housing
a viable option?
I end this document
with my sincere appreciation for the willingness of our community
to participate in this important process. Such loyalty
and dedication are hallmarks of this institution. I
am confident that guided by these task forces we will, in
our collective wisdom, forge a promising future for Morningside.
As I have done thus
far, I will continue to keep the entire community informed
about our progress in this planning process. Throughout
the summer I will be giving updates from the task forces,
and in the fall I will share the culminating five-year plan
that will be presented to the Board. As always, I invite
and welcome your questions and responses.