Bennington College

Report on a Comprehensive Evaluation of Bennington College Bennington, Vermont

Show simple item record Carter, Anne Deckle, Peter V. Fritze, Barbara Schwartz, Murray Tolliver, Joseph Volkmann, Frances C. Weaver, Afaa Michael Zekan, Donald L. 2018-07-11T18:37:43Z 2018-07-11T18:37:43Z 1999-11
dc.description.abstract At Bennington College events are measured from the date of the Symposium Report of the Bennington Trustees, issued in June, 1994. That report represented a dramatic and courageous attempt on the part of the President and the Trustees to acknowledge the serious financial and educational crisis that the college faced to rediscover the college's core values. and to take the bold and difficult steps that they believed to be necessary to set the college on course again. This visiting team arrived on campus just over five years after the publication of the Symposium Report. Our visit comes three years after the last (focused) visit to the college by a NEASC team, which occurred in April, 1996. That team described its visit as similar to "arriving in a town a couple of years after a major earthquake. Recollection of the shock, and of the after-shocks, has begun to fade, but the features of the landscape bear little resemblance to those described by previous visitors." The college was still in crisis, but the team found everywhere the determination to rebuild and prosper. Our team finds a Bennington that has been pulled back from the brink. The events surrounding the Symposium Report. although still referred to almost continually, have assumed a new position as historical marker rather than descriptor of an ominous. hovering cloud. Everywhere in the college we find a new vigor. a new confidence. and an eagerness to look to the future. Enrollments are climbing. Students and faculty members arc participating with enthusiasm and commitment in a new process that will structure the students' educational experiences. Fundraising has been markedly successful. New administrative structures are in place designed to move the college into the future in efficient and effective ways. Plans are underway to build three ne\\. dormitories next year. In very real ways the bold steps called for in the Symposium Report have paid off: the college can and should feel immense pride and sense of accomplishment in the progress it has made in the last five years. We have found a stronger, more vibrant Bennington than has been the case for many years. That said, the college leadership is quick to acknowledge, and the team believes strongly, that Bennington is still far from being in a "business as usual" mode. The college's financial situation is still cause for serious concern; its very future depends fundamentally upon its continuing ability to meet ambitious enrollment projections. its ability to increase still further its fundraising, and its ability to continue to apply stringent budgetary constraints in the face of ongoing needs for "catch-up" expenditures. The college is essentially "betting the farm" on enrollments, even to the extent of assuming large increased debt for the projected new dormitories, and it does not have much latitude in its requirement to meet its projected increases. So we find a college that is in a much improved but still vulnerable position. As well, we find a college in which the structures and processes of decision-making, planning, and budgeting are in many instances those of an institution in crisis. Examples of this include a concentration of decision making in the President's Office and a planning process closely linked to recent and current financial constraints. These modes of operation may be argued to be necessary for an institution in crisis, and they seem to have served Bennington well over the past several years. Now, however, with the college's position beginning to strengthen, it will be important for increased attention to be given to opportunities for responsibly shared governance, and to the developmcnt of planning processes and structures that are more proactive and systematically comprehensive, and that gather and use carefully collected institutional data to inform decision making. As we progress through this report using the structure of the Standards for Accreditation. We will attempt to elaborate on the statements made in the preceding paragraphs and on the major challenges that we believe that college faces at this pivotal point in its history. en_US
dc.language.iso en_US en_US
dc.subject NEASC en_US
dc.subject Commission on Institutions of Higher Education en_US
dc.subject New England Association of Schools and Colleges en_US
dc.title Report on a Comprehensive Evaluation of Bennington College Bennington, Vermont en_US

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