• Gabriel Bit-Babik & Eric Santomauro-Stenzel

President David Wippman’s Fallcoming Address and Answers to Questions

Recorded and transcribed by Gabriel Bit-Babik and Eric Santomauro-Stenzel


BURKE LIBRARY STEPS, Saturday, September 24th, 2022


David Wippman: Good morning, and welcome, everybody. It is really great to see all of you here. If you didn't bring your winter clothing for this weekend. That's okay. Remember, Hamilton is all about lifelong learning. So just consider this an Arctic survival course. You know, when I started at Hamilton in 2016, a lot of people said, "wow, you're moving to Clinton, New York. And you know, the winters there, how are you going to manage the winters?" and I thought, "what winter, I'm from Minnesota." But then this morning, when I got up, and I looked, and it was 40 degrees outside, and I'm rounding up, and I checked the weather in Minneapolis, it was 55. So I may have to rethink all of that. Anyway, it is great. It's great to be here with all of you. People often say that the job of president of the college is a lot like being the caretaker at a cemetery. You got a lot of people under you, but nobody's listening. And sometimes it feels that that's true. But generally, when people aren't listening, it's because they have a better idea. And we really, we have just extraordinary people who work here. And I deeply appreciate this award from the Alumni Association. It's a recognition of the extraordinary efforts that faculty and staff have made in recent years to make sure that we can deliver the best liberal arts education possible, whatever the circumstances, pandemics notwithstanding.


So I want to acknowledge and particularly express appreciation to the Senior Staff who are present. We have wonderful faculty, they do everything they can, we've got great staff, and no one does more than the senior staff. So some of them are here. We have several new senior staff: Ngoni Munemo, who is our Dean of Faculty, and will be leading a conversation among faculty immediately after this program, so I hope you'll be able to stay for that. My Chief of Staff, Gill King, Melissa Richards is Vice President for Communications. Sean Bennett is our new Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. That's a new office that he is launching this year. Joe Shelley is head of Library and IT and of course, Lori Dennison, head of Advancement. And we have a few other Senior Staff who couldn't be with us today. But when you get an opportunity, you'll see them on campus, please go up, introduce yourself, say hello. And talk to them about what they're doing for the college. They know more than anyone about what makes this place work.


Okay, so let's, let's talk about the elephant that's not in the room. And that is COVID. When I started, none of us had any idea that a pandemic was coming, alright. And a few years later, our world turns up and turned upside down. This year, things are pretty much back to normal. I called the Health Center a couple of days ago, Friday, just because I figured I would be asked this question. So how many cases do we have currently? And they said, "Well, we have two cases." But of course, we're not doing surveillance testing. So the real answer is I don't know how many cases we have at the moment. I was sitting with some students in the dining hall at lunch. And I said to them, so what are you seeing, you know, how are you feeling? And they said, "we really don't think about COVID anymore. You know, we're just not really concerned about it." And then the other students said, "although, there are an awful lot of colds this fall," a lot of sneezing or coughing. So what we learned last spring is that with these new variants, it's so transmissible, that nothing short of really draconian measures is going to stop transmission. And we have a young healthy population, almost everyone is vaccinated and boosted. We're encouraging everyone to get the new booster when they're eligible. We hope to do an on campus clinic so that we're encouraging everyone to get the flu vaccine. And I hope you'll encourage your students to do that. But mostly we've concluded we're going to, we're going to live with this, we're going to manage it and we're going to continue to operate as normally and as fully as we can. And this semester so far, we really are operating without restrictions. So that's great. And it's been you know, you can see all the activities are fully, fully underway. The orientation trips this year were fantastic. Students really expressed extraordinary appreciation for them. Classes are going fully, a few faculty are requiring masks and classes. And we did give faculty that discretion, recognizing that everybody's individual situation is a little bit different. But most of the classes are without masks and all the activities are open, and we're really fully back. Whether that will continue, your guess is as good as mine, it's always possible we'll have a new variant. But for as long as we can, we want to do everything we can to create as full and rich a learning environment for your students as possible. And that's where we are.


So you might say, okay, so everything is good. And the answer, I would say, is yes, and no. This is, to me, is a best of times, and a worst of times moment in higher education. And I want to say a little bit about what we're seeing in the broader landscape. And then what we're seeing here at Hamilton College. So when I say best of times, for schools, like Hamilton, things are pretty good. You know, we seem to be moving to fairly normal operations. We have record applications, we've had new records that are three out of the last four years. Our yield is remarkably high, we used to be 34 to 36%, in our yield for many years, and then two years ago, went up to 40%. Last year, it went up to 41%. We have a record low acceptance rate of 11.8%. Last year, the students were just incredible, more talented than ever. Test scores and grades are remarkably high. They bring all kinds of skills to the campus, we're recruiting phenomenal faculty, our financial position is pretty good. So yes, I'm not happy about inflation. That's a challenge for us, as it is for everyone. Yes, the markets are down this year. But overall, we're in very good shape financially. In 2021, our endowment return was 39%. So we're doing well, and schools like Hamilton are doing well.

But then most of higher education is seeing something very, very different. I'm currently chairing the Middle States Accreditation Review Committee for a wonderful liberal arts college in Maryland. That college faculty and staff have not had a salary increase in 14 years. And they've lost a lot of positions. And those who are remaining are having to do double duty. They've had enrollment struggles and financial challenges. And that's true of much of higher education. So we're really seeing a bifurcation of schools that are in the top tier are really doing extraordinarily well. And much of higher education is struggling. And then there is the political environment. So that's been challenging for everybody. As you know, our country is remarkably polarized. Quinnipiac did a poll recently. You may have seen this. And they asked people, "Do you think democracy in the United States is in danger of collapse?" And 69% of Republicans said, Yes. There's a little political commentary right there. And 69% of Democrats said yeah, so 69% of both parties said, Yes, democracy in the United States is in danger of collapse. And that's a pretty extraordinary thing. Fortunately, they both agreed both Republicans and Democrats agreed on the cause. They both agreed it was the other party.


So that's the broader political environment. And it's not news to any of you, I'm sure higher education is being caught in this political vortex. And increasingly, higher education and education in general, is being seen as kind of a punching bag. And that's something that's a challenge for all of us who are concerned about the future of education. So the New America Foundation does a poll, every year, they asked people, “do you think higher education is positive for the country?” And when I first saw that poll, I thought, I don't. What are they talking about? I don't understand this? Of course, it's positive for them. Yeah. How could you even ask the question? It's a public good. It's something that benefits the entire country. It's what gives us an educated workforce. It's what makes us competitive with the rest of the world. Our higher education system is the pride of the United States. It's the envy of the rest of the world. How can you even ask the question?


Well, only 55% of the respondents in last year's poll said that higher education is positive for the country. And a majority of Republicans said it is negative for the country. And again, that reflects this polarization in the way in which higher education is viewed. So what is driving the negative attitudes? Well, among members of both parties, it's concerned about cost. And that's fair, right? The cost has been going up faster than the rate of inflation, not last year, but pretty much every other year for a very long time. So the all-in cost, and some of you are acutely familiar with it, is approaching $80,000 a year and that's an extraordinary amount of money. So for both parties concerned about cost of education is driving negative perceptions.


And then among Republicans, there's the concern that colleges are too liberal, that they lean too far to the left, and that they're indoctrinating students with progressive values that are inconsistent with the values of some of those who are responding to these polls. And this is a concern for us, you know, we have to be worried if higher education is losing public support. And by the way, that 55%, that's down 14 points from the year before. So the numbers are changing, and they're going in the wrong direction. And that's a real challenge for higher education in general. And then you look more specifically at all the legislative measures that have been adopted, and all the executive orders that have been adopted, just in the last year to what Penn-America, that's an organization that is devoted to free speech and education. They describe these as educational gag orders, and they're proliferating, they're up to 150%, just over the last year. And these are orders that tried to restrict what is taught around American history, how race is handled in both K through 12, and higher education, of issues about LGBTQ+ identities are handled, increasing their efforts to restrict what are called divisive concepts. And to prevent those from being discussed, both in K through 12 education, and higher education.


In higher education, most of these orders have been directed at public universities. But increasingly, they're starting to filter into the private university world. And there are governors who and legislators who are interceding in tenure and appointment decisions. In some states, there's an effort to do away with tenure, at least at public universities. So you can see this kind of infiltrating approaches and attitudes towards higher education in ways that I think should be a concern to all of us. And you might say, well, we're in New York State, you know, surely that's not happening here. And it's true that we're not bearing the brunt of this the way colleges and universities in places like Florida, and Texas and Tennessee are, but we're not immune from it in New York state.


So just one example was the endowment excise tax, you know, Hamilton has had, we have very generous alumni. And as a result, we have a large endowment. And our reward for that is to pay a tax of 1.2% on that endowment every year, at least on the endowment earnings. That was passed in the 2017 tax bill. And it applies only to colleges and universities with more than $500,000 per student in assets. And we are fortunate to be among that group. But the penalty is that we're paying this money, which we could be using for financial aid and for other purposes. So that's a frustration. Legislation has been introduced in Congress, which would increase that tax from 1.2% to 20%. If we increase tuition at a rate that exceeds inflation, well, that's not going to happen this year, because inflation is running at, what, eight and a half percent. But it happens most years. And if that legislation passed, it would be crippling to us. And that's just one of many bills that are being introduced.


Senator Rick Scott put in another bill, which if it passed, would say that schools with a, an endowment over 1 billion, so if schools like Hamilton would have to fund 25% of the cost of attendance for every student, not just students on financial aid, so we would be putting out about $20,000 for every student at Hamilton, and that would that would bankrupt us, we could not continue as a need blind institution, if that passed. Of course, it could be worse. If we were like Harvard and had an endowment of over 10 billion, then under that legislation, we would have to cover not 25%, but 75% of the cost of attendance. And that's just an example.


Here in New York state legislation was introduced that would preclude us from admitting students early decision. Now, you can understand that the argument is, well, it disfavors students from less affluent families, because they will want time to consider, you know, what are their various financial aid offers from different schools, they'll want to compare those offers and then make a decision. So it has a good motivation. But for New York State unilaterally to forbid early decision would put us at enormous competitive disadvantage, visa vie our peers and other states. So far, it hasn't happened and New York would be shooting itself in the foot or a lot higher if it passed that kind of legislation. But that's just an example. There are all kinds of bills that are pending in both state and federal federal levels that would greatly restrict what we do.


And then there are things like Title IX where we're on a rollercoaster ride, every time a new president is elected, it seems we get a complete revamp of the title nine regulations. So when Obama was in place, and the Dear Colleague letter was sent out all of us and to fully revamp how we approach sexual misconduct, then the Trump administration came in. And there were a whole new set of rules adopted. And we had to institute live hearings with cross examination and make things look a little bit more like courtroom procedures. Now the Biden administration is in and they're doing away with those and requirements of live hearings and cross examination, and making a whole nother set of changes. And every time this happens, we have to completely revamp how we do things we have to train, we want to provide a safe environment, we want to provide a fair process for all of our students. We'd like some consistency over time, so that we're not constantly rethinking and redoing and retraining and studying new rules, the Trump administration rules came with 2000 pages of guidance, the Biden rule was clocked in at a spell 650 pages. And every time you know, we have to go through this, we have to pay lawyers to go through it. So that's just another example.


What we're seeing is just more and more willingness on the part of governments, both federal and state, to involve themselves in decisions that historically have been left to colleges. So that's a challenge.


And that's at the legislative level, then we get to the judicial front. Of course, the Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade, affects colleges and universities as it does society as a whole. And now we have the Supreme Court about to consider the cases against Harvard and UNC. I'm sure you're familiar with those. But those cases will argue the question of whether or not race can be considered in admission decisions. And the cases will be argued on October 31, and I expect a decision no later than June of this year. And given the makeup of the court and past decisions, it seems very likely that at a minimum, the court will greatly restrict and most probably will forbid, consideration of race in college admissions.


So what will happen if the court rules in that fashion? Well, we have a pretty good idea, because there are already nine states that have bans on affirmative action, bans that were passed either by legislation or by referenda. And we know that we can see what's happened in those states. So it doesn't have that much of an impact on schools that are not highly selective, those schools are already taking the vast majority of people who apply. But on highly selective institutions, it has a really detrimental effect. So you can look at the University of California. And you can see that it's schools like Berkeley, and UCLA, or at the, you know, in Michigan at the University of Michigan, you can see that immediately after the bans are adopted, there is a very precipitous decline in the representation of underrepresented groups in the campus community. And that's really a terrible thing for our educational values and our goals, and what we're trying to do as an institution.


Now, those schools have been very aggressive in trying to pursue race neutral alternatives. You can use techniques like widening the funnel, which is a combination of substantial financial aid with targeted recruitment strategies, there are things you can do. But even though those schools have been very, very creative, and very, very aggressive, and trying to pursue those strategies, they do not make up for consideration of race and admissions, we will see a decline if that decision goes through. So that's something that we're confronting, we're dealing with legislative involvement, we're dealing with judicial involvement. And we've always dealt with those things. But in a more polarized political environment, it's likely to have a greater impact than in the past. So that's a concern for me.


Okay. Well, that's not the only concern. When I look at the broad view of the public about higher education, one of the things we're seeing, and this is true of people on both the left and the right, is an increasing tendency to look at both the value of a college degree and the worth of a particular major, almost exclusively through an economic lens. What is the return on investment? How much money will my student make if they go to this college or they major in that field? I want to say that's the wrong way to look at it. But let's see what are the numbers?


It is true that on average, STEM majors, and business majors will make more than say majors in humanities and the sciences and humanities in the arts. But the averages conceal a lot more than they reveal. But this is, you know, this is a thing you see on both parties. It's become a particular subject of debate with the passage of Biden's debt relief plan. That's triggered a lot of people saying, well, “we really as taxpayers, we shouldn't be subsidizing people who get this,” as Governor Ron DeSantis said. “You shouldn't subsidize people who pursue worthless degrees, and things like gender and zombie studies.” Just to be clear, we do not have a major in zombie studies. I think it probably comes up in some film classes and maybe some literature classes, we're not actually offering a major in that. And it's shorthand for criticizing degrees in the humanities in the arts. But even, you know, Democrats get in on the game, President Obama in 2014, he was giving a speech, he said, "you know, you could make a lot more potentially in the trades and manufacturing than you can with an art history degree." And he later apologized, he apologized to the art history majors in the world. And he recognized that that was not the right lens.


But that's something that's become part of the public dialogue. You see it, you know, in government programs like the college scorecard, where they try to judge colleges by rate of return. You see it with political commentators and both parties you see in the media, you see it pretty much everywhere people talk about what is the return on investment. So it's true on average, STEM majors, business majors will make a little bit more. But that's not really true to a place like Hamilton. So what you study has some impact on what you're likely to earn. But it's not determinative, if you go to where you study matters as much as what you study. So liberal arts colleges, generally, even if you're focused only on narrow dollars and cents questions, liberal arts colleges tend to have a very high return on investment, and highly ranked liberal arts colleges in particular, the fact is, you can do great with a major in any field. So Albert Schweitzer once said that success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. And you will be more successful if you study something that you enjoy.


You could have told me when I got to college, hey, "Why don't you be an engineer, and they have a pretty good return on investment?" You would not want to drive across any bridge that I built. That would be a big mistake. For both of us. I was an English major, that was my interest. That was my proclivity. People are more successful at things that they're interested in things they care about, do really want to tell a student whose love and passion is for art, and who can help us see the world in different ways. But no, don't study art, study computer science, if you want to study computer science, and that's our fastest growing major, great, you should study that if you want to study economics, 20% of our students study economics, that's great. But you can do well with any degree. And when you ask people about life satisfaction, there's almost no difference between people who majored in humanities and majored in arts and who majored in STEM in business. So we say study what you love for a reason you'll do better at it, you'll be more successful, you can have a great career, you can earn a lot of money, if that's what you want. People weren't always so focused on dollars and cents.


In 1976, which I hesitate to say is when I was in college, less than 50% of students said that making money was a very important reason for going to college. By 2019. It was 73%. And I'm sure it's gone up. And it's because we as a society are giving this message to students. And I think it's the wrong message. It ignores all the intrinsic and non pecuniary benefits of higher education. So what do we know on average, those who have a college degree, they earn more, they live longer, they're healthier, they make better parenting choices, they have better marriages, you know, pretty much everybody has greater life satisfaction. So yes, you want a college degree, on average, it doesn't mean that you can't do great with a high school degree, you can, but on average, you'll do better with a college degree. And you will, you will just have a more satisfying life. But what about all the wonderful things that we tried to teach here? Critical thinking, aesthetic appreciation, appreciation for difference, ability to work with others in different communities? Those are all things you will learn whatever your major, so you should really study what you love. Sometimes students say to me, Well, you know, I'm double majoring. I'm taking economics for my parents, and I'm taking art for myself. So parents, listen to your students, let them study what they love.


Okay. Speaking of what makes success, we're in the last year of the Because Hamilton campaign. Our goal is 400 million. This is more than double any prior goal we've had 80% of our alumni have contributed to the campaign, we're near to the finish line we're trying to get there. 8,700 parents have contributed, I've just thought I'd mentioned that. That's actually not true. It's 8,702 parents have contributed. If you would like to be 8,703, please come up to me immediately afterwards, or talk to Lori Dennison, and we'd be happy to accommodate you.


So why are we in this campaign? Well, all the wonderful things that we do here are made possible by the generosity of our alumni and our parents. That's what funds the education that's the reason that this is a best of times. moment for places like Hamilton, it's the reason that we're able, we're going to be renovating the library as part of our digital plan. We built the new Health and Counseling Center, we've added a lot of staff to that center that's funded through philanthropy, pretty much everything we do our financial aid, which, you know, we have, we're very fortunate to be able to admit students without regard to need, and to be able to meet their full demonstrated need when they get here. That's not inexpensive. And so our biggest goal in this current campaign is 120 million for financial aid, I think we're at 116, Lori? We're about 116 million, anybody wants to give me 4 million?


We're almost at that goal. And that, and that kind of fundraising is what allows us to do all of the things that we're doing to fulfill our teaching and education mission. Okay, I would be happy to turn things over to you now. We have a few minutes for questions. There's a microphone right there. So feel free to step up and fire away.



Questioner One: Thank you. Thank you. Thanks for your remarks this morning. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about what you're seeing on campus in terms of student mental health, coping with a post pandemic and also the college's capacity to meet students needs for counseling services, academic support, and thriving in the post pandemic era. Thank you.


David Wippman: Yes, great question. So the question is about student mental health. On Tuesday, I was in New York City for a day-long conference of college presidents and business leaders of companies like Bank of America and JP Morgan and high school educators. And we were there to talk about sort of the continuum, what are you seeing, you know, at the K through 12 level, what's happening in college, our students making the transition to the work world. It's a huge issue nationally, we've had just skyrocketing numbers of students experiencing anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and other other kinds of mental health challenges.


Hamilton, I, I'm going to, I'm going to boast for a moment, I think we are, oh this is dangerous, I think we are best in class now. We, over the last six years, have devoted an enormous amount of attention and an enormous amount of resources to improving how we address student mental health issues. So we've made a couple of major changes. One is we moved to a case management model. So we now have a professional case manager and someone who works with her, their housing, the Dean of Students Office, and their role is to make sure that nothing falls through the cracks, and that we coordinate care across the different parts of the college so that student affairs is talking to Academic Affairs is talking to the Counseling Center, so that nothing falls through the gap. And if a student goes home on vacation, and needs care, or goes home for the summer, and needs care, that care is happening. So that's one change.


The second change is that we moved to what's called a stepped care model. So we used to, you know, follow a fairly traditional approach to therapy, you know, you have an issue, you come in, you meet with a therapist on a regular basis, you talk about, you know, what happened in your childhood, or whatever events may have contributed to this situation. And in the step care model, there's a recognition that not everyone comes into the Counseling Center who comes into the counseling center needs to see a licensed therapist, sometimes it's just a roommate conflict issue, or they're anxious about exams, or they have some other need, that can be addressed by other members of the campus community. And we have a care contact team. Now there's people in the Division of Student Affairs, who will work with students who want to meet with an adult. They just need some advice, but don't necessarily need therapy. And what that's enabled us to do is to distribute our resources a little more effectively.


So it used to be if you needed a first appointment, you were experiencing stress, you wanted to see a therapist who wanted to see someone in the counseling center, it might take two or three weeks to get that first appointment. Now, you get that first appointment in one to two business days. And I can assure you that if you go out once you leave Hamilton, that will not be the case. So we really want to get to students quickly. They'll do an intake assessment the student can choose, do I want to do a 15 minute intake assessment? Do I want to do a deeper dive for an hour? And then they'll make the decision jointly with the therapist? And they'll say, “Okay, what do you need?” You know, can you work with someone in the care contacts of the Chaplaincy or the Athletics Department? Or do you need therapy and if so, we'll try and set that up. If we can fit you into the caseload of our current counselors, we'll do that. Sometimes, if you need something that's more specialized, we might refer you out. Another change is that we have partnered with Mantra Health, which is an online teletherapy organization. So care is available as a crisis hotline that's available 24/7. So you know, you're in crisis three in the morning, the Counseling Center is closed, you can reach someone. And if you want to do teletherapy, you can. So we have augmented that pool of providers. And that allows us to provide providers who are closer to a student's identity than we might otherwise be able to do with the campus community. We've greatly expanded the staffing of the Counseling Center, we have a huge range of programs. So you can check out, you know, happy lamps for seasonal affective disorder. You can get weighted blankets, you can get salad machines, there's a massage chair, you can do group therapy, you can do individual therapy to do peer counseling, the range of services is extraordinary.


So does that mean we're out of the woods, not at all. 37% of our students, we have one of the highest utilization rates of any college in the country. And that's because we've done a lot to educate people about the resources, and we've made them available. So that's a good thing. It puts a heavy demand on our Counseling Center and other resources. 37% of our students used Counseling Center resources last year, which is remarkable, but it means that the number of acute crises has lowered significantly, the number of hospitalizations has lowered significantly. We've still got some challenges. And every time you know, my house is on College Hill Road. Every time the sirens go up that road, my heart stops. Because I don't know, is this a true emergency? Or did somebody burn popcorn? 99 times out of 100 it's burnt popcorn, but sometimes it's an emergency. Anyone else? That was a long answer, but that's an important subject.


Questioner Two: Just very cool. We have a daughter who's a sophomore, and she's thrilled. And you're doing a great job and AAA as well. Yeah, particularly as well coming through the COVID period. And we love what we hear about trying to find a way to live with it. So you know, bravo. I'm just curious, as a parent, you touched briefly on the Hamilton's, always been a strong brand and a strong community. But this recent remarkable ascent, I'm just curious to tell us a little more, give some more color on why what's led to that, that you want to do more of that's really contributed to this real success amongst your peers. You know, just interesting learning. So what's what's been behind that?


David Wippman: Okay, you gave me a pretty big opening there. So you mean, what, besides my arrival is that? I'm not sure there was anything. Now it's, you know, look, this has been the product of many, many years of hard work. You know, hiring great faculty, great staff, devoted alumni who really contributed supporting the college, frankly, the financial support, that if you're looking at rankings, and I'd strongly encourage you not to because they're meaningless. But if you look at them, they correlate pretty closely with endowment per student. And we're fortunate, you know, we've had a very generous alumni and that that funding allows us to be competitive in the programs that we offer in the faculty that we hire. But I do think there's something special about Hamilton. When I got here, I was just amazed, I'm still touched and amazed by the loyalty that alumni show this institution, the affection that they have for it. And that really seems to me, it's true in a lot of places, but it's more true. In my experience here. Out there was a yes. You want to grab that microphone.


Questioner Three: So I actually work at a STEM university and really, really see kind of the pre professional bent and, and the concern with parents, but I'm choosing to send my daughter to a liberal arts college because I really believe in that. And I guess I want to hear a little bit more about how you deal with students who have no clue what they want to do. But knowing that it's super stressful when you graduate, and you haven't really prepared for some kind of job, per se, and like how you work with students to figure that out. And just help them feel okay about exploring and not knowing, but also make sure that they're not super stressed, when they suddenly realize they do kind of have to pay rent, etc.


David Wippman: Yeah, I hate that whole paying rent thing. So it's a great question and it's a combination of academic MC Advising and Career advising. And some of it is modeling by alumni. Look, you know, when I got when I got out of college, not that you really want to model this, I had no idea what I want to do as an English major, I was a taxi driver and a ski bum for a year, which actually was a fabulous year, I learned a lot, I had a lot of fun. I don't, I don't encourage necessarily, but hey, it was a great year. And then I went to graduate school for a year in English, and I thought I was gonna get a PhD. And now that's not for me. And then it was a paralegal for a year and I finally ended up in law school and it all worked out. You know, look at you know, people like Marc Randolph have just joined our board of trustees, he's the co-founder of a small company called Netflix. He was their first CEO. And he was a geology major, Kevin Kennedy, you know, he's, you know, you've been to the Kennedy Center, arts and performing arts building, you know, one of our most generous donors, he was an art history major. Now, he went on to Goldman Sachs, and had a very successful career in finance. So you can do anything with a liberal arts degree. And part of it is just helping students understand that. But we have very, very good faculty who will advise students about their academic choices, their choice of major, we've got a really dedicated career services staff, and they will, you know, they'll talk with students. What are your interests in the first year, in our first year or two? What are your interests? What are you passionate about, you're going to do better if you pursue that passion than if you try to force yourself to study something that doesn't interest you. And they'll help them identify the paths. And once you get out, you can go all kinds of different directions. My daughter, my older daughter, was a French studies major. And then, you know, she got a job writing and editing for food, Food and Wine Magazine. And that led to a job with an online fitness magazine, and then that went to Under Armour. Now she's in a two person technology startup with her best friend from high school, and they're doing great. So these paths are not linear. And we try to help students understand that when I talk to alumni, that for some of them say, "Well, I knew since I was four that I wanted to be, you know, an orthopedic surgeon, and you know, now I'm replacing hips, and it's great." There are people like that, but most people follow a pretty winding path. And you have to leave room for serendipity. So we tried to provide the advising and both the academic and the career side and give them support and introduce them to people and let them network. And they'll find their way. You know, you as parents have to have confidence, they will find their way. I think we've got time for one last question, then I have to turn it over. We're gonna do a faculty panel. Anybody want to ask the last question? Yes.


Questioner Four: So to the previous presenter, this has connections with both mental health and decision making stuff like that. Four or five years ago, maybe, I came on campus for a leadership council meeting. And I saw signs around campus of unhappiness, you know, disagreement or protests, there was something going on, someone didn't like the shade of someone's curtains, or, you know, if there was a lighting thing going on. But, you know, I got the idea most people are happy, but a few people had big problems with something. I come here, and there's no sign of dissent. You know, Friday,


David Wippman: I pretty ruthlessly crushed it. [sarcastically]


Questioner Four: There's that. It happens, it can happen. But I'm just wondering what is the general level of dissent? And again, mental issues, mental health issues? Is it all that common, peaceful, or is it just an illusion?


David Wippman: It is a carefully manicured illusion. [sarcastically] No, there's always dissent on campus, and there certainly is now and it would be unhealthy if there weren't. So we encourage a broad range of viewpoints. We encourage students to express themselves, we recognize that they're going to have different viewpoints. And they use it but it ebbs and flows. So it really just depends on what you happen to be here. But absolutely, there's lots of an issue that's come to the fore recently is accessibility. So we have 110 buildings on this campus. And many of them are older buildings and they're not accessible. Right? This is not an easily accessed staircase right here. But recall where I work, there is no accessible entrance. You have to go upstairs. So that's become a flashpoint now and we've gotten a fair amount of criticism and concern and I totally understand that people sometimes misunderstand what the ADA requires and think that for older buildings, it's the same rule as for a new construction when it's not. We are trying to make the campus accessible and we have a, we're working on a plan, we've got a consultant that we've been working with, for a few years, we're spending actually a lot of money on it. It's something that we have to achieve gradually. And so we'll often find, you know, the issues will vary. There have been protests since I've been here. There have been protests on sexual misconduct, there have been protests on DEI issues. You know, there's a lot believe me, there's plenty of dissent. All right. I think our time is up. Thank you so much. And I hope you'll stay for the next panel.

Recorded and transcribed by Gabriel Bit-Babik and Eric Santomauro-Stenzel


BURKE LIBRARY STEPS, Saturday, September 24th, 2022


David Wippman: Good morning, and welcome, everybody. It is really great to see all of you here. If you didn't bring your winter clothing for this weekend. That's okay. Remember, Hamilton is all about lifelong learning. So just consider this an Arctic survival course. You know, when I started at Hamilton in 2016, a lot of people said, "wow, you're moving to Clinton, New York. And you know, the winters there, how are you going to manage the winters?" and I thought, "what winter, I'm from Minnesota." But then this morning, when I got up, and I looked, and it was 40 degrees outside, and I'm rounding up, and I checked the weather in Minneapolis, it was 55. So I may have to rethink all of that. Anyway, it is great. It's great to be here with all of you. People often say that the job of president of the college is a lot like being the caretaker at a cemetery. You got a lot of people under you, but nobody's listening. And sometimes it feels that that's true. But generally, when people aren't listening, it's because they have a better idea. And we really, we have just extraordinary people who work here. And I deeply appreciate this award from the Alumni Association. It's a recognition of the extraordinary efforts that faculty and staff have made in recent years to make sure that we can deliver the best liberal arts education possible, whatever the circumstances, pandemics notwithstanding.


So I want to acknowledge and particularly express appreciation to the Senior Staff who are present. We have wonderful faculty, they do everything they can, we've got great staff, and no one does more than the senior staff. So some of them are here. We have several new senior staff: Ngoni Munemo, who is our Dean of Faculty, and will be leading a conversation among faculty immediately after this program, so I hope you'll be able to stay for that. My Chief of Staff, Gill King, Melissa Richards is Vice President for Communications. Sean Bennett is our new Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. That's a new office that he is launching this year. Joe Shelley is head of Library and IT and of course, Lori Dennison, head of Advancement. And we have a few other Senior Staff who couldn't be with us today. But when you get an opportunity, you'll see them on campus, please go up, introduce yourself, say hello. And talk to them about what they're doing for the college. They know more than anyone about what makes this place work.


Okay, so let's, let's talk about the elephant that's not in the room. And that is COVID. When I started, none of us had any idea that a pandemic was coming, alright. And a few years later, our world turns up and turned upside down. This year, things are pretty much back to normal. I called the Health Center a couple of days ago, Friday, just because I figured I would be asked this question. So how many cases do we have currently? And they said, "Well, we have two cases." But of course, we're not doing surveillance testing. So the real answer is I don't know how many cases we have at the moment. I was sitting with some students in the dining hall at lunch. And I said to them, so what are you seeing, you know, how are you feeling? And they said, "we really don't think about COVID anymore. You know, we're just not really concerned about it." And then the other students said, "although, there are an awful lot of colds this fall," a lot of sneezing or coughing. So what we learned last spring is that with these new variants, it's so transmissible, that nothing short of really draconian measures is going to stop transmission. And we have a young healthy population, almost everyone is vaccinated and boosted. We're encouraging everyone to get the new booster when they're eligible. We hope to do an on campus clinic so that we're encouraging everyone to get the flu vaccine. And I hope you'll encourage your students to do that. But mostly we've concluded we're going to, we're going to live with this, we're going to manage it and we're going to continue to operate as normally and as fully as we can. And this semester so far, we really are operating without restrictions. So that's great. And it's been you know, you can see all the activities are fully, fully underway. The orientation trips this year were fantastic. Students really expressed extraordinary appreciation for them. Classes are going fully, a few faculty are requiring masks and classes. And we did give faculty that discretion, recognizing that everybody's individual situation is a little bit different. But most of the classes are without masks and all the activities are open, and we're really fully back. Whether that will continue, your guess is as good as mine, it's always possible we'll have a new variant. But for as long as we can, we want to do everything we can to create as full and rich a learning environment for your students as possible. And that's where we are.


So you might say, okay, so everything is good. And the answer, I would say, is yes, and no. This is, to me, is a best of times, and a worst of times moment in higher education. And I want to say a little bit about what we're seeing in the broader landscape. And then what we're seeing here at Hamilton College. So when I say best of times, for schools, like Hamilton, things are pretty good. You know, we seem to be moving to fairly normal operations. We have record applications, we've had new records that are three out of the last four years. Our yield is remarkably high, we used to be 34 to 36%, in our yield for many years, and then two years ago, went up to 40%. Last year, it went up to 41%. We have a record low acceptance rate of 11.8%. Last year, the students were just incredible, more talented than ever. Test scores and grades are remarkably high. They bring all kinds of skills to the campus, we're recruiting phenomenal faculty, our financial position is pretty good. So yes, I'm not happy about inflation. That's a challenge for us, as it is for everyone. Yes, the markets are down this year. But overall, we're in very good shape financially. In 2021, our endowment return was 39%. So we're doing well, and schools like Hamilton are doing well.

But then most of higher education is seeing something very, very different. I'm currently chairing the Middle States Accreditation Review Committee for a wonderful liberal arts college in Maryland. That college faculty and staff have not had a salary increase in 14 years. And they've lost a lot of positions. And those who are remaining are having to do double duty. They've had enrollment struggles and financial challenges. And that's true of much of higher education. So we're really seeing a bifurcation of schools that are in the top tier are really doing extraordinarily well. And much of higher education is struggling. And then there is the political environment. So that's been challenging for everybody. As you know, our country is remarkably polarized. Quinnipiac did a poll recently. You may have seen this. And they asked people, "Do you think democracy in the United States is in danger of collapse?" And 69% of Republicans said, Yes. There's a little political commentary right there. And 69% of Democrats said yeah, so 69% of both parties said, Yes, democracy in the United States is in danger of collapse. And that's a pretty extraordinary thing. Fortunately, they both agreed both Republicans and Democrats agreed on the cause. They both agreed it was the other party.


So that's the broader political environment. And it's not news to any of you, I'm sure higher education is being caught in this political vortex. And increasingly, higher education and education in general, is being seen as kind of a punching bag. And that's something that's a challenge for all of us who are concerned about the future of education. So the New America Foundation does a poll, every year, they asked people, “do you think higher education is positive for the country?” And when I first saw that poll, I thought, I don't. What are they talking about? I don't understand this? Of course, it's positive for them. Yeah. How could you even ask the question? It's a public good. It's something that benefits the entire country. It's what gives us an educated workforce. It's what makes us competitive with the rest of the world. Our higher education system is the pride of the United States. It's the envy of the rest of the world. How can you even ask the question?


Well, only 55% of the respondents in last year's poll said that higher education is positive for the country. And a majority of Republicans said it is negative for the country. And again, that reflects this polarization in the way in which higher education is viewed. So what is driving the negative attitudes? Well, among members of both parties, it's concerned about cost. And that's fair, right? The cost has been going up faster than the rate of inflation, not last year, but pretty much every other year for a very long time. So the all-in cost, and some of you are acutely familiar with it, is approaching $80,000 a year and that's an extraordinary amount of money. So for both parties concerned about cost of education is driving negative perceptions.


And then among Republicans, there's the concern that colleges are too liberal, that they lean too far to the left, and that they're indoctrinating students with progressive values that are inconsistent with the values of some of those who are responding to these polls. And this is a concern for us, you know, we have to be worried if higher education is losing public support. And by the way, that 55%, that's down 14 points from the year before. So the numbers are changing, and they're going in the wrong direction. And that's a real challenge for higher education in general. And then you look more specifically at all the legislative measures that have been adopted, and all the executive orders that have been adopted, just in the last year to what Penn-America, that's an organization that is devoted to free speech and education. They describe these as educational gag orders, and they're proliferating, they're up to 150%, just over the last year. And these are orders that tried to restrict what is taught around American history, how race is handled in both K through 12, and higher education, of issues about LGBTQ+ identities are handled, increasing their efforts to restrict what are called divisive concepts. And to prevent those from being discussed, both in K through 12 education, and higher education.


In higher education, most of these orders have been directed at public universities. But increasingly, they're starting to filter into the private university world. And there are governors who and legislators who are interceding in tenure and appointment decisions. In some states, there's an effort to do away with tenure, at least at public universities. So you can see this kind of infiltrating approaches and attitudes towards higher education in ways that I think should be a concern to all of us. And you might say, well, we're in New York State, you know, surely that's not happening here. And it's true that we're not bearing the brunt of this the way colleges and universities in places like Florida, and Texas and Tennessee are, but we're not immune from it in New York state.


So just one example was the endowment excise tax, you know, Hamilton has had, we have very generous alumni. And as a result, we have a large endowment. And our reward for that is to pay a tax of 1.2% on that endowment every year, at least on the endowment earnings. That was passed in the 2017 tax bill. And it applies only to colleges and universities with more than $500,000 per student in assets. And we are fortunate to be among that group. But the penalty is that we're paying this money, which we could be using for financial aid and for other purposes. So that's a frustration. Legislation has been introduced in Congress, which would increase that tax from 1.2% to 20%. If we increase tuition at a rate that exceeds inflation, well, that's not going to happen this year, because inflation is running at, what, eight and a half percent. But it happens most years. And if that legislation passed, it would be crippling to us. And that's just one of many bills that are being introduced.


Senator Rick Scott put in another bill, which if it passed, would say that schools with a, an endowment over 1 billion, so if schools like Hamilton would have to fund 25% of the cost of attendance for every student, not just students on financial aid, so we would be putting out about $20,000 for every student at Hamilton, and that would that would bankrupt us, we could not continue as a need blind institution, if that passed. Of course, it could be worse. If we were like Harvard and had an endowment of over 10 billion, then under that legislation, we would have to cover not 25%, but 75% of the cost of attendance. And that's just an example.


Here in New York state legislation was introduced that would preclude us from admitting students early decision. Now, you can understand that the argument is, well, it disfavors students from less affluent families, because they will want time to consider, you know, what are their various financial aid offers from different schools, they'll want to compare those offers and then make a decision. So it has a good motivation. But for New York State unilaterally to forbid early decision would put us at enormous competitive disadvantage, visa vie our peers and other states. So far, it hasn't happened and New York would be shooting itself in the foot or a lot higher if it passed that kind of legislation. But that's just an example. There are all kinds of bills that are pending in both state and federal federal levels that would greatly restrict what we do.


And then there are things like Title IX where we're on a rollercoaster ride, every time a new president is elected, it seems we get a complete revamp of the title nine regulations. So when Obama was in place, and the Dear Colleague letter was sent out all of us and to fully revamp how we approach sexual misconduct, then the Trump administration came in. And there were a whole new set of rules adopted. And we had to institute live hearings with cross examination and make things look a little bit more like courtroom procedures. Now the Biden administration is in and they're doing away with those and requirements of live hearings and cross examination, and making a whole nother set of changes. And every time this happens, we have to completely revamp how we do things we have to train, we want to provide a safe environment, we want to provide a fair process for all of our students. We'd like some consistency over time, so that we're not constantly rethinking and redoing and retraining and studying new rules, the Trump administration rules came with 2000 pages of guidance, the Biden rule was clocked in at a spell 650 pages. And every time you know, we have to go through this, we have to pay lawyers to go through it. So that's just another example.


What we're seeing is just more and more willingness on the part of governments, both federal and state, to involve themselves in decisions that historically have been left to colleges. So that's a challenge.


And that's at the legislative level, then we get to the judicial front. Of course, the Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade, affects colleges and universities as it does society as a whole. And now we have the Supreme Court about to consider the cases against Harvard and UNC. I'm sure you're familiar with those. But those cases will argue the question of whether or not race can be considered in admission decisions. And the cases will be argued on October 31, and I expect a decision no later than June of this year. And given the makeup of the court and past decisions, it seems very likely that at a minimum, the court will greatly restrict and most probably will forbid, consideration of race in college admissions.


So what will happen if the court rules in that fashion? Well, we have a pretty good idea, because there are already nine states that have bans on affirmative action, bans that were passed either by legislation or by referenda. And we know that we can see what's happened in those states. So it doesn't have that much of an impact on schools that are not highly selective, those schools are already taking the vast majority of people who apply. But on highly selective institutions, it has a really detrimental effect. So you can look at the University of California. And you can see that it's schools like Berkeley, and UCLA, or at the, you know, in Michigan at the University of Michigan, you can see that immediately after the bans are adopted, there is a very precipitous decline in the representation of underrepresented groups in the campus community. And that's really a terrible thing for our educational values and our goals, and what we're trying to do as an institution.


Now, those schools have been very aggressive in trying to pursue race neutral alternatives. You can use techniques like widening the funnel, which is a combination of substantial financial aid with targeted recruitment strategies, there are things you can do. But even though those schools have been very, very creative, and very, very aggressive, and trying to pursue those strategies, they do not make up for consideration of race and admissions, we will see a decline if that decision goes through. So that's something that we're confronting, we're dealing with legislative involvement, we're dealing with judicial involvement. And we've always dealt with those things. But in a more polarized political environment, it's likely to have a greater impact than in the past. So that's a concern for me.


Okay. Well, that's not the only concern. When I look at the broad view of the public about higher education, one of the things we're seeing, and this is true of people on both the left and the right, is an increasing tendency to look at both the value of a college degree and the worth of a particular major, almost exclusively through an economic lens. What is the return on investment? How much money will my student make if they go to this college or they major in that field? I want to say that's the wrong way to look at it. But let's see what are the numbers?


It is true that on average, STEM majors, and business majors will make more than say majors in humanities and the sciences and humanities in the arts. But the averages conceal a lot more than they reveal. But this is, you know, this is a thing you see on both parties. It's become a particular subject of debate with the passage of Biden's debt relief plan. That's triggered a lot of people saying, well, “we really as taxpayers, we shouldn't be subsidizing people who get this,” as Governor Ron DeSantis said. “You shouldn't subsidize people who pursue worthless degrees, and things like gender and zombie studies.” Just to be clear, we do not have a major in zombie studies. I think it probably comes up in some film classes and maybe some literature classes, we're not actually offering a major in that. And it's shorthand for criticizing degrees in the humanities in the arts. But even, you know, Democrats get in on the game, President Obama in 2014, he was giving a speech, he said, "you know, you could make a lot more potentially in the trades and manufacturing than you can with an art history degree." And he later apologized, he apologized to the art history majors in the world. And he recognized that that was not the right lens.


But that's something that's become part of the public dialogue. You see it, you know, in government programs like the college scorecard, where they try to judge colleges by rate of return. You see it with political commentators and both parties you see in the media, you see it pretty much everywhere people talk about what is the return on investment. So it's true on average, STEM majors, business majors will make a little bit more. But that's not really true to a place like Hamilton. So what you study has some impact on what you're likely to earn. But it's not determinative, if you go to where you study matters as much as what you study. So liberal arts colleges, generally, even if you're focused only on narrow dollars and cents questions, liberal arts colleges tend to have a very high return on investment, and highly ranked liberal arts colleges in particular, the fact is, you can do great with a major in any field. So Albert Schweitzer once said that success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. And you will be more successful if you study something that you enjoy.


You could have told me when I got to college, hey, "Why don't you be an engineer, and they have a pretty good return on investment?" You would not want to drive across any bridge that I built. That would be a big mistake. For both of us. I was an English major, that was my interest. That was my proclivity. People are more successful at things that they're interested in things they care about, do really want to tell a student whose love and passion is for art, and who can help us see the world in different ways. But no, don't study art, study computer science, if you want to study computer science, and that's our fastest growing major, great, you should study that if you want to study economics, 20% of our students study economics, that's great. But you can do well with any degree. And when you ask people about life satisfaction, there's almost no difference between people who majored in humanities and majored in arts and who majored in STEM in business. So we say study what you love for a reason you'll do better at it, you'll be more successful, you can have a great career, you can earn a lot of money, if that's what you want. People weren't always so focused on dollars and cents.


In 1976, which I hesitate to say is when I was in college, less than 50% of students said that making money was a very important reason for going to college. By 2019. It was 73%. And I'm sure it's gone up. And it's because we as a society are giving this message to students. And I think it's the wrong message. It ignores all the intrinsic and non pecuniary benefits of higher education. So what do we know on average, those who have a college degree, they earn more, they live longer, they're healthier, they make better parenting choices, they have better marriages, you know, pretty much everybody has greater life satisfaction. So yes, you want a college degree, on average, it doesn't mean that you can't do great with a high school degree, you can, but on average, you'll do better with a college degree. And you will, you will just have a more satisfying life. But what about all the wonderful things that we tried to teach here? Critical thinking, aesthetic appreciation, appreciation for difference, ability to work with others in different communities? Those are all things you will learn whatever your major, so you should really study what you love. Sometimes students say to me, Well, you know, I'm double majoring. I'm taking economics for my parents, and I'm taking art for myself. So parents, listen to your students, let them study what they love.


Okay. Speaking of what makes success, we're in the last year of the Because Hamilton campaign. Our goal is 400 million. This is more than double any prior goal we've had 80% of our alumni have contributed to the campaign, we're near to the finish line we're trying to get there. 8,700 parents have contributed, I've just thought I'd mentioned that. That's actually not true. It's 8,702 parents have contributed. If you would like to be 8,703, please come up to me immediately afterwards, or talk to Lori Dennison, and we'd be happy to accommodate you.


So why are we in this campaign? Well, all the wonderful things that we do here are made possible by the generosity of our alumni and our parents. That's what funds the education that's the reason that this is a best of times. moment for places like Hamilton, it's the reason that we're able, we're going to be renovating the library as part of our digital plan. We built the new Health and Counseling Center, we've added a lot of staff to that center that's funded through philanthropy, pretty much everything we do our financial aid, which, you know, we have, we're very fortunate to be able to admit students without regard to need, and to be able to meet their full demonstrated need when they get here. That's not inexpensive. And so our biggest goal in this current campaign is 120 million for financial aid, I think we're at 116, Lori? We're about 116 million, anybody wants to give me 4 million?


We're almost at that goal. And that, and that kind of fundraising is what allows us to do all of the things that we're doing to fulfill our teaching and education mission. Okay, I would be happy to turn things over to you now. We have a few minutes for questions. There's a microphone right there. So feel free to step up and fire away.



Questioner One: Thank you. Thank you. Thanks for your remarks this morning. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about what you're seeing on campus in terms of student mental health, coping with a post pandemic and also the college's capacity to meet students needs for counseling services, academic support, and thriving in the post pandemic era. Thank you.


David Wippman: Yes, great question. So the question is about student mental health. On Tuesday, I was in New York City for a day-long conference of college presidents and business leaders of companies like Bank of America and JP Morgan and high school educators. And we were there to talk about sort of the continuum, what are you seeing, you know, at the K through 12 level, what's happening in college, our students making the transition to the work world. It's a huge issue nationally, we've had just skyrocketing numbers of students experiencing anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and other other kinds of mental health challenges.


Hamilton, I, I'm going to, I'm going to boast for a moment, I think we are, oh this is dangerous, I think we are best in class now. We, over the last six years, have devoted an enormous amount of attention and an enormous amount of resources to improving how we address student mental health issues. So we've made a couple of major changes. One is we moved to a case management model. So we now have a professional case manager and someone who works with her, their housing, the Dean of Students Office, and their role is to make sure that nothing falls through the cracks, and that we coordinate care across the different parts of the college so that student affairs is talking to Academic Affairs is talking to the Counseling Center, so that nothing falls through the gap. And if a student goes home on vacation, and needs care, or goes home for the summer, and needs care, that care is happening. So that's one change.


The second change is that we moved to what's called a stepped care model. So we used to, you know, follow a fairly traditional approach to therapy, you know, you have an issue, you come in, you meet with a therapist on a regular basis, you talk about, you know, what happened in your childhood, or whatever events may have contributed to this situation. And in the step care model, there's a recognition that not everyone comes into the Counseling Center who comes into the counseling center needs to see a licensed therapist, sometimes it's just a roommate conflict issue, or they're anxious about exams, or they have some other need, that can be addressed by other members of the campus community. And we have a care contact team. Now there's people in the Division of Student Affairs, who will work with students who want to meet with an adult. They just need some advice, but don't necessarily need therapy. And what that's enabled us to do is to distribute our resources a little more effectively.


So it used to be if you needed a first appointment, you were experiencing stress, you wanted to see a therapist who wanted to see someone in the counseling center, it might take two or three weeks to get that first appointment. Now, you get that first appointment in one to two business days. And I can assure you that if you go out once you leave Hamilton, that will not be the case. So we really want to get to students quickly. They'll do an intake assessment the student can choose, do I want to do a 15 minute intake assessment? Do I want to do a deeper dive for an hour? And then they'll make the decision jointly with the therapist? And they'll say, “Okay, what do you need?” You know, can you work with someone in the care contacts of the Chaplaincy or the Athletics Department? Or do you need therapy and if so, we'll try and set that up. If we can fit you into the caseload of our current counselors, we'll do that. Sometimes, if you need something that's more specialized, we might refer you out. Another change is that we have partnered with Mantra Health, which is an online teletherapy organization. So care is available as a crisis hotline that's available 24/7. So you know, you're in crisis three in the morning, the Counseling Center is closed, you can reach someone. And if you want to do teletherapy, you can. So we have augmented that pool of providers. And that allows us to provide providers who are closer to a student's identity than we might otherwise be able to do with the campus community. We've greatly expanded the staffing of the Counseling Center, we have a huge range of programs. So you can check out, you know, happy lamps for seasonal affective disorder. You can get weighted blankets, you can get salad machines, there's a massage chair, you can do group therapy, you can do individual therapy to do peer counseling, the range of services is extraordinary.


So does that mean we're out of the woods, not at all. 37% of our students, we have one of the highest utilization rates of any college in the country. And that's because we've done a lot to educate people about the resources, and we've made them available. So that's a good thing. It puts a heavy demand on our Counseling Center and other resources. 37% of our students used Counseling Center resources last year, which is remarkable, but it means that the number of acute crises has lowered significantly, the number of hospitalizations has lowered significantly. We've still got some challenges. And every time you know, my house is on College Hill Road. Every time the sirens go up that road, my heart stops. Because I don't know, is this a true emergency? Or did somebody burn popcorn? 99 times out of 100 it's burnt popcorn, but sometimes it's an emergency. Anyone else? That was a long answer, but that's an important subject.


Questioner Two: Just very cool. We have a daughter who's a sophomore, and she's thrilled. And you're doing a great job and AAA as well. Yeah, particularly as well coming through the COVID period. And we love what we hear about trying to find a way to live with it. So you know, bravo. I'm just curious, as a parent, you touched briefly on the Hamilton's, always been a strong brand and a strong community. But this recent remarkable ascent, I'm just curious to tell us a little more, give some more color on why what's led to that, that you want to do more of that's really contributed to this real success amongst your peers. You know, just interesting learning. So what's what's been behind that?


David Wippman: Okay, you gave me a pretty big opening there. So you mean, what, besides my arrival is that? I'm not sure there was anything. Now it's, you know, look, this has been the product of many, many years of hard work. You know, hiring great faculty, great staff, devoted alumni who really contributed supporting the college, frankly, the financial support, that if you're looking at rankings, and I'd strongly encourage you not to because they're meaningless. But if you look at them, they correlate pretty closely with endowment per student. And we're fortunate, you know, we've had a very generous alumni and that that funding allows us to be competitive in the programs that we offer in the faculty that we hire. But I do think there's something special about Hamilton. When I got here, I was just amazed, I'm still touched and amazed by the loyalty that alumni show this institution, the affection that they have for it. And that really seems to me, it's true in a lot of places, but it's more true. In my experience here. Out there was a yes. You want to grab that microphone.


Questioner Three: So I actually work at a STEM university and really, really see kind of the pre professional bent and, and the concern with parents, but I'm choosing to send my daughter to a liberal arts college because I really believe in that. And I guess I want to hear a little bit more about how you deal with students who have no clue what they want to do. But knowing that it's super stressful when you graduate, and you haven't really prepared for some kind of job, per se, and like how you work with students to figure that out. And just help them feel okay about exploring and not knowing, but also make sure that they're not super stressed, when they suddenly realize they do kind of have to pay rent, etc.


David Wippman: Yeah, I hate that whole paying rent thing. So it's a great question and it's a combination of academic MC Advising and Career advising. And some of it is modeling by alumni. Look, you know, when I got when I got out of college, not that you really want to model this, I had no idea what I want to do as an English major, I was a taxi driver and a ski bum for a year, which actually was a fabulous year, I learned a lot, I had a lot of fun. I don't, I don't encourage necessarily, but hey, it was a great year. And then I went to graduate school for a year in English, and I thought I was gonna get a PhD. And now that's not for me. And then it was a paralegal for a year and I finally ended up in law school and it all worked out. You know, look at you know, people like Marc Randolph have just joined our board of trustees, he's the co-founder of a small company called Netflix. He was their first CEO. And he was a geology major, Kevin Kennedy, you know, he's, you know, you've been to the Kennedy Center, arts and performing arts building, you know, one of our most generous donors, he was an art history major. Now, he went on to Goldman Sachs, and had a very successful career in finance. So you can do anything with a liberal arts degree. And part of it is just helping students understand that. But we have very, very good faculty who will advise students about their academic choices, their choice of major, we've got a really dedicated career services staff, and they will, you know, they'll talk with students. What are your interests in the first year, in our first year or two? What are your interests? What are you passionate about, you're going to do better if you pursue that passion than if you try to force yourself to study something that doesn't interest you. And they'll help them identify the paths. And once you get out, you can go all kinds of different directions. My daughter, my older daughter, was a French studies major. And then, you know, she got a job writing and editing for food, Food and Wine Magazine. And that led to a job with an online fitness magazine, and then that went to Under Armour. Now she's in a two person technology startup with her best friend from high school, and they're doing great. So these paths are not linear. And we try to help students understand that when I talk to alumni, that for some of them say, "Well, I knew since I was four that I wanted to be, you know, an orthopedic surgeon, and you know, now I'm replacing hips, and it's great." There are people like that, but most people follow a pretty winding path. And you have to leave room for serendipity. So we tried to provide the advising and both the academic and the career side and give them support and introduce them to people and let them network. And they'll find their way. You know, you as parents have to have confidence, they will find their way. I think we've got time for one last question, then I have to turn it over. We're gonna do a faculty panel. Anybody want to ask the last question? Yes.


Questioner Four: So to the previous presenter, this has connections with both mental health and decision making stuff like that. Four or five years ago, maybe, I came on campus for a leadership council meeting. And I saw signs around campus of unhappiness, you know, disagreement or protests, there was something going on, someone didn't like the shade of someone's curtains, or, you know, if there was a lighting thing going on. But, you know, I got the idea most people are happy, but a few people had big problems with something. I come here, and there's no sign of dissent. You know, Friday,


David Wippman: I pretty ruthlessly crushed it. [sarcastically]


Questioner Four: There's that. It happens, it can happen. But I'm just wondering what is the general level of dissent? And again, mental issues, mental health issues? Is it all that common, peaceful, or is it just an illusion?


David Wippman: It is a carefully manicured illusion. [sarcastically] No, there's always dissent on campus, and there certainly is now and it would be unhealthy if there weren't. So we encourage a broad range of viewpoints. We encourage students to express themselves, we recognize that they're going to have different viewpoints. And they use it but it ebbs and flows. So it really just depends on what you happen to be here. But absolutely, there's lots of an issue that's come to the fore recently is accessibility. So we have 110 buildings on this campus. And many of them are older buildings and they're not accessible. Right? This is not an easily accessed staircase right here. But recall where I work, there is no accessible entrance. You have to go upstairs. So that's become a flashpoint now and we've gotten a fair amount of criticism and concern and I totally understand that people sometimes misunderstand what the ADA requires and think that for older buildings, it's the same rule as for a new construction when it's not. We are trying to make the campus accessible and we have a, we're working on a plan, we've got a consultant that we've been working with, for a few years, we're spending actually a lot of money on it. It's something that we have to achieve gradually. And so we'll often find, you know, the issues will vary. There have been protests since I've been here. There have been protests on sexual misconduct, there have been protests on DEI issues. You know, there's a lot believe me, there's plenty of dissent. All right. I think our time is up. Thank you so much. And I hope you'll stay for the next panel.

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