Wythes Committee Report
April, 2000

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I. Introduction

As part of its ongoing responsibilities to oversee and review the programs and resources of the University, the Board of Trustees from time to time over the past 15 years has paused to assess the overall quality and evolution of the University's programs, the adequacy of its financial, physical, and human resources, the allocation of those resources, and new opportunities to pursue more fully the University's mission and enhance its distinction. These assessments have considered specific strategic issues facing Princeton in light of factors internal to the University, as well as external forces that can influence the University's objectives and its capacity to achieve them. Most recently, the Hambrecht Committee Report [1989] and the Strategic Plan [1993] resulted from such reviews.

The recommendations of these earlier studies (e.g., processes to monitor the operating budget, the President's Teaching Initiatives, creation of a campus center, fundraising priorities) continue to provide important guidance to Princeton and the most important objectives of the 1993 Strategic Plan are now in place. In addition, the quality and range of Princeton's educational, scholarly and support programs have grown substantially, as have our financial and physical assets. Among the newest of Princeton's academic initiatives are such critical programs as: the Bendheim Finance Center, the Institute for Integrative Genomics, the Center for the Study of Religion, and the Princeton Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts. Moreover, in recent years the University has undertaken a comprehensive physical planning process for the entire campus, has developed a systematic capital budget, has built a number of major new facilities (including Scully Dormitory and the University Stadium), is currently constructing other buildings (the Frist Campus Center, the Friend Engineering Center, and the Wallace Social Sciences Building), and is planning still other building projects (the construction of a Genomics laboratory and the refurbishment of Joseph Henry House and East Pyne as a Humanities Center). Furthermore, as part of an overall effort to increase our investment in the maintenance and renewal of our entire physical plant, a comprehensive program to substantially refurbish our undergraduate housing has been initiated. Other important recent initiatives include a new undergraduate financial aid program to provide greater assistance to low- and middle-income families, and a comprehensive program to upgrade information technology in preparation for the new century, including networking, hardware, and software improvements, extending from the Library through administrative offices, and from faculty to incoming freshmen. Many of these initiatives have been made possible by the substantial growth in Princeton's endowment and the success of the 250th Anniversary Campaign which is now nearing completion.

Given these and other evolving circumstances, accomplishments, and opportunities, the time seemed right for the Board once again to consider some of the long-term strategic issues facing the University. At the President's request, in the fall of 1997 the Trustee Executive Committee asked Trustee Paul M. Wythes '55 to chair a special Ad Hoc Trustee Committee established for this purpose. The Committee included Trustees Jon E. Barfield '74, Dennis J. Keller '63, Karen Magee '83, Edward E. Matthews '53, Robert S. Murley '72, Robert H. Rawson '66, John H. Scully '66, Sejal A. Shah '95, President Harold T. Shapiro *64, and John J. F. Sherrerd '52, with Provost Jeremiah P. Ostriker acting as Secretary to the Committee.

The Committee's Charge

The Committee's work began in the fall of 1997 with the expectation that a report would be issued to the Board of Trustees by the beginning of the year 2000. The first decade of the 21st century, rather than the year or two immediately ahead, was the assigned focus for the Committee's attention. Since its initial charge was broad, the Committee's first task was to determine which issues facing the University it could most productively address. After consultation with the President and the Provost, the Committee decided to concentrate on determining the optimal allocation of Princeton's human, physical, financial, and other resources to support the University's long-term objectives and to sustain and extend its distinction within a rapidly changing external environment. The specific topics considered and addressed in this report are as follows:

• The size and composition of the undergraduate and graduate student bodies, the faculty, and the administrative and support staffs within the context of Princeton's long-time objective to sustain the outstanding quality of these human resources.

• The long-term adequacy of Princeton's physical facilities, with particular attention to undergraduate dormitories.

• The management of the University's endowment and oversight of the University's operating and capital budgets.

• The adequacy of the University's approach to sponsored research and corporate and foundation fundraising.

• The vitality of the Library and the use and management of new information technology, including programs that use these technologies to enhance our teaching here on campus, and to enhance our educational outreach to alumni and others.

The Committee's work was guided by two overarching principles. First, Princeton has an obligation to exercise responsible stewardship of the exceptional resources that the University has accumulated over many years -- its academic programs and Library, its exceptional faculty and staff, its financial and physical resources, its important and close relationship with its alumni, and its outstanding international reputation. The Committee underscores the importance of safeguarding these resources in a challenging and ever-changing environment and assuring that they will be maintained into the future.

Second, in addition to safeguarding its resources, Princeton has an important obligation to optimize its contributions to higher education, to the world of scholarship, and to society, in ways that are consistent with its mission. Princeton's current strength and recent substantial growth in resources -- physical, financial, and intellectual -- provide the University with opportunities to serve even better its students and alumni, the nation, and the world. This is the motivation behind recent decisions to expand into new intellectual fields, to develop new courses of study for students (such as the new undergraduate certificate program in Finance and the masters degree programs in Finance and Engineering), and to begin to reach out in new ways to alumni (for example, over the Internet and through distance learning programs). As the modern history of higher education vividly demonstrates, if an institution does not evolve, it cannot retain either its distinction or its social relevance. Two questions that emerged as central to the Committee's work were whether there were initiatives Princeton should undertake (or programs it should eliminate or consolidate) to make optimal use of its remarkable resources, and whether Princeton should extend its educational and scholarly reach.

Central Purposes of Princeton University (Mission Statement)

In the course of its review, the Committee members found it useful to restate Princeton's central purposes (mission statement), which they describe as follows:

• Princeton University strives to be both one of the leading research universities and the most outstanding undergraduate college in the world. As a research university, it seeks to achieve the highest levels of distinction in the discovery and transmission of knowledge and understanding, and in the education of graduate students. At the same time, Princeton aims to be distinctive among research universities in its commitment to undergraduate teaching. It seeks to provide its students with academic, extracurricular and other resources -- in a residential community committed to diversity in its student body, faculty and staff -- that will permit them to attain the highest possible level of achievement in undergraduate education and prepare them for positions of leadership and lives of service in many fields of human endeavor. Through the scholarship, research and teaching of its faculty, and the many contributions to society of its alumni, Princeton seeks to fulfill its informal motto: "Princeton in the Nation's Service and in the Service of All Nations."

In addition to a distinctive emphasis on excellence in undergraduate education, Princeton is currently distinguished by the following characteristics:

• an undergraduate student body composed of individuals who have exceptional academic promise, strong personal qualities, and a variety of backgrounds, talents, and interests;

• an undergraduate admission policy that is entirely need-blind;

• a single faculty, all of whom are expected to teach both undergraduate and graduate students and all of whom are engaged in research;

• a focus on the arts and sciences and engineering, with a selective commitment to professional education;

• an unusually loyal and supportive alumni body that is composed of individuals who have had a disproportionate impact on the local, national and global communities in which they live;

• a "human" scale that is sustained by controlling growth and encouraging opportunities for personal interaction;

• a physical setting of aesthetic and historic significance; and

• a determination to continue to occupy a position of independence and leadership in education, scholarship and research, and service to society.

The Work of the Committee

Between October 1997 and January 2000, the Committee met 25 times, including four all-day meetings. To assist the Committee in its work, a substantial amount of historical and comparative data was assembled. This background material established a common base of understanding and served as a shared starting point for discussions. (Selections from this background material are attached to the report and referenced in the text as "Figure number.") Wherever appropriate, the Committee included the standing committees of the Board in its on-going review, and it kept the entire Board apprised of its work through regular reports at Board meetings and four discussions in the Committee of the Whole that focused on the Committee's work.

The Committee began its work by thoroughly reviewing both the status of the University's endowment and the size and composition of the student body, faculty, and staff, and, where possible, by comparing Princeton's situation with data from peer institutions. Introductory discussions convinced the Committee that the question of whether the number of undergraduates should be modestly increased deserved especially close attention, and that resolution of that question would have a pervasive impact on virtually all other issues to which the Committee would give attention. As discussion proceeded about each area of University life -- faculty, staff, physical plant, budgets, and financial resources -- questions about the desirability and feasibility of increasing the number of undergraduates were continually asked. Therefore, while this report makes recommendations in each of its main areas of review, a conscious effort has been made to relate discussion in all areas to the question of the optimal size of the undergraduate class in the years ahead.

For reasons enumerated in the report, the Committee is recommending that Princeton increase the size of its undergraduate student body by approximately 10 percent, from 4,600 to 5,100 students. The Committee believes that an increase of this magnitude would enhance the quality of the overall educational experience at Princeton and would make more effective use of the University's extraordinary resources. By providing its distinctive educational experience to a somewhat larger number of students, Princeton has the capacity to make an even greater contribution to the society it serves. In the Committee's estimation, the increase should be phased in over four years, probably beginning three or four years from now after additional dormitory and dining space has been constructed. The Committee believes that these are the only additional facilities that would be required.

The Committee makes this recommendation, in part, because of the remarkable depth and quality of Princeton's applicant pool, and the opportunity this offers to expand the range of talents, perspectives, and academic and nonacademic interests in each class while continuing to apply the highest possible standards for admission. It is the Committee's belief that recent and projected rates of growth in the size of the faculty, which have expanded the range of educational opportunities on campus, allow Princeton to increase the size of the student body while maintaining its historically low student-faculty ratio and sustaining such core elements of the Princeton undergraduate program as individual attention to students, small class discussions, and the advising of senior theses by tenured and tenure-track faculty. Even with the proposed increase, the Princeton undergraduate student body will be the smallest among its principal competitors; at the same time, a modest increase in the size of the student body will help ensure that undergraduate education remains at the center of the University.

Some have suggested that Princeton may face a choice either to improve its current undergraduate program or expand the size of the student body. It is the Committee's belief that Princeton has to do both, and has the resources necessary to do both. The Committee makes a number of specific recommendations for safeguarding the quality of undergraduate teaching and campus life. But in the Committee's view expanding the student body will improve the undergraduate program by adding to the intellectual, cultural, and educational vitality of the campus. While the order of magnitude proposed (i.e., 10%) is much smaller than the increase that accompanied coeducation (i.e., 40%), the Committee is confident that this increase, like that increase 30 years ago, will invigorate Princeton and enhance its overall quality and capacity for leadership, without altering in any significant way the fundamental nature of the Princeton undergraduate experience.


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