President's Pages in Princeton Alumni Weekly
Implementing Wythes Committee Recommendations
November 21, 2001
Among the major recommendations of the Trustee committee on strategic planning, chaired by Paul M. Wythes ’55 and adopted by the Board in the spring of 2000, were an addition of approximately 500 students to the undergraduate student body and the creation of a sixth residential college. Three main considerations led the Trustees to the decision to increase the number of undergraduates. First, over the last 25 years the size of the undergraduate student body has remained approximately constant while the faculty has expanded at a rate of about 1 percent per year. As a consequence the student:faculty ratio has been steadily falling and is now below 7:1. Second, a 1998 Faculty Study Group on Undergraduate Admission, chaired by President Shapiro, concluded that the number of gifted students in the applicant pool greatly exceeded the number we could accept each year. Third, given the growth in the University’s resources during the 1990’s, and the very positive impact that our graduates continue to have on all aspects of American life and on society in general, it can be argued that Princeton has a moral obligation to educate more students, if we can do that without diminishing in any way the quality of the education that we offer.
Our goal is to allow the University to derive full benefit from a larger student body while providing all students with a Princeton experience that equals or exceeds today’s. That challenge requires that we plan for the increase with great care. I have formed four task forces that have been charged with planning, giving particular attention to physical facilities, administrative staffing and services, academic needs and financial requirements. Their work, described below, will be coordinated by an executive committee chaired by Thomas H. Wright ‘62, vice president and secretary.
Facilities Planning. The facilities planning group will focus on the construction of a new residential college south of Dillon Gymnasium. This is the first time in the history of the University that we will build a residential college from scratch, rather than assembling one with existing dormitories. It will be a particularly exciting project since the sixth college will offer the choice of a four-year residential experience to approximately 100 students. Furthermore, the college will house a small number of graduate students, thus fulfilling Woodrow Wilson’s vision of better integrating undergraduate and graduate students in residential settings. This task force will also develop plans to convert two of the existing residential colleges to accommodate students who wish to spend four years in a residential college.
Administrative Staffing and Services. The increase in the number of undergraduates will increase demands on a broad range of nonacademic offices, from student accounts to building services, from health services to student aid. We are committed to maintaining and, where necessary, improving the excellent programs and services that Princeton now provides. The campus and administrative task force will recommend how to meet non-faculty staffing implications in all areas of the University, at a time when these services are already feeling strained. The answer will not be simply to look at the size of the staff; we also need to look at training and possible reorganization.
Academic Planning. The charge to the academic task force is twofold: to evaluate and develop plans for the staffing, curriculum and instructional infrastructure necessary to achieve our educational objectives while expanding the undergraduate student body, and to make recommendations concerning admission policy so that the additional places best support the broad educational mission of the University. As we plan for the addition of 500 undergraduates, we want to safeguard the continued vitality of the special hallmarks of our undergraduate and graduate teaching programs, including close faculty-student interaction in the classroom, in the laboratory, and in junior independent work, the senior thesis and the dissertation. We know that our students do not distribute themselves evenly across academic departments, so the task force must give particular attention to departments that now teach the largest number of undergraduates. And it must also take into account opportunities that are sure to emerge to strengthen our research and teaching programs.
Budget Planning. The Budget Planning group will evaluate and develop cost estimates for the operating and capital budgets, assessing how recent events may have changed the economic climate and influenced any prior assumptions about costs. It will serve as a resource to the other committees to help them weigh competing priorities and to consider the optimal timing of change.
Our success will require close coordination of efforts and attention to both current and future needs. The task forces will consult with faculty, staff, students and alumni to get their ideas and comments, and we will report regularly to the Trustees, to the President’s Cabinet and to the Council of the Princeton University Community. I will also keep you informed through this page and as I meet with alumni associations throughout the country. The proposed mix of four-year and two-year residential colleges, the creation of a sixth residential college, and the increase in the undergraduate student body are significant steps for Princeton, and we want to take them with as much forethought and confidence as possible.