Students Feel Impact of Budget Cuts

As students new and returning moved onto the hilltop for the fall semester, they were faced with the reality that their tuition dollars just don’t go as far as they used to. They slowly learned of a series of budget cuts across departments that drastically impact day-to-day life here at Saint Anselm College.

At the first residence hall meetings of the year, RAs informed their residents that laundry services on campus were now technically ‘free.’ The cost of laundry, however, is now included in the overall tuition and fees each student pays to attend Saint Anselm College. In some residence halls, RAs told their residents that because laundry is free, printing now costs the students. The decision to cut free printing seems to be the cut most directly felt by the student body.

Saint Anselm College utilizes a print anywhere system, which students can access from their personal computer or any school computer and swipe their ID card at a printer station to print documents. In the past, printing was free and students could reload allocated printing funds onto their card free of charge. As of this semester, students will be allocated fifty dollars to use for printing. Once they use up all of the allotted funds, students must use their own money to refill their printing funds. What once was commonly referred to as “monopoly money” has suddenly become much more real, without any official notice.

isabelleprintingStudents have found this problematic for many reasons. Many departments on campus require seniors to write a thesis, which can range anywhere from 25 to 40 pages, or more. In addition to printing their theses, students typically print out the sources they cite which also tend to be lengthy. Isabelle Daigle, a senior in the Politics Department said, “My thesis combined with all of my sources totals to around one thousand pages of paper if I decide to print it all.”

Seniors are not the only one who have been impacted by this change in policy. Students in the nursing department are required to print large amounts of documents for class. If they run out of printing money, these students will have to use their own money to pay for printing, which could amount to hundreds of dollars and negatively impact their learning experience.

Cassandra Bigelow ‘20, a nursing major, explained that she prints daily for her classes and regularly goes through the printing allotment. Now, she feels forced to look elsewhere. “I have been trying to find ways to avoid printing while still keeping up with my classes,” she said, indicating that avoiding printing is forcing her to reevaluate how she studies for classes and takes notes. She continued, “Some majors don’t do a lot of printing, but I know that all nursing majors are disappointed with this policy change and are having to find different ways to study effectively.”

dennisprintingDennis Aveta ‘20, also expressed his disappointment in the decisions. “I already went through $20 of printing to print a required lab manual. I wasn’t happy when I found out I had to pay for printing.” He continued, “I like the fact that laundry is free, but I think the student body should have been consulted in this decision process.”

In addition to theses, lengthy nursing assignments, and lab materials, students are likely to be affected across all disciplines. Multiple professors maintain strict laptop-free classrooms and require students to print all reading material, even if it could be easily accessed on the web. Certain professors have asserted that this not only increases focus during class but that reading paper sources with a pen in hand is more beneficial for reading comprehension.

The College has not issued any formal statement about the new pay-to-print policy. When asked to elaborate on the college’s decision-making process regarding printing, Chief of Staff Neil Levesque did not return The Hilltopper’s request for comment.

Outside of the academic sphere, there are various clubs and organizations on campus that rely heavily on the old free printing system.

When asked for a comment, members of the debate team said that instead of paying for printing through the college, they would be using their own private printer in the debate office. Presumably, the club has decided that is a more cost-effective approach than using the print anywhere system. Cassy Moran ‘19, a member of the debate team, said, “As a member of debate team, I need to print a lot of materials that can be very expensive throughout the year. Last year I had to refill my card every week or so. If I were to use the public printers, it would be very difficult to balance between that and printing all of my classwork.” In addition to the debate team, the Model UN Club also typically prints large documents that they need to prepare for when they compete at Harvard Model United Nations.

Though it is clear that the printing restrictions have received overwhelmingly negative feedback, there are potential benefits, such as decreased paper use. However, the Green Team did not answer when asked about the positive environmental impact of the new policy.

The College has not addressed the changes and failed to respond to The Hilltopper’s repeated request for insight into the decision. 

There have also been cuts to work-study budgets in various departments on campus, such as the Athletics Department. At a recent meeting in the Athletic Department, Neil Duval explained to student workers that although a student might be allotted $1,000 in work-study money, each department is only allowed to spend a certain amount on work-study students. So in reality, if a student has $1,000, they may only be allowed to earn half of this amount within the department. Duval emphasized that although this new regulation has been put in place, the department would do its best to ensure that all students would be able to earn their full work-study amount, even if this meant spreading students out with multiple campus jobs.

Budget cuts have impacted the library as well. The Geisel Library was previously open weekdays until 2 a.m. but is now only open until midnight during the week. Geisel librarian Martha Dickerson confirmed that these cuts to library hours of operation were due to campus-wide budget cuts. While the library and other campus facilities did send out emails containing hours of operation, there was no formal email sent explaining why hours had been cut.

Students have already felt the pressure of shorter hours. Liam O’Rourke ‘19 said, “The first time that I heard of the library’s new hours was last night at 11:45 right before the library closed. While there are other options on campus, the library is the most resourceful place to complete work. It doesn’t make sense that these hours are limited.”

O’Rourke is not the only student frustrated by the change in the library’s hours. Others, like Elise Bouchard ‘19, say they have been repeatedly kicked out of the library at closing. “While I understand that closing the library at midnight is due to budget cuts, it is a serious restraint that negatively impacts students,” she said. Bouchard went on to emphasize the negative impact the budget cuts are having on students’ ability to learn. “It is simply a decision which limits students and does not facilitate a studying environment consistent with the course load which we receive.”

Questions Arise About College Layoffs

In the wake of Saint Anselm College’s decision to lay off 13 employees, questions have arisen about the true nature of the college’s financial status. The college’s Form 990 and 2017 financial report do not seem to reveal any glaring issues concerning the immediate finances of the school. When combined with recent increases in enrollment and tuition, the decision to layoff 14 staff members may come as suspect.

In a statement to The Hilltopper issued on May 25, 2018, the college seemed to suggest that the 14 eliminated positions were a preemptive measure, not necessarily a response to declining revenue. The statement read in part, “We have been blessed with success in recent years, and our enrollment and endowment are very strong. We need to maintain the position of strength from which we currently operate into the future.”

The statement continued, “The college’s future is bright. However, based on long range financial projections, there was valid concern about the college’s current ability to meet upcoming financial challenges, and consensus that lowering our overall expense growth was critical.”

When asked to further elaborate on the college’s financial footing, Eric Norman, the CFO, referred The Hilltopper to the previous statement issued by the college.

Students have been outraged by the decision to cut 14 people from the school, many of whom held student-facing positions. A petition launched online by “SACstudents4change,” received more than 200 signatures in its first six hours. The petition reads in part, “Firing members of the community with very little notice is unjust and does not follow the Benedictine values of hospitality, justice, and respect.” As of now, the petition has nearly 900 signatures.

The petition also addresses the fact that the student body was not informed directly of the terminations. The New Hampshire Union Leader first reported the story followed shortly by The Hilltopper. No email was sent to the student body about the firings.

Among the demands of the petition is a call for “financial transparency.” It reads, “It is only fair that alumni and generous donors know exactly where their money is going. In order to continue these days, we need an honest report of the College’s financial status.”

Evan Brown of South Burlington, Vermont, signed the petition. He commented, “For too long this administration has only cared about asking for money rather than looking out for the best for the community. As an alum I am refusing to donate until significant changes have been made.”

The demand for financial transparency has been an underlying theme in the criticism of the administration’s recent decision. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, President DiSalvo was compensated $359,874 for his work at the college in 2015, including $20,000 in a bonus. According to Business Insider, that puts Dr. DiSalvo in the top 1% of income earners in New Hampshire and just shy of the threshold to be classified in the top 1% of income earners in the United States.

CFO Eric Norman took office in September 2017. (Photo by Saint Anselm)

Some have asked questions about the new makeup of the school’s finance office, now under the leadership of CFO Eric Norman. In May of 2018, the office hired a new woman as the Senior Financial Analyst. Yet, two staff members of the finance office with more than 20 years of combined experience were among the 14 let go by Saint Anselm College. A former staff member of the school who left before the announcement of layoffs told The Hilltopper Mr. Norman had an extensive personal and professional history with the new analyst. Mr. Norman declined to comment.

There has also been tension with the monastic community. According to a current college staff member, the monastery was on their annual retreat when the layoffs were executed. That same staff member confirmed that the monastic community was not notified of the layoffs ahead of time. Even Abbot Mark Cooper, OSB, the Chancellor of the College, was not informed.

Thanks to a current college staff member, The Hilltopper is able to report an updated list of 14 positions that have been eliminated. Twelve of these positions were already mentioned in the previous article on the matter. The additional two positions are the Director of Advancement and Campaign Communications and an administrative assistant in the Dana Center. Of the 14 people fired from the college, nine were financial contributors to the school.

It is not clear how the Dana Center will operate without a director or administrative assistant. The college has not released a statement explaining its plans for the Center.

It has been two weeks since the layoffs, but the school administration has not informed the student body of the terminations in any formal capacity. Perhaps answers will come after the Board of Trustees meets Friday.

Cover image by FJ Gaylor.

Fired on the Hilltop: College Lays Off 13

Ruins of the Saint Anselm College Building after the devastating fire of February 18, 1892. (Photo from the Saint Anselm Archives)

As first reported in the New Hampshire Union Leader on Thursday, Saint Anselm College eliminated 13 positions Thursday morning, laying off people across campus. The College issued a written statement to the paper, claiming that the positions were eliminated in an attempt to brace for “upcoming financial challenges.”

One staff member, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of losing their own job, said that those fired were told early on Thursday morning and given little time before having to be off campus.

The Saint Anselm Crier reported on budget strains earlier this month. In that article, Chief of Staff Neil Levesque warned that budget cuts were imminent. There was no indication that some people would be laid off from their jobs. According to the Crier, “Levesque stated that the college had not made any decisions regarding staff, students, or faculty at the college for next year’s budget.”

Some of the people fired held positions that directly faced students. One was the administrative assistant in Campus Ministry. Service and Solidarity leader Emily Pierce ‘19 expressed dismay that she was let go. Responding to news that some of the employees fired were told to pack their belongings and leave campus immediately, Pierce said, “I went to this school for having values entirely opposite of that.”

Another was Vice President of Student Affairs Joe Horton ‘77. The student body has not yet been informed of the decision to relieve Dr. Horton. It is not yet clear how the college intends to restructure student affairs without a vice president to oversee it. Around two o’clock on Thursday afternoon, various deans and directors from the student affairs department were called into a meeting. A staff member, again speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of losing their job, said that those in the meeting were told the school was facing a $1.6 million budget shortfall and that the Board of Trustees requested the college remedy the shortfall with $4 million in cuts.

In a written statement to The Hilltopper, the same one sent to the Union Leader, the college stated, “The college’s future is bright. However, based on long range financial projections, there was valid concern about the college’s current ability to meet upcoming financial challenges, and consensus that lowering our overall expense growth was critical.” It continued, “To achieve this important goal, in conjunction with the Board of Trustees, we engaged in a strategic and stringent financial review, encompassing policies, programs, and positions.” The statement did not include the specific numbers obtained by The Hilltopper.

On Friday morning, administrators, staff, faculty, and members of the monastic community gathered in the Dana Center to hear a prepared statement by President Steven DiSalvo.

According to detailed notes of the meeting taken by an attendee obtained by The Hilltopper, DiSalvo said the layoffs were part of the College’s “goal of building a long-term healthy and stable financial future.” He also maintained, “Our first priority is always to serve our students.”

He reportedly said that nothing could be taken for granted in the higher education marketplace. With this in mind, Saint Anselm College embarked on a financial review that resulted in a “targeted reduction of expenses” with the goal of ensuring financial stability through “operational efficiency.”

Even though at least one of those laid off was told to leave campus immediately upon packing her belongings, DiSalvo maintained that all 13 people who lost their jobs were “treated with dignity and respect.” He maintained that the Saint Anselm community was one that valued the work of our staff members and administrators “so deeply.” He said that he, too, was upset about the firings, but that the decisions were “necessary in order for Saint Anselm College to move forward.” According to a statement issued to The Hilltopper, those laid off received severance packages.

Uniformed campus security officers were waiting off stage for the president after his remarks. As he made his exit, one woman reportedly yelled, “Bullshit!” from the audience.

The full list of staff members laid off has not been released by the College, but several employees in the audience on Friday put together a list based on the people they knew had left. That list, obtained by The Hilltopper is: the Vice President of Human Resources and Administration, the Vice President of Student Affairs, an Associate Vice President who served as the college’s Title IX Coordinator, the Dana Center Director, the Conference and Events Services Coordinator, an executive assistant, the administrative assistant in Campus Ministry, the administrative assistant in the Communications Office, a switchboard operator, the Director of Media Relations, the Director of Institutional Research, and a cashier in the financial office. The list has been confirmed by multiple staff members at the college but there are conflicting reports about the final position that was eliminated.