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Highlights of 2008-09

With the global financial crisis and economic recession unfolding for much of the year, Pomona College took a series of steps to reduce expenditures while preserving funding for core commitments such as financial aid. The College implemented a salary freeze and offered a voluntary early retirement plan to eligible staff members. Departments trimmed their operating budgets and hiring for open staff positions required approval from President Oxtoby. Funding set aside for facilities renewal and replacement was scaled back by several million dollars.

A large share of the College’s annual budget comes from its endowment, which closed the 2008-2009 fiscal year at $1,344,542,000, for a drop in return on investment of roughly 22 percent. That was in line with the experience of similar institutions. The College’s long-held policy of using a 12-quarter rolling average to determine endowment withdrawals helped smooth the immediate impact of down financial markets. Pomona will be setting aside reserve funds over the next few years to prepare for later years when endowment payouts will drop under the rolling average system.

During the course of the year, a committee of faculty, students and staff worked together to craft a budget plan that reflects the new economic realities. Savings were achieved through measures ranging from slowing the replacement cycle for computer workstations to reducing hiring of temporary faculty to paring down entrée options in the dining halls. Approved by the Trustees in May, the $144.1 million budget for 2009-2010 is $2.8 million less than the one for 2008-2009.

At the same time, the College moved forward with key plans, beginning construction in May on a pair of new residence halls that will help Pomona meet the strong demand for on-campus housing. With 150 new beds, the residence halls are going in east of Clark I and Frary Dining Hall, and an adjoining parking structure also is under construction beneath Athearn Field. Thanks to a generous gift from Rick and Susan ’64 Sontag, one of the buildings will be named Sontag Hall in honor of the Sontag family, including the late Professor Fred Sontag. The halls will offer suite-style living for juniors and seniors, and green-friendly features will range from solar photovoltaics to water-saving plumbing fixtures to a rooftop community garden. The buildings are designed to earn the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification.

Also on the green front, the Board of Trustees in May approved a new environmental policy formally stating that cost-saving sustainability measures will be considered appropriate investments of College funds and that sustainability will be considered from Day One of any construction project. Other environmental measures initiated during the year include the installation of more than 100 drying racks in residence hall laundry rooms, the completion of a mobile solar station for powering events, the distribution of hundreds of energy-saving CFL light bulbs and the launch of a program that allows students to borrow easy-to-use folding bicycles.

Bringing a dynamic renewal to a venerable facility, an extensive renovation of 50-year-old Seaver South was finished during the 2008-2009 academic year. The building was completely redesigned, with the hallways moved to the north side, and classrooms and labs enlarged and reconfigured to promote interaction with faculty and students. Octagonal workspaces, fitted with sinks for wet labs, replaced long lab benches, and the electrical, heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems were upgraded. The building is now home for some of the key work of the faculty in the biology and neuroscience departments.