Nancy Dye's Presidency, Page 3

Budget and Buildings

While the College community worked on healing itself, Dye prepared to tackle another problem: a $3.2 million deficit. In pinpointing ways to balance the 1996 budget while reducing annual tuition increases, she and her senior staff again chose the democratic route: cutback by consensus. The College saved $5 million, much of which was directed at strategic goals of improving faculty salaries, which had slipped over the years in terms of being competitive with other peer colleges, and making scholarship assistance to students more generous, an issue Dye had identified as critical to strengthening admissions in the College and Conservatory.

At the same time, it had become clear that Oberlin was in dire need of new facilities, particularly in the sciences. The College continued its tradition of propelling more future PhDs into the sciences than any other undergraduate institution, yet the nearly 30-year old Kettering Hall had neither the space nor equipment to ensure the school’s ongoing competitiveness. Intensive planning for a new building began in 1996, with the board approving $65 million for the 200,000-square-foot complex a year later.

“Science is dependent upon the quality of its plant and instrumentation,” Dye says. “And the Science Center is designed to provide space and facilities for every science major to work on independent research projects with faculty members.” Already, chemistry, neuroscience, and some biology classrooms and labs are in use, as is the science library, lecture halls, and a commons area. Meanwhile, environmental studies, the College’s fastest-growing major, settled comfortably into its new home, which attracted 5,000 visitors from around the world last year. Striving continuously for energy efficiency both in and outside the building, Dye hired a team of engineers last year to audit all emissions produced by the College.

“If you had to encapsulate the one thing that has happened with Nancy, it is momentum, a sense of possibility,” says Clayton Koppes, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “Things are happening at Oberlin that we weren’t sure we could do. New resources are available, and there is a sense of reaching out in all kinds of ways in contrast to previous periods in Oberlin’s history.”

Dye has garnered praise in the past few months for her proposal to reinstate a teachers’ education program in the form of a fifth year of intensive training and student-teaching experience. Hispanic studies was removed from the umbrella of Romance Languages to become an independent and more viable department. And Finney Chapel’s new Kay Africa Memorial Organ/Fisk Opus 116 made its concert debut in September following a year-long tuning process.

“One of the things that sets Oberlin apart from its competitors is its dual nature: an elite liberal arts school and a professional school of music,” says Dean of the Conservatory Robert Dodson, who was hired by Dye in 1999. “There are many instances where the two interests run at 90 degree angles to each other. Part of the genius of this place is that one complements the other in this fascinating dyadic relationship.”

Ellen Sayles, associate dean of the Conservatory and a member of the search committee that chose Dye, says that while the president understands the differing climates and needs within the College and Con, she has also worked hard to support them as a single Oberlin unit. “Nancy has been committed to helping the Conservatory draw and retain internationally known faculty, and she has supported the Conservatory’s need to maintain a competitive scholarship program in order to continue to attract the most outstanding student musicians.” At the same time, says Sayles, Dye recognizes the fact that many Arts and Sciences majors have a deep interest in music, and she endorses programs and activities that provide a rich musical environment for all students.

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