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Updates from February 2021 Board of Managers Meeting

Dear Friends, 

We hope you are well. We are writing with a summary of our recent Board of Managers meeting, which took place remotely this past weekend. This was a particularly full meeting in which, after careful consideration and analysis, and with robust discussion, the Board approved several initiatives that we are excited to share with you.

But we’d like to begin on a more somber note. As we mark a year since the pandemic began to so tragically disrupt society, the Board took time to acknowledge the millions of lives taken by COVID-19. Swarthmore has not been immune to this crisis. It has affected the lives of our community members in immeasurable ways; we’ve lost friends and loved ones, including numerous alumni, each of whom left their own indelible impression on the world. Our sincere condolences go to all of those who’ve experienced loss and suffering due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Our February meeting is typically the time when the Board undertakes one of its most important and enjoyable responsibilities: approving faculty promotions. This year, upon the recommendation of the Academic Affairs Committee, the Board enthusiastically supported the promotion of 15 faculty members. Congratulations to you all for this hard-earned and well-deserved recognition. We also recognize and are deeply appreciative of the work that goes into the review of these promotions. Thank you to all who contributed to the process.

The Board had the good fortune of hearing from several faculty members about the opportunities, challenges, and pedagogical innovations from the past year. It was an illuminating and inspiring experience that highlighted the truly incredible work our faculty members have done to ensure that, even under these difficult circumstances, the College continues to deliver an exemplary educational experience. Thank you to the following individuals for spending time with us and leading these enlightening small-group discussions:

  • Diane Anderson, Associate Professor and Chair of Educational Studies
  • Syon Bhanot, Associate Professor of Economics
  • Karen Chan, Assistant Professor of Biology
  • Maggie Delano, Assistant Professor of Engineering
  • Nina Johnson, Associate Professor of Sociology
  • Sunka Simon, Professor of German and Film & Media Studies

The majority of the Board’s time together was spent discussing two significant, related initiatives that the College has been focused on for some time: deferred maintenance and our energy master plan. Informed by a deep, ongoing analysis by members of the administration — including Vice President for Finance and Administration Greg Brown, Associate Vice President for Finance Alice Turbiville, Associate Vice President for Sustainable Facilities Operation and Capital Planning Andy Feick, and Sustainability Director Aurora Winslade — and others, the Board studied these issues closely during the span of the past several meetings, both in the appropriate committees and as a whole. We have considered the benefits of moving forward on these fronts, the associated costs of doing so, and the implications for the College and its community members, as well as the opportunity and financial costs of inaction. We are excited to share with you the following updates: 

The Board has accepted the findings of an accumulated deferred-maintenance study, which identified approximately $134 million in non-energy-related capital needs. As a result, we have committed to addressing those needs over the course of the next 10 to 15 years through an annual capital budget renewal and replacement (R&R) process. By following an annual R&R planning process over this period of time, we’re committing the College to reducing deferred maintenance while also balancing the disruption to the campus and giving us the flexibility to respond to variables such as workforce capacity and potential future financial disruptions. As noted in Swarthmore’s most recent Middle States Commission on Higher Education accreditation report, making this significant investment of resources will allow us to support and fully live into the College’s mission.

Finally, many of you are aware that the College has a long-standing commitment to achieving carbon neutrality by 2035. We are excited to share that the Board has taken meaningful action to fulfill that commitment by approving the implementation of a $69 million Energy Master Plan. The plan calls for, among other things, a replacement of the campus’s aging, failing, carbon-intensive steam-powered heating and cooling infrastructure with a system of geothermal wells, which will help the College eliminate 98% of on-site greenhouse gas emissions. The plan will enable Swarthmore to improve power reliability and increase our backup power capacity, making the campus more resilient during power outages. Work on implementing the plan will begin soon and continue in earnest over the next three years — including the construction of a geothermal exchange plant in the new Dining and Community Commons, drilling of geothermal wells, and the installation of a backup power generator. We expect to complete the implementation of the Energy Master Plan by fiscal year 2034–35, allowing us to meet our commitment to carbon neutrality within the stated time frame. Again, we want to thank everyone for the time and energy dedicated to bringing us to this point, and we will share more on this initiative as details emerge. This is a significant and exciting undertaking for the College — one that serves as an expression of the College’s values and that will result in tangible, measurable results in our community’s efforts to address the global climate crisis.

Thank you for your attention to these important updates.


Valerie Smith, President
Salem Shuchman ’84, Chair, Board of Managers