Harvey Mudd Considers Expanding Student Body

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A Harvey Mudd student leads a tour group. A recent increase in demand for both academic and residence space has strained the college’s financial resources. (Courtesy Harvey Mudd / hmc.edu)

On February 21, Harvey Mudd President Maria Klawe gave an address on the college’s possible expansion from 750 students to a maximum of 900 students over the next 15 years. Besides Klawe, Prof. Kerry Karukstis, a member of Mudd’s Faculty Executive Committee (FEC), and Andrew Dorantes, the Vice President of Administration and Finance, also spoke. These presentations were followed by a question and answer session with all three speakers.

“This is a really stressful discussion for many reasons,” said President Klawe of the heated debate that has begun on Mudd’s campus. “We’re a very tight-knit community, and we’re particularly uncomfortable when there are disagreements in our community.”

Klawe began by outlining the need for increased funding to properly provide resources to both faculty and students. Recent increased interest in majors such as Computer Science has raised class sizes and stretched thin both classroom and lab space on campus. Additionally, living room space in some residence halls has had to be turned into dorm rooms to accommodate a larger student body.

“It’s clear that we need to change our behavior if we want to stay at 750,” said Klawe, stating that budget cuts would be necessary to maintain a smaller student body.

“It’s clear that we need to change our behavior if we want to stay at 750,” said Klawe, stating that budget cuts would be necessary to maintain a smaller student body.

While some see that number as essential to maintaining Mudd’s community and commitment to its honor code and core values, Klawe argued that a smaller student body would also financially limit the college. “When we want to innovate and add things, we’d have to stop doing things to add things,” she said.

Dorantes presented the college’s current financial situation and how its resources could be augmented by expansion. His office created various financial models that predicted the amount of funding netted by student body increases to 800, 850, and 900 students. In each model, current amenities, such as a 9:1 student to faculty ratio and funding for administrative support, were all maintained.

Like Karukstis and Klawe, Dorantes did not present expansion as inevitable. Klawe emphasized that the decision of whether or not to expand would ultimately be made by the Board of Trustees.

“Staying at 750, we can balance our budget even by increasing the tuition room and board [by] 3.5 percent,” Dorantes said.

However, increased tuition funds gained by a larger student body would provide the college with a budget surplus that would not only put more money into financial aid but also allow for “flexibility for new programs,” Dorantes explained.

Karukstis explained that Mudd’s student body size has actually increased consistently since the college was founded in 1955.

“We might have been aware of this growth and not have been doing adequate planning for this growth,” she said.

Karukstis explained that the faculty is as committed to maintaining Mudd’s honor code and core values as the students are. Faculty members answered a questionnaire on Mudd’s core values, and from those answers an emphasis on values including, community, teaching, faculty governance, diversity, the honor code, and undergraduate research and experiential learning was adopted.

Faculty task forces for each focus work to evaluate the staffing and physical resources needed to maintain these concepts within both the current and expanded student body size.

“This time, we’re having the opportunity to be proactive,” Karukstis said.

“If you add another 100 people, you’re asking every student to know another 100 more people, you’re asking every faculty member to know five extra people in their department—you’d lose the closeness of the Mudd community.”

Calling on students in the audience by name during the question and answer session, Klawe addressed concerns about unlimited growth, loss of Mudd’s dorm community, and alternative methods of fundraising.

In response to this last concern, Klawe emphasized the risk of relying on major gifts from donors. “It’s a very long, slow process to bring in donations from people who don’t already have a relationship” with the college, she said.

Klawe also explained that alumni donations are not a secure source for funding either. The economic recession has impacted the amount of donations, especially from recent graduates.

Responding to student fears about a loss of core values or adherence to the honor code at the talk, Klawe proposed issuing a questionnaire to students like the one previously issued to faculty.

While many of the students present at Klawe’s talk voiced concerns about expansion, Jennifer Sharma (HMC ’14) said that student opinion represents a wide range.

Jennifer is a part of the group of students opposing expansion. “The size of Mudd and the close community is why I came to Mudd, so I want to make sure it’s there for future students,” she said.

“If you add another 100 people, you’re asking every student to know another 100 more people, you’re asking every faculty member to know five extra people in their department—you’d lose the closeness of the Mudd community.”

Peter Loftus (HMC ’13) was less decided in his opinion on expansion. “I’m more apprehensive about growth, rather than…for or against it,” he explained. “I think that, given the information that’s been provided, it makes sense to grow, at least somewhat, in order to sort of hash out some of the financial issues that the school is having.”

Though the debate on Mudd’s campus is tense, Loftus said that it has also increased communication between the students, faculty, and administration.

In one effort to increase communication with the student body, Klawe has held a serious of dinners with small groups of students.

“It seems like what is being learned form all of this…is that communication’s a good thing, and having more of it is a good thing. My hope is that as time goes forward the students and the administration and the faculty will have more communication about things like this,” Loftus said.

Emily Haynes is a senior at Pitzer majoring in Environmental Analysis and minoring in History. Besides writing for the Port Side, she enjoys reading, gardening, and long walks on the beach.




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