University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 unveiled his administration’s strategic planning to satisfy the University’s mission statement, respond to significant global trends and diversify the student body during a meeting for the Council of the Princeton University Community on Monday.
In addition to furthering the Arts and Transit Project, international initiatives and diversity research this semester, Eisgruber said that he would continue his listening tour and take a “practical, iterative and flexible” approach to outlining general goals for the next five to 10 years. He also floated the idea of creating a transfer program to attract military veterans and community college students.
The University does not currently offer a transfer program.
“There will be more questions in [the presentation] as there are answers,” Eisgruber explained, saying that a flexible plan would prove more efficient for changing times. Eisgruber’s major inquiries related to Princeton’s resource allocation, communication framework and characterization as an elite institution.
Eisgruber said that he continues to promote the expansion of the undergraduate student body so that the University can welcome more qualified students and help reduce the scarcity of vacant spots at elite institutions. This includes the development of international exchange programs, which Eisgruber said was an important discussion point during his trip to China.
A major section of Eisgruber’s presentation focused on budget constraints, financial aid and inequality.
“The growing inequality in America and the world is actually the most important right now for defining the set of challenges that we face as an institution,” he noted, explaining that inequality is the root of many overarching University issues.
Eisgruber said that, although the University is often criticized for replicating financial hierarchy rather than changing it, one of his key priorities is to ensure the prosperity of the no-loan financial aid program and that the University functions as an “engine of social mobility.”
When asked about the recent increase in tuition fees, Eisgruber explained that the aid program makes the University “affordable” for all income brackets and that “the Princeton experience today is better than the Princeton experience was before.” Eisgruber also addressed implicit concerns about students ineligible for financial aid by noting that the increase in tuition reflects a global rise in the incomes of wealthier individuals.
Eisgruber also said that he wants to incorporate more of the mantra of President Emeritus Woodrow Wilson, Class of 1879, of serving the global community through public service.
“Excellence is essential to what we do, but it’s not sufficient to achieve our mission,” he explained, adding that the Princeton community should focus on contributing to global well-being rather than on “[the University’s] relationship to certain other schools in New England.”
Despite the impact of the financial crisis on government research funding, Eisgruber said that students should look beyond practicality and short-term objectives when considering career options. He noted that government research funding contributes over $200 million to the annual University budget.
Furthermore, Eisgruber said that he wants to give increased attention to the humanities, which are currently “under siege” from society’s skepticism. He added that students should consider the intrinsic value of their professional contributions in addition to economic demand.
“We have to justify everything we do on the basis of its contribution to the common good,” Eisgruber said.
Following Executive Vice President Treby Williams’ progress report that 93 percent of undergraduate students eligible to be vaccinated for meningitis had received the vaccine, Eisgruber said that the University community should feel good about its inoculation rate but added that citizens should remain vigilant against recurring symptoms, such as high fever.
“We’re not going to be able to say, unfortunately, for a long time, that we’re out of the woods,” Eisgruber said, encouraging eligible community members to receive the second dose of vaccinations next week.
Regarding administrative communication, Eisgruber said that he wants to “revive” the Faculty Advisory Committee on Policy to ensure that he is exposed to the most pressing campus issues. The Faculty Advisory Committee is a committee of six professors that serves as an intermediary between faculty and the administration, and it had not been active recently.
“What information reaches you often depends on which of your colleagues are willing to decide that whichever issue they have is important enough to demand the president’s attention,” he explained. “Some [faculty] believe that very personal issues require the attention of the president of the University; some of them are reticent even about things that are clearly of interest to the community at large.”
The trustees’ governance-level process will continue throughout the next academic year, and the resulting plan will be periodically updated.
Eisgruber also welcomed the University’s incoming Dean of the Graduate School Sanjeev Kulkarni, during the meeting.
“He has so many teaching awards that I am extremely envious of him,” Eisgruber said of Kulkarni, who responded that he is “absolutely delighted to be coming on board in this new role.”