The Colgate Scene ON-LINE
The Colgate Scene invites responsible letters, addressed to the editor, regarding any subject that may be considered of interest to the Colgate community. We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity. 

Submit a letter via e-mail here. 

Erroneous report

. . . Notwithstanding the nice notes you published (November Scene) regarding my mother’s recently released novel, According to Helen, you erroneously reported my mother Florence as a widow. To paraphrase Mark Twain, the rumors of my father’s demise are greatly exaggerated. A correction would be appreciated.

Your confusion is, no doubt, attributal to my father’s severe illness. Since August he has been fighting the debilitating effects of Gillain Barré Syndrome, which has left him a quadriplegic. Despite his dependence on a ventilator for more than 70 days, he continues a very slow recovery. While the prognosis remains good and we, his family and friends, are optimistic, my father has a long road to recovery. I know the Colgate family remains concerned and hopeful for his health and future longevity.

Thank you all for your good thoughts and hopes.

F. Bogue Wallin
Lancaster, PA

True Colgate

. . . Thanks [Abby Henrich ’98] for writing your touching memoir (September 1997 Scene), if that is the right word, of your summer at Colgate. I read it this morning while on the subway going to my office (I know, it’s a little late, but with a one-year-old baby and a new law practice, I have little time for non-essential reading) and a smile crept across my face, much to the amusement of the other sleepy, or maybe grouchy, commuters.

I remember when I discovered the wonder and beauty of the true Colgate community. My first two years at the ’Gate were not happy ones — I was not used to being away from home and so far from a big city (I grew up 20 miles from midtown Manhattan and live here now) and I was not interested in fraternity life. But when I discovered that there was more to life than drinking beer and that the professors were real people with kids and families and that there were beautiful fields and streams and meadows all within a 10-minute drive or 30-minute walk from campus, Colgate became to me what it seems to have become to you. It is a place to treasure as a special time in our lives, and to make special friends, forever. I still think about the "townies" who were my friends and with whom I worked when I ran the Colgate Trap Range or taught SCUBA diving in the Lineberry Natatorium (why can’t it be called the Line-berry Pool?). I would still be stuck in the snow if some of my B&G friends hadn’t looked out for me and plowed the parking lot right in front of my car!

So this letter is to thank you and to encourage you to keep writing. Hopefully, someone else who has not yet discovered the "true" Colgate will read your piece and be inspired to explore beyond the "Coop" and Pizza Pub. As you have discovered, the Colgate which awaits them is well worth the effort.

James A. Sarna ’87
New York, NY

Merit and need

. . . Frankly, as a former financial aid officer at Colgate, and as a long-time administrator in higher education, I believe the current system does recognize both merit and need (Financial Aid Paradox, September 1997 Scene). Neither alone is sufficient to receive aid.

There are many dollars of "aid" that go to support every tuition payer, because no one pays the full cost of their education, thanks to donors. 

Should some people who can afford the nominal price receive more "aid" than others, thereby increasing the sticker price paid by others? I think not, assuming the sticker price charged now represents the highest the market will bear. To systematically fund a "merit only" program by increasing tuition would drive away currently meritorious students and replace them with a group of less meritorious students who can afford to pay the higher price and do not have a better alternative. 

There are several students each year who need aid but do not receive it. Only when Colgate can afford to meet the need of everyone it admits, can it afford to entice certain students with "merit aid" beyond what they need simply to enable them to choose Colgate. 

The above reasoning may not work if "everyone else" is awarding merit aid above need. If this happens, and we join the crowd, the losers will be the middle-income people who do not get need-based aid when the money runs out. And the money will get used up even faster than it is now, especially if we make awards to some people who would otherwise have come anyway. 

Of course, there may be reasons for very limited non-need-based aid to support particular programs — market opportunities — that occur from time to time. 

But we should not fool ourselves into believing these programs do not come at the expense of some other group, unless more resources can be generated over the long term by following a carefully defined merit strategy (e.g. offering grants for talented student-athletes or others whose participation may increase ticket sales or other revenue more than the cost of the grant program). These opportunities are rare, but can exist. The ethical issues raised by such policy are complex and need to be considered by the faculty and college governance process.

Of course, the trick in any merit plan is in deciding what constitutes merit. The real issue at Colgate has been to decide who among the needy should get aid based on merit. Merit can be defined in various ways: in terms of one’s record of achievement, personal qualities, ability to benefit, or by the traditional test scores and rankings. 

The quality of campus diversity, classroom experiences and extracurricular activities is determined by the relative mix of merit in each new class. The quality of each class incrementally affects the attractiveness of the college to each subsequent potential class. Thus, scarce financial aid resources need to be allocated wisely to maintain a diverse, engaged and highly competent student body.

What qualities merit need-based aid should regularly be debated and affirmed. Again, the campus governance process should encourage this discussion. 

I favor the current policy, which normally requires both need and merit to receive price discounts, augmented by a very limited experimentation with "merit" awards above and beyond need.

I hope these comments contribute to the discussion that you invited.

Richard Heck MA’69
Executive Officer 
Dean of the College Office
Dartmouth College
Hanover NH