Schapiro talks fall quarter, admissions and #StopAdani in ‘Conversations with the President’

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Daily file photo by Evan Robinson-Johnson

President Morton Schapiro at last year’s ‘Conversations with the President.’

Isabelle Sarraf, Development and Recruitment Editor

University President Morton Schapiro discussed topics ranging from admissions data to contingency plans for Fall Quarter in Tuesday’s “Conversations with the President.”

The Northwestern University Staff Advisory Council, the Faculty Senate and the Office of the President co-sponsored the event. Schapiro was joined after his opening remarks by Kathleen Hagerty, interim provost, and Craig Johnson, senior vice president for business and finance.

In his opening remarks, Schapiro emphasized the decision to reopen campus in the fall is largely his call. He said he’s hesitant to be expedient and announce plans too early, but that the University will “do what’s right” to prioritize the health and safety of faculty, staff and students.

“The vast majority of our undergraduate and graduate school students will begin classes on Sept. 22. That’s what we planned, and that’s what we’re still intending to do,” Schapiro said. “I keep a calendar on my desk and it says 127 days to opening day (of classes) — that’s not moving.”

Hagerty added that the process of returning to campus “isn’t like flicking a switch.” Johnson said in-person instruction — no matter when that is — will require wearing masks, de-densification and access to COVID-19 testing and contact tracing.

Schapiro announced in an email last week that the University decided to furlough 250 staff members, which he said Tuesday was the “most painful decision” regarding finances. He added that he “can’t wait to bring them back” once the University resumes in-person operations.

On the topic of admissions, Schapiro said he expects “unprecedented levels” of graduate applications due to recent economic downturns. He expressed worries about international student yield due to coronavirus concerns but was overall positive about this year’s admissions decisions.

“We were so confident in making admissions decisions that when we did that in March, we decided (for spring admissions) to do something different,” Schapiro said. “We admitted 100 fewer applicants than we did last year. We were very confident that we would have a very high yield.”

Latinx students compose 16 percent of the admitted Class of 2024, Schapiro said, a 3 percent increase from last year. He added the number of Pell Grant recipients increased by 1 percent. Schapiro said NU has had momentum regarding admissions, citing its “climbing” U.S. News rankings.

Before the event, questions could be posted on a forum, on which student activist groups — notably Fossil Free NU — urged students to upvote questions via social media regarding Schapiro’s involvement in the Adani Carmichael coal mine insurance brokerage. Last week students demanded Schapiro leverage his role on Marsh and McLennan’s Board of Directors to stop the insurance brokerage of one of the largest proposed coal mines in the world.

Schapiro said Tuesday that environmental issues are important to him, citing personal efforts to reduce his carbon footprint. He added that he’s proud of NU’s sustainability record and sincere commitment to upholding sustainable practices.

“Anyone who doubts my position on climate change hasn’t been paying attention,” Schapiro said.

This past week he’s learned a lot about the Adani coal mine, Schapiro said. However, he said it’s “rare” for a director to even be that involved on an individual project such as the mine’s insurance brokerage deal.

As someone who has served on corporate boards for 27 years, Schapiro said he has never seen a director speak publicly about internal deliberations and therefore doesn’t plan to disclose that of Marsh and McLennan’s.

“The idea that I can tell (Marsh and McLennan) to drop a client is ludicrous,” Schapiro said.

Fossil Free NU responded shortly after on Twitter, saying that Schapiro’s response to his involvement with Marsh and McLennan showed a “lack of engagement” which what students are actually asking him to do with his position. In a Twitter thread, the group said Schapiro’s interpretation of its demands was “purposefully misconstrued to absolve himself of responsibility.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @isabellesarraf

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