No 'dire crisis' in Cornell finances, Skorton says

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Cornell is "not in a dire crisis financially" despite the current market turmoil, President David Skorton told an audience gathered to celebrate recent accomplishments in emergency management and sustainability Sept. 24.

Skorton said he would issue a message to the campus community about the situation. At press time, the message, addressing concerns about the instability in the financial markets, the effect of Washington's bailout measures on research funding and about Cornell's endowment and investments, was due to be released. [Update, Sept. 26: President Skorton's statement]

Skorton said at the Sept. 24 event that "over the next several weeks, we will share with you openly the ways in which plans are developed to move forward." He departed from prepared remarks to note that there is community concern about the university budget, given the downturn in the financial markets and the stress on the federal government as it prepares to care for returning troops, as well as anxiety about New York state's own financial difficulties.

"We have multiple financial streams," he said, adding that gifts to the university set new records last year, and the university saw "positive investments" by Cornell's investment office headed by James Walsh.

"But just as you're engaged in emergency planning, we're working on planning on how to carefully assess our ability to sustain these gains and set the stage to respond to future opportunities," he said. "The leaders of the university -- the deans, vice presidents and administration -- have put their heads together for a way to look outward, beyond a year, to ensure stability in the financial health of the campus."

"We're burning the midnight oil" to ensure campus stability, Skorton said.

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Linda Grace-Kobas