'Twas the Night Before Christmas
President Scott D. Miller's annual Christmas letter to Santa
December 24, 2018
It's time for my annual Christmas letter to you, with many good wishes coming your way from the Virginia Wesleyan University community. I'm sure our fellow institutions in Hampton Roads join us in sending greetings.
The request list this year (see below) is pretty reasonable. Yes, I know that higher-education presidents always want something—and not just during the holidays—but please do all you can to help us out.
But first, thank you for the gifts last year. You gave us new inspiration for keeping higher education affordable, and again, my university will freeze tuition for the coming academic year. I asked you to help foster curiosity and wonder in our students—and that seems to be working. We requested economic prosperity as our students seek jobs and skills for career flexibility. We'll see how the economy fares next year, but I'm always optimistic that thanks to their liberal arts credentials, our students will be in demand.
Finally, I put in a plea for a more peaceful, tolerant nation that relentlessly seems at war with itself. Unfortunately, Santa, I'm still waiting for that gift. Did you forget to send it?
Here's the list for this year. As always, everything I ask is for our students. They've been exceptionally good, and I'm sure they'll get around to texting greetings to you. (They're not much into email, don't you know.)
First, please keep Virginia's Tuition Assistance Grants (TAGs) fully funded. They mean a lot to students at our private colleges and universities. According to the Council of Independent Colleges in Virginia, last year "approximately 23,000 Virginia residents received a non-need based tuition grant of $3,300 (undergraduate) and $1,650 (graduate students in health professions)." BREAKING NEWS, SANTA: According to CICV, "The Governor proposes adding $5.2M to the TAG appropriation. The TAG appropriation for FY20 would be $72.8M...The Governor stated that the additional funds would result in a $3,400 undergraduate award." Thanks for this early Christmas gift!
I mentioned Virginia Wesleyan's tuition freeze, but you'd be proud of everything else we're doing at VWU to promote affordability: a year-round work program for financially at-risk students, summer and winter terms, the fully funded Batten Honors College, and increased fundraising for scholarships. If our students, through no fault of their own, come up short on credits for graduation, the fifth year is on the University. These aren't just stocking stuffers, Santa; rather, they represent a commitment by my administration to students and families as they make their higher-education investment.
Second, bring us some real action on preserving the natural environment, and keep those safe who are already suffering the consequences of climate change. I worry about the legacy of coastal sea rise, extreme weather, loss of biodiversity, and resource depletion we are bequeathing to our children and grandchildren. They'll never forgive us if we don't take advantage of the narrowing window to reduce greenhouse gases, save species, and foster sustainability. Please leave some practical solutions under the tree, not more plastic junk. (It would be desirable to recycle the tree, too.)
Third—and speaking of climate change—can you do anything about the change in America's political, social, and cultural climate? Although I have confidence in our institutions, our system of governance and laws, and the fundamental decency of our people, we're straying into a new normal of meanness and destructiveness and, worse, a willingness to accept it. Santa, even Scrooge and the Grinch were transformed and reborn, and I cannot believe that we will accept the degradation of our society any more than we would that of our natural environment.
Thanks for considering all of this, Santa. I know you have a lot on your mind—from monitoring the melting of your Arctic home to making sure Rudolph's red nose is LED-efficient. You have to keep up with the latest technological toys in demand; adhere to on-time departures and landings; and worry about your relevance in a skeptical world.
Please know, however, that we all still believe in you. But go easy on the milk and cookies, and try to get in more than a single night of exercise. We need you to stick around, given your pre-existing conditions.
One more thing: there's talk of imposing import fees on your toys this year. Perhaps nothing will come of it, but better give your attorneys a heads-up.
Scott D. Miller, Ph.D.
President of the University