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Lafayette President Dan Weiss took an hour Saturday morning to reflect on the College’s past, detail the present, and share his aspirations for the future.Addressing a large gathering assembled for Reunion Weekend, Weiss talked about the prime position the school is in on a number of fronts — financially, academically, physically, and athletically.

He discussed some of the more immediate plans, such as renovations for the McKeen residence hall and a new headquarters for the history department; the project to turn the former Jac & Co. restaurant the College purchased on Third Street into a dining and social place, which might include a sports bar; and the renovations to Fisher Field that he believes will turn it into a fantastic facility for all Lafayette students, citing its anticipated use for intramural athletics.

“My aspiration is to be the president who removes the splinters from alumni,” Weiss joked in reference to seating improvements at the football stadium.

“We have the most thorough and appropriate approach to maintaining physical plant of any institution I’ve seen,” he said, noting that this paves the way for significant investment in academics.

And he ruminated over his first full year as president, detailing the challenges and joy he experienced ingratiating himself in the Lafayette community, heaping special praise on the graduates for making him feel so welcome.

“The alumni are a very critical part of this institution. I will tell you that I am deeply moved by the commitment you have to it,” Weiss said. “It really seems in many ways like I’ve never been anywhere else.”

The talk kicked off a busy day for the president. Among other activities, Weiss attended the kickoff of the Fleck Consistent Giving Society and all of the various cocktail parties and dinners for alumni classes that evening.

In addition to a steady flow of praise for the College’s rich tradition and promising future, Weiss ticked off a number of new developments, including a new emphasis on promoting the College. Perhaps most significantly, though, he outlined five of what he called “core values” that the College must embody for the future:

Academic excellence. “We have to build an academic program that accomplishes the goals we set forth,” Weiss said. Among the challenges in realizing that goal is working “to bring in the best faculty — and maintain them�No institution can be better than its faculty.” The president acknowledged that pay for Lafayette instructors had become less competitive with other similar institutions, and the College rectified that problem. He also said Lafayette needs to continue to be aggressive in providing financial aid so that “all students of merit, regardless of their ability to pay,” can attend the College. Continuing to investing in infrastructure also is a priority, Weiss said, specifically mentioning Skillman Library and his desire to put more books and technology resources there.

Diversity. “The more diverse the student body � the better the conversation in the classroom on any issue,” the president said. He earlier noted that 18 percent of the incoming Class of 2010 will be people of color. “Diversity is not just a buzzword or a politically correct notion,” he added. “It’s a fundamental part of excellence.”

Partnership with the city of Easton. “The well-being of the city of Easton�is in our best interests to foster,” Weiss said. “If we don’t do that we will pay for it later.” Mayor Phil Mitman is a frequent visitor to Weiss’ office, and the two are working to make sure the Third Street corridor is developed properly.

“Living and learning,” or optimizing each student’s four-year experience. Weiss said it is critical to make sure students have a “relevant and dynamic” experience at Lafayette.

Service and responsibility. “We also want to make sure our students develop personally,” the president said, citing academic ethics, the programs of the Landis Community Outreach Center, and the College’s commitment to ethical responsibility. He noted the need to examine issues such as investment policies, academic ethics, and how the College treats its employees.

One area of campus life Weiss has focused on particularly has been the Greek system. He’s had dinner at a number of fraternities, he said, and has stressed the importance of enjoying the Greek experience but doing so responsibly.

Weiss earned applause for his answer to a question he said is posed sometimes: Are you for or against the Greek system? He said that he is in favor of having fraternities and sororities at Lafayette, but they must have a productive role.

“We embrace that system but we expect them to do the right thing for the community,” said Weiss. “I have been really impressed with the students’ willingness to be partners.”

Initiatives in the upcoming school year will include a September retreat with Greek leaders and “cosponsoring events that will serve as a signal to the campus that we support the Greek system,” but in the context of its operating in productive ways, said Weiss.

Weiss also spoke at some length about athletics. While controversial on some fronts, the president embraced the idea of providing scholarships to some of Lafayette’s student athletes, and he stressed the importance of making sure the school is competitive and has the right budgets and facilities for its teams. In addition, he mentioned his efforts to boost the visibility of the Patriot League, particularly in its role as a partner with the Ivy League.

He also noted that the soccer team won its division, the football team took the Patriot League championship, and the women’s crew team won an event at the largest meet in the country.

As for academic achievements, Weiss noted the success of programs like the College’s student chapter of Engineers Without Borders, which builds community-run water systems in Honduras and recently became one of four EWB chapters to receive a significant grant from the Environmental Protection Agency.

“They’re transforming lives with their academic skills and applying their engineering knowledge,” he said of the students.

Closer to home, Lafayette boasted four Goldwater Scholarship winners this year, which is the maximum a school can win. And Weiss had nothing but praise for what lies ahead, noting the promise of the incoming class.

“By every measure they’re outstanding,” he said. “Their numbers are among the best we’ve ever seen.”

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