Budget, athletics dominate discussions
ATHENS, Ohio (Feb. 18, 2007) -- Discussions about budget, athletics and security drew considerable attention and discussion at the Feb. 15-16 Ohio University Board of Trustees meeting at the Chillicothe campus. The board took action on a few items and held open discussions about others.
During his report, President Roderick J. McDavis updated the board on Vision OHIO, progress toward information technology recovery and the progress of the Task Force on the Academic Calendar and System. McDavis said the search for a permanent CIO is underway and hopes to have someone in the job early spring quarter. He discussed the considerable progress toward IT recovery, including multiple enhancements to firewall security and reduced social-security-number uses. The team has come a long way toward replacing social security numbers for identification uses. About 470 of the 500 social-security-number uses have been eliminated. Another 20 to 25 will be eliminated by summer. The president stressed that no documented case of stolen identity yet has been associated with the security difficulties. He also gave an update on academic honesty, including two cases that have gone through the full process. One case will require a rewrite and another case calls for degree revocation. The latter is under appeal.
McDavis reported that the Academic Honesty Committee plans to create an honor code for all students, a new Academic Honesty Web site and an academic dishonesty judicial process. Regarding the semester-quarter discussion, McDavis said the 20-member Task Force on the Academic Calendar and System, which is chaired by Phyllis Bernt, is researching the university's options and will present recommendations by the end of spring quarter. The complex issue will require careful study and data from multiple sources.
Provost Kathy Krendl gave updates on progress toward Vision OHIO priorities to improve undergraduate retention and first-year experience, graduate education and research, and investments in faculty. She has set aggressive goals in these areas.
Krendl said retention efforts will center around improved academic advising, early identification of at-risk students, better first-year-student support and evaluation, and improved Precollege programming. By next fall, 50 percent of first-year students will be part of learning communities. To improve transfer student enrollment, the university will develop more articulation agreements, particularly with two-year institutions, and improve advising so that students have an early and complete understanding of how their coursework will transfer.
Krendl had convened in November a task force on faculty compensation, which submitted its recommendations this past week. The president will review and submit it to the Budget Planning Council for inclusion in its deliberations on budget recommendations. She discussed learning outcome measures the university is implementing, moving toward a student-centered approach to education.
Interim financial reports and budget updates
The 2007 and 2008 fiscal year budget updates and 2006 treasurer's report and interim financial report: Vice President for Finance and Administration Bill Decatur discussed such issues as the three tuition-cap scenarios from which the Budget Planning Council will work; this year's tuition shortfall of $4.3 million owing to reduced first-year retention and transfer income; the university's strong investment position (income is up $1.8 million in the first six months) and lively investment strategy; additional state subsidy the university will receive ($2.3 million); plans to pay off bond indebtedness; impacts of converting to responsibility-based budgeting; the need to offset additional data-security costs; and external forces affecting budgets, such as higher energy costs.
Considerable discussion surrounded ways the university will gain more sustainable footing and prevent a pattern of yearly budget shortfalls. Administrators identified several areas capable of producing sea changes, including the new budget model, aggressive marketing and a more flexible, innovative business model. "We will not go forward with a deficit budget, so we still have some work to be done," Vice Chairman C. Daniel DeLawder said, calling the current economic conditions "not business as usual." Read more on the ongoing budget process at www.ohio.edu/outlook/06-07/February/319f-067.cfm.
Director of Athletics Kirby Hocutt presented the financial, Title IX-compliance- and program-quality reasons the Athletics Department decided to eliminate men's swimming and diving, indoor and outdoor men's track and field, and women's lacrosse after the 2007 season. Student-athletes joined the committee meeting to present petitions, lodge protests about communications and decision-making, and request program reinstatement. The committee reviewed arguments, expressing deep regrets and admiration for the athletes. Committee chair M. Marnette Perry repeatedly praised athletes, stressing that the board welcomed their perspectives in the meeting. On Friday, board members spoke in support of the Athletics Department decisions. "The decision to be excellent at what we do...was the best decision," Trustee Larry Schey said. "But we found ourselves proud of the (students) who were criticizing us," Board Chairman R. Gregory Browning said, acknowledging student concerns about communication.
Other discussions and action items
Porter Hall: The board tabled a request to approve issuing construction documents, receiving bids and awarding contracts for the Porter Hall addition, citing a need for further examination of impacts the project's debt service would have on the budget. This project would include demolishing Anderson Hall, constructing an additional 26,000 square feet in Porter Hall and adding an access roadway to reach the new Baker University Center.
Review of alcohol and judicial data from fall quarter: Compared with the previous two years, this year's fall quarter numbers demonstrate an overall decrease in referred cases -- particularly CODE B cases. There was a more-than-anticipated decrease in alcohol cases and an increase in cases involving other drugs, particularly marijuana. Though cautiously optimistic with only one year of data, Vice President of Student Affairs Kent Smith said that he is pleased with the alcohol numbers, which follow numerous measures to reduce high-risk drinking. Cases dropped from 780 in 2004–05 to 598 in 2006–07. Some speculation ensued about whether increased vigilance associated with heightened alcohol-abuse-reduction measures might account for increased reporting of drug-related cases. Student senate is drafting recommendations for drug-related sanctions and will make recommendations to Smith by end of winter quarter. The goal is to bring sanctions more in line with alcohol policies. Smith's other goals include strengthening outcome evaluation and a speedier case process, but he said, "If [these numbers are] any indication of where we're headed, the future is positive for Ohio University." Trustees applauded increased student involvement.
Status of the Voinovich Center for Leadership and Public Affairs' request for obtaining school status: Center Director Mark Weinberg, committee members, the provost and deans discussed advantages of moving from center to school status, including the ability to better attract additional resources; contribute to faculty and student recruitment and retention; blend applied research and applications with existing curriculum and degree programs; and open doors for future academic innovations. The school would serve as a national model for integrating students, faculty and programs. It would continue partnerships with the College of Arts and Sciences, College of Business, Russ College of Engineering and Technology, Scripps College of Communication and other units, concentrating on three areas -- public service and leadership, energy and environment, and entrepreneurship and competitiveness. The trustees discussed the center as an entrepreneurial funding model, which has attracted millions in external dollars annually. Last year, university investment represented only about 10 percent of the center's annual budget. "We need to take the resources we have that are stellar and build on them. This is a way to do that," Schey said.
Another nonaction item was an update on House Bill 187 Civil Service Law reform in Ohio. The new law allows much more freedom for Ohio's public institutions to set policies relative to nonunion classified staff. The previous civil service law prescribed policies for all institutions. The law, which takes effect July 1, allows amendments that increase the efficiency of the institution and address unfavorable policies for classified employees. Ohio University's Associate Vice President for Finance and Administration for Human Resources Jim Kemper will serve as co-chair on a statewide interuniversity council to develop guidelines for creating new policies. Implementation of HB 187 will begin Oct. 1. Kemper and co-chair Larry Lewellen from Ohio State University led the initiative to seek reform legislation. The university will form a team comprising Classified Senate, Human Resources staff and others to review policies and practices, make recommendations and develop an implementation strategy.
Other action items included acceptance of a seven-year academic program review for the School of Nursing, which was overwhelmingly positive. The school's main strengths are faculty credentials and program excellence. Enrollment at all campuses is at capacity. The online bachelor's of science in nursing program was deemed innovative and well-designed. Students from Ohio University's programs have a near 100 percent employment rate. Recommendations included identifying strategies for regaining BNS recruitment levels, attracting more diverse faculty, continuing to implement measures that reduce attrition and adding a generic BSN degree program on the Athens campus.
The board approved renaming the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering to Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering. Department officials said the former name caused confusion for prospective students, who were unclear about program content, and for alumni, because the degree name was not reflecting the nature of their education.
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