From staff reports
The Ohio University Board of Trustees voted unanimously Friday to extend the president's contract and to endorse the first year of the Vision OHIO Implementation Plan. They also gave direction for completing the fiscal year 2009 budget.
The contract renewal would extend President Roderick J. McDavis' tenure four more years, bringing strength and stability to the university, according to the trustees.
The trustees gave strong endorsement to the latest first-year Vision OHIO Implementation Plan (VOIP) draft. In his report, McDavis drilled down to details on initiatives that fit hand in glove with the University System of Ohio strategic plan that Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor Eric Fingerhut unveiled last month.
"We believe very seriously that we are ahead of many of our peer institutions in this state in terms of having a plan that we are excited about," McDavis said, noting that the first year of the VOIP addresses 14 of the 20 USO accountability measures.
He added that an outline of years two through five of the plan will be drafted within the next four months.
Trustee Frank Krasovec asked if funding the initiatives is a concern in the current budget environment.
"We're an airplane in the sky trying to change an engine in mid-air," Krasovec said. "We're affected by currents and storms and other things."
Along similar lines, Trustee C. David Snyder questioned how higher education, and in particular, Ohio University, would fare if the state has only limited funds to disperse. Building on the plane analogy, he asked, "What if there's only limited fuel and someone has to drop out?"
"We don't intend to be that plane. If there is new funding, we intend to get our share," McDavis said, stressing how closely Vision OHIO and the USO align and how far along the planning is.
"We are one university that gets it," he said.
Executive Vice President and Provost Kathy Krendl gave an update on the reorganization of her office to include the Research, Regional Higher Education and University Outreach offices, and the recently formed Office of Diversity, Access and Equity. In incorporating the new units, the provost's office focused on four areas designed to promote connections, adaptability, sustainability and accountability, with an eye on how the work fits with USO goals:
- Putting strong leadership in place
- Establishing unit goals tied to academic priorities
- Reviewing and adjusting human and financial resources
- Consideration of the USO requirements
"We're trying to be more efficient in realigning our resources and realizing the goals of our strategic plan," Krendl said of the integration.
She cited successes, such as hiring key positions, striking partnership agreements with community colleges across the state, completing plans for a University Outreach program through the Pickerington Center that aims for 500 new, fee-paying students and nearing completion on the Future of Regional Campuses plan.
She also gave an early count of nationally competitive scholarships Ohio University students have landed, including eight Fulbrights, three Goldwaters and six National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Ernest F. Hollings scholarships.
Updating the board on Thursday's University Resources Committee discussions, Trustee and Committee Chair Larry Schey focused most of the discussion on the committee's opposition to the recent Budget Planning Council (BPC) and university leadership recommendation to delay base-budget spending on strategic investments.
Schey also commented on the status of fiscal year 2009 budget development. In the committee meeting, Vice President for Finance and Administration Bill Decatur and Director of Budget Planning and Analysis Rebecca Vazquez Skillings stepped through key aspects of the cost drivers and revenue sources. Until a few weeks ago, the BPC had a balanced draft budget. But recently revised investment income estimates have produced a $1.35 million gap, which must be resolved before the budget is finalized.
Schey put the gap and the investment situation into perspective.
Of the former, he said the university is in better shape this year than at the same point in previous years. Of the projected drop in investment income, he said, "We're not immune. I don't think anyone's portfolio has not had a hit in the last several months."
The state, though it mandated a zero percent tuition and fee increase, is slated to provide an additional $9 million in support to Ohio University over last year. That is targeted to fund salary increases and first-year Vision OHIO investments from the base budget.
Decatur explained that the economy had led the BPC to recommend delaying those investments until the actual state subsidy or enrollment revenues were known and monitoring monthly to determine the status. The board opposed this approach and asked that alternative contingency plans be developed.
"This is the first year of putting muscle behind our strategic plan, and it is not the time to back down," Schey said. "We're in much better shape than in many years."
In a press conference after the board meeting, Board Chair C. Daniel DeLawder said the board would consider alternatives brought forward, re-emphasizing that trustees feel strongly about increasing faculty compensation and implementing the Vision OHIO plan.
"However, if (BPC chairs) Mr. Decatur and Provost Krendl bring to the June meeting other things to consider and make a case for them, then that's our job (to consider them) as well. There are very few absolutes in this world, and we don't make decisions in a vacuum," DeLawder said.
In financial action items, the board approved an 8.5 percent increase in room rates and a 3.5 percent increase in board rates; a 4 percent increase to the instructional fee and non-resident surcharge within the College of Osteopathic Medicine; changes to student course fees; miscellaneous fees and fines; and technology fees, all effective this fall.
Schey praised University Advancement for successes it brought forward to the committee. The unit already had reached 97 percent of its $30 million fundraising goal as of March 31, with three months left in the fiscal year.
For fiscal year 2008 thus far, University Advancement has raised $17.5 million of its $18 million goal. With additional gifts, the figure comes to $25.8 million.
Giving is ahead of where it was at this time last year among all categories of donors, especially alumni donors, who have contributed $9.7 million this year over $6.1 million one year ago.
Another group that has made a dramatic increase in giving this year is corporations, which have donated $2.8 million compared to $727,000 this time last year.
When asked why there was such an increase overall, Lipman noted that this was the first year his office has worked with the university's deans to outline specific goals.
"We're approaching this very strategically," he noted. "We're not just concerned with the aggregate or the overall total, but with each segment of the university."
During his report, Lipman handed a check for $130 to Student Trustee Lydia Gerthoffer -- a pledge made to her half-marathon effort. Gerthoffer, who finished the Athens Half-Marathon April 6 ahead of her goal time, raised $6,500, which will be given to the university's learning communities.
Proposed health center
The board voted unanimously to institute a $40 waivable student health and counseling services fee, which will allow for the expansion of student health services on campus in advance of the proposed health center. Students opting not to pay the waivable fee still could take advantage of services, but would be responsible for a small co-pay to cover each visit.
In Thursday's University Resources Committee meeting, Decatur presented budget scenarios for the construction and maintenance of the proposed center. Satisfied with the information, the committee gave the go-ahead for engineering studies of two potential construction sites -- at Pepsi TailGreat Park and near O'Bleness Memorial Hospital. Decatur estimated the cost of the studies at approximately $100,000.
In other action, the board:
- Approved creation of a graduate college, which will provide a centralized infrastructure to advocate for, monitor and support graduate programs, helping to meet Vision OHIO's goal of enhancing graduate and professional education and research. Plans are proceeding for the college to be operational this fall.
- Elected Tom Davis as secretary to the Board of Trustees, effective Friday. Davis has served as interim secretary since July.
- Approved two honorary degrees: a doctor of communication degree for 2008 undergraduate commencement speaker Peter King, an alumnus and senior writer for Sports Illustrated; and a doctor of public service degree for John S. Mattox, founder and curator of the Underground Railroad Museum in Flushing, Ohio, who has been instrumental in a Department of African American Studies research project.
- Accepted academic program reviews of the Department of Mathematics, Department of English, School of Media Arts and Studies, Department of Linguistics and Ohio Program of Intensive English.
- Approved creation of a traditional bachelor of science degree in nursing program and an undergraduate certificate in Southeast Asian Studies.
- Acknowledged 48 faculty fellowship awards for the 2008-09 academic year.
- Granted emeritus/emerita status to 12 faculty members with a cumulative 330.5 years of service to the university. View a list of those recognized.
- Appointed Regional Campus Coordinating Council members Bill McKell, Chillicothe campus, and Larry O. Elliott, Eastern campus.
- Set Board of Trustees meeting dates for 2008-09 and dates for the undergraduate and graduate commencement exercises in 2009 and 2010. The commencements will be on June 12 (graduate) and June 13 (undergraduate) in 2009 and June 11 (graduate) and June 12 (undergraduate) in 2010.
- Approved a revised mission, constitution and by-laws for Ohio University's Kennedy Museum of Art.
Also, the board agreed to bring recommendations forward at the next meeting for a Board of Trustees self-evaluation, board orientation and code of ethics.