By Casey S. Elliott
President Roderick J. McDavis touched on a variety of topics during his hour-long appearance Thursday on "The Party Line" radio show, taking questions on everything from the state budget to enrollment trends.
McDavis takes part every month in the WATH broadcast, answering questions posed by WATH Inc. President Dave Palmer and deejay Ray Wagner.
What follows is a sampling of topics from McDavis' interview.
State and university budgets
As lawmakers in Columbus continue to work on a final state budget for the next biennium, university officials are preparing contingency plans should expected State Share of Instruction (SSI) funds be reduced, McDavis said.
Gov. Ted Strickland's proposed budget freezes tuition at its current level for the first year, and allows for an increase of 3.5 percent in the second year of the budget.
"As we wait on the state budget, due diligence tells us to be prepared for the worst-case scenario," he said. "That means we are considering a wide variety of options."
Under the governor's budget, about 19 percent of state funding for higher education comes from federal stimulus dollars. While those are one-time dollars, McDavis said he believes the economy will have improved by the next biennium budget.
Intercollegiate Athletics budget
McDavis acknowledged criticism of the decision to allocate $1.2 million to Intercollegiate Athletics to support student scholarships and operations in the fiscal 2010 budget. However, he noted that those dollars were raised through general fee collections, which must be used for non-instructional student support and student-related activities.
"Even if we didn't spend that million for Intercollegiate Athletics, we couldn't spend it on faculty salaries," he said. "It's a student fee, for student-related activities, and the General Fee Advisory Committee -- which we feel is a part of shared governance -- made a recommendation that we deal with the athletics deficit."
The committee is made up of students and makes recommendations on how the student fee money can be used. In addition, the committee also recommended allocating general fee dollars to Arts for Ohio and the Marching 110, which will lead the Rose Bowl parade this year, he said.
McDavis added that the athletics department has cut its budget by $600,000, and he has asked for an additional $400,000 in reductions.
"We understand the university exists for academics, there's no question about that," he said. "We also understand that Intercollegiate Athletics plays a role in the life of the university. I believe Intercollegiate Athletics adds value to Ohio University. It is obviously a priority for students, it helps us in the recruitment phase, it helps us in the national recognition phase. There are many benefits we accrue by having Intercollegiate Athletics."
As of Thursday, McDavis said enrollment was looking positive, with 4,150 students submitting housing contracts, up a bit from last year.
"This is a tribute to the quality of the academic programs at the university," he said. "Students vote with their feet. It's a combination of our academic programs, our location and the faculty we have that draws students to our university."
Residence Hall renovations; capital projects
McDavis also talked about the state's two-year capital budget. Lawmakers typically allocate between $425 million and $450 million for university projects statewide. At Ohio University, key capital projects include the renovations of McCracken, Clippinger and Siegfried halls and renovating the former student center, which will eventually house the Scripps College of Communication.
"We are an 1804 institution, the oldest in the Northwest Territory," McDavis said. "There is a lot to feel proud about with that. But what we are challenged with is the oldest university in the state has some of the oldest buildings. We could take the whole $425 million and spend it on renovating all our buildings and still not have enough to complete it."
Also ongoing are renovations to East Green residence halls as part of a 10-year auxiliaries renovation plan. That is being paid for through higher room and board fees.
The full interview can be heard via podcast (please note, following this link will take you outside the university's Web site).