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Board of Trustees approves new free speech policy, receives key updates

Published: August 18, 2022 Author: Staff reports

The Ohio University Board of Trustees approved a new campus free speech policy in alignment with the Ohio Higher Education Reform Bill and received updates on enrollment planning and the Housing Master Plan development process during its meetings Thursday.

The Board also approved naming the football field in Peden Stadium to Frank Solich Field in honor of longtime coach Frank Solich, who has more wins than any football coach in Mid-American Conference history. In addition, the Board heard updates on the College of Health Sciences and Professions programs on the Dublin Campus, as well as heard about the accomplishments of the Voinovich Academy over the last five years. 

Items on the Board agenda include:

Campus Freedom of Expression Policy

The Board approved the new campus free speech policy, which amends University policy to create a process for any student, student group, or faculty member to submit a complaint about an alleged violation of freedom of speech on campus.

The Ohio Revised Code, Section 3345.0215, titled “Campus free speech policy,” codifies the public policy of the State of Ohio concerning campus free speech, and requires the Board of Trustees to adopt a policy affirming certain principles of campus free speech. The policy builds on OHIO’s long commitment to freedom of expression, debate and deliberation.

Enrollment Planning Update

The Board received an update on Fall 2022 Athens Campus freshman enrollment, which is projected to be among the largest classes in the institution’s history. Vice President for Enrollment Management Candace J. Boeninger also discussed strategies that have been deployed to accommodate and manage ongoing demand and interest. She detailed some of the environmental trends happening in the industry and informed the Board about how those trends can impact our ability to secure and protect a stable share of college-bound high school graduates, particularly in the state of Ohio. 

A brief update on OHIO’s new partnership with Guild Education, one of the many strategies in place to increase access to OHIO’s in-demand online undergraduate degree programs for working adults, was also shared.

Sale of land for fire station

The Board approved the sale of a 10.6-acre parcel of land east of Stimson Avenue and north of the Hocking River to the city of Athens for use as a future site of a fire station. The city will use approximately three acres for the station, with the rest being maintained as greenspace. The price has not yet been determined and will be based on independent appraisals.

The location is optimal for the city and will improve response times to the Athens campus once constructed. Should the city opt not to build on the site within five years, the University would have a right of reversion to reacquire the site.

Soccer fields lease

The Board approved a long-term lease of University land to the city of Athens for the purpose of installing soccer fields for community members, including University employees, alumni and students. Under terms of the lease, the city will pay for and install netting, to be approved by the University, and maintain the soccer fields. The lease will have an initial term of 20 years, with an option to extend it with an additional five-year term.

Annual facility operations and sustainability update

Steve Wood, senior associate vice president and chief facilities officer, presented the annual sustainability update, highlighting accomplishments throughout the year, and provided Sustainability Hub Coordinator accomplishments.

The presentation included Facilities Management and Safety’s key performance indicators, such as customer service ratings and work order backlog, as well as a peer comparison based on outcomes from the Association of Physical Plant Administration Facility Performance Index. It also included an analysis of the University’s utilities consumption.

Capital budget

The Board approved several capital expenses to make repairs and address deferred maintenance concerns.

The projects include:

  • Bromley Hall building-based heating system (amended to $950,000): This project will transition Bromley Hall to a building-based heating system. To do so, the University must install new hot water boilers, controls, and necessary modifications to piping and building systems. Due to the cost of inflation of market material pricing that has occurred, the University is asking for a budget amendment to add $350,000 to the original budget of $600,000.
  • Ohio University Zanesville HVAC and energy efficiency improvements Phase 1 ($3.4 million): This project will be the first of multiple phases to make improvement to multiple facilities at the Zanesville Campus. This project will replace major equipment systems which have reached or exceeded their useful life, modernize building automation systems, refurbish equipment to extend useful life and improve comfort control and energy efficiency, including ceilings and lighting replacement in certain areas.
  • Peden Tower fire system replacement ($695,000) and Konneker Research fire system replacement ($565,000): These projects will replace the existing fire alarm systems, which are obsolete and beyond their useful life. Fire system components that will be replaced during this project include the fire panels and devices with the purpose of the fire alarm system meeting current building code.

Launching a compliance program at OHIO 

Chief Audit Executive Marion Candrea provided an overview of audit activities in FY22 and explained the reorganization and rebranding of the Office of Audit, Risk, and Compliance (OARC). 

Candrea introduced Laura Myers, the University’s first director of university compliance, who presented the plan to launch the function, which includes balancing immediate compliance needs and developing a comprehensive compliance network.  For example, the initial focus has been monitoring and coordinating academic unit compliance with federal vaccine mandates for students completing clinical rotations and internships with our partner medical and health care entities who receive reimbursement for Medicare/Medicaid. In addition to the special vaccine requirements in health care fields, focus has also been on supporting vaccination documentation for non-clinical settings, including congregate housing, international study, and other experiential learning programs.

Myers outlined the initial approach to developing the OHIO compliance network: cataloging the decentralized compliance functions across the University; coordinating and supplementing training and outreach efforts; implementing processes for ad hoc or emergent compliance issues; and compiling a prioritized compliance review schedule. 

Housing Master Plan update

University officials provided an update on the Housing Master Plan, including draft recommendations on rationale for changes and goals, residential programming principles, bed capacity assumptions, and recommended renovation and new build strategies. They sought Board feedback to inform final recommendations to be presented at a future Board meeting.

In other news, the Board:

  • Approved a request to redirect funds from the vacant Eminent Scholar in History position, which has been vacant since 2011, to support the Eminent Scholar funds in Molecular Biology and Film positions.
  • Approved the establishment of a $450,000 quasi-endowment to provide support for the Frederick and Kazuko Harris Fine Arts Collection, the Fine Arts Library, and Ohio University Libraries. The Harris Collection is composed of artwork created and collected by Frederick Harris. The Libraries received a $500,000 gift from the estate of Kazuko Harris in 2018, and requested to use $50,000 toward its discretionary fund, with the rest going into the quasi-endowment.
  • Approved updates to the investment policy statement used to guide the Ohio University Foundation’s investment portfolio. The change was previously approved by the Ohio University Foundation Board of Trustees.
  • Amended the fee for the language exam proctoring from $5 to $6 with a provision for automatic future increases to match vendor charges.
  • Heard a presentation from Dr. John McCarthy, interim dean of the College of Health Sciences and Professions (CHSP), on the innovative and experiential approach to addressing health and how OHIO’s Dublin Extension Campus plays a pivotal role in serving our communities. The Board learned about the opportunities for students, such as the multiple health-focused programs offered in various modalities on OHIO’s Dublin Campus. Some of the programs include in-person Physician Assistance Practice, online/hybrid Nursing programs, and partnerships like Athletic Training Residency and Combined Master of Science and Dietetic Internship. The Board also heard about how being on the Dublin Campus expands CHSP’s ability to increase its programming, community outreach, visibility, and impact across Central Ohio.
  • Heard a presentation on the impact of the Voinovich Academy for Excellence in Public service. The Academy is in its fifth year and builds leadership capacity for the state’s public sector in central and Appalachian Ohio. The Academy offers curriculum options to enhance the performance of individuals serving in local and state government and non-profits.
  • Received an update on program accreditations that were updated during the FY21-2022 academic year.
  • Received an update on Higher Learning Commission actions, including approval for the Master’s in Cardiac Perfusion at the Cleveland Clinic and at the Heritage College in Athens. OHIO will host a required multilocation visit from the Commission during the upcoming academic year. The update included information about preparations for the reaffirmation of accreditation and comprehensive evaluation scheduled for 2024-25.
  • Approved the University’s Textbook Auto Adoption Policy, a plan created in conjunction with Faculty Senate to ensure students are able to identify their textbooks for a semester as early as possible. The policy will allow for previously-used textbooks to be assigned to classes unless new information is provided by a required deadline.
  • Approved a 25-year easement at the end of East Park Drive to Horizon Telecom to allow for a network access point for internet and telecommunication services throughout Athens.
  • Approved a 25-year easement to the city of Lancaster to allow for a concrete pathway connecting the Lancaster high school campus to OHIO’s Lancaster campus.
  • Approved a 25-year easement to the city of Athens for a sewer line in the Tier 2 area of the Ridges Framework Plan. The line may enhance the potential for future development of the land.
  • Approved a 25-year easement for Ohio Power to locate a new electric distribution line northeast of the Innovation Center.

The full Board of Trustees agenda is available at https://www.ohio.edu/trustees