Spring Board of Trustees Meeting (March 13-14)
The Trustees’ major agenda action item was approval of the final stage of the complete renovation of Bernardine Hall, which includes expanded labs and faculty office spaces as well as an enlarged Kestrel Café. This culminates a multi-year, multi-million dollar investment to improve teaching and learning facilities. On to the next stage of such improvements! Trustees also approved a major upgrade of student dining/social space: the expansion of the Courtside Café, with accompanying renovations of the Shander Room and the relocation of the sports information office suite. The first project is funded by the Capital Budget; most of the latter project is funded by a major investment from Aladdin Food Service.
With great enthusiasm, trustees re-elected Joanne Judge (chair) and Kevin St. Cyr (vice chair) for 2013-2014, elected former scholar-athlete Dr. Rachel Maher ‘94 as a new trustee, and awarded trustee emeritus status to Kathy Herbein ‘95 and Senator Mike O’Pake (posthumously). Mike will be recognized at a public kick-off event for the O’Pake Institute early next fall.
As part of her Chair’s Report, Joanne Judge reported on the annual dinner held at Cedar Hill for board and faculty leaders and the excellent collaborative spirit. She also invited the faculty (Ed Hartung) and student (Taylor Eichelbeger) presidents to address the board. Both Ed and President Flynn also addressed faculty concerns and suggestions covered in the Faculty President’s quarterly written report.
Mission and Identity: Trustees reviewed the final report of the U.S. Bishops’ ten-year review of Ex Corde Ecclesiae, the papal document that guides Catholic universities. They were pleased with the positive conclusions of this report and again expressed their appreciation for Bishop Barres’ enthusiastic support of Alvernia and his excellent personal and working relationship with President Flynn.
Retention and Graduate/Adult Education Enrollment: Given the significant challenges in these areas, Trustees reviewed the efforts of the last three months. They were pleased with the recent progress on undergraduate retention, especially with transfer students, and the better-than-expected undergraduate enrollment for spring 2014. They were encouraged by targeted steps in the School of Graduate and Adult Education to regain market share (new evening CJ and Social Work majors in Reading and Philadelphia and RN to BSN at all locations; new on-line delivery systems implemented for special education certification, Principal Certifications, and general education classes). Yet trustees also noted that the recovery and growth of graduate enrollment will require a much faster pace of progress by expanding our offerings, updating our delivery systems, and investing more in on-line marketing.
Budget (2012-2013 and 2013-2014): Trustees reviewed an updated version of the budget report presented at the Divisional Town Meetings held in January. As reported then, revenue shortfalls have been addressed by a combination of cost savings efforts, including a hiring freeze, though hiring is being authorized for key replacement and new positions — particularly in the academic area. Trustees endorsed the importance both of reallocating resources, where necessary, and of making new investments to enhance educational quality and build enrollment. They were pleased that recent year-end budget goals will be met even amidst challenging conditions. As usual, the Board will approve a preliminary budget for 2013-2014 at its June meeting.
Salary and Benefits for 2013-2014: The Board has customarily approved employee compensation in March well before their approval of the preliminary (June) and final (September) budget for the new academic year. At this year’s meeting, trustees strongly endorsed the administration’s recommendation that final decision on employee compensation be deferred until fall enrollment trends can be more accurately projected and more extensive information is available on health care benefit costs for 2013-2014. Careful assessment of the impact of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) on our health insurance costs has been underway for some time. In the coming weeks, we expect to complete discussions with our insurance provider concerning the changes called for by the PPACA and the related costs. We will also have additional information available on enrollment trends — especially for graduate programs. Trustees expect to take action on employee compensation in early May, with a campus announcement to follow.
Values and Vision Campaign: Trustees expressed support for the continuing progress of the campaign (now at $29.5M vs. the $27M goal) and reviewed plans for the final stage of the campaign, due to end June 30 and to be celebrated on campus and at the annual President’s Dinner in October.
Other Board Items: Trustees received a preliminary briefing and provided feedback on a draft of the revised general education program to prepare them for potential action in June. Both in their plenary session and at their business meeting, trustees emphasized the need for a distinctive general education program with clearly articulated learning goals and structure. They also reviewed plans for the Middle States accreditation, tracked progress on their annual philanthropy goal, and revised their meeting schedule to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of their committee work.