Dear Laurentian Friends:
The St. Lawrence Board of Trustees convened its winter meeting Thursday, February 23, and adjourned this morning, February 25. I write to share with you the highlights of our plenary and committee gatherings. I also wish to announce our plan for a “community caucus” of faculty and staff members on March 7 to continue these conversations.
About the weekend’s events, in our first meeting, we reviewed Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Excelsior Scholarship proposal, which could alter the allocation of TAP funds from students who attend any college in New York State to just SUNY and CUNY colleges, and which also suggest price control measures for independent colleges. I have communicated with elected officials and with the news media about the potentially damaging unintended consequences of this proposal and encouraged our trustees to join our advocacy efforts.
On Friday morning, trustees heard perspectives on two timely topics related to the curriculum. Faculty and students who have led or experienced one of our international programs described the benefits of their studies, and staff who recruit and support our international students also offered observations to our trustees. We also welcomed a panel of faculty members, along with Trustee Heather McCauley ’06, who have collaborated to design a new Public Health program.
This session included nine faculty presenters, allowing our trustees to meet our teaching colleagues working on such productive initiatives. I’ll mention that another 20 faculty joined the trustees for lunch to talk about the Faculty “Statement of Values” and other areas of mutual interest. We also included another 8-10 faculty and about 20 students as committee representatives, so our trustees met a wide variety of Laurentians during their campus visit.
Those various committees had busy agendas; I highlight a few for you:
The Budget & Finance Committee reviewed capital spending for fiscal 2017 as well as our preliminary budget and capital spending plans for fiscal 2018. The Committee recommended the 2017-2018 comprehensive fee at $66,646, an increase of 3.5% for tuition, room, and board to the full Board of Trustees. This fee is in line with the same rate of increase as the last three years and positions us appropriately among our market peers. Additionally, the Committee reviewed other projects and initiatives, including progress to strengthen the University’s overall financial performance in order to increase our self-funded capital spending.
Trustees on the Academic Affairs Committee meeting discussed the Middle States reaccreditation process; academic advising and support services at St. Lawrence, and the values statement that was adopted by the University faculty in January, 2017.
Student Life Committee members met the newly elected Thelomathesian Executive Committee; heard from our new Associate Dean for Diversity Kimberly Flint-Hamilton, who joined the staff in January; and from members of our counseling and medical services staff.
Using the questions posed by trustees at the fall meeting, the University Properties committee reviewed a process that demonstrates the needs, costs, and timelines for physical renovations and projected program enhancements. Faculty member Chris Watts gave an engaging presentation on the future of learning spaces. Staff also shared progress on assessment of newer or recently renovated facilities not included in the original 26-building Facilities Master Plan. The renovation of Madill Hall to accommodate several offices now in Whitman Annex is in design phase while construction funding remains “TBD.”
The University Advancement Committee focused on discussions among faculty members and trustee committee members on optimal inclusion of faculty talent in the Campaign for Every Laurentian.
The Promotion and Recruitment Committee learned about progress on recruitment and selection of the Class of 2021 and about how communications are strengthening prospective students’ affinity with St. Lawrence and increasing their probability to enroll.
You may recall in my remarks to the community at Convocation that I shared these thoughts “We also have an imperative to be attentive to our business structure and the distribution of finite resources. The main business of St. Lawrence expressed as learning, thinking, and understanding, should not, of course, be overshadowed by also attending the business represented by money and banking.” I went on to explain the factors of external markets and internal pressures that presented us with a structural annual deficit of $2 million. At the same time, the Board has urged us to reconsider financial priorities to reallocate more resources toward needed capital improvements to learning and living spaces, as well as for equipment for our academic mission. I noted in my Convocation remarks that “We will embark, therefore, on fresh ways of thinking about our future financial security. A new phase of planning must now begin as we imagine St. Lawrence’s sustainable financial footprint.” I invite you to join Faculty Council, senior staff members and me for a caucus on March 7 at 4:30 pm in Eben Holden to learn more about our analyses and to add your voice to the collections of ideas for new revenue and financial discipline that some tripartite committees and senior staff have been imagining for a while.
Your questions and reflections are welcome anytime; I hope you’ll mark your own calendar for our March 7 caucus. I look forward to seeing you then.
February 25, 2017