Good morning, everyone. Here is your regular post-Board meeting blog update. This one is a little different, though – the Board met for a retreat on Saturday, October 13 and then held a Board meeting on Sunday, October 14 (meeting agenda here: http://www.uky.edu/Trustees/agenda/full/2012/oct/welcome.html). Below are the highlights from the weekend from my perspective. I was tempted to apologize for the length of this blog, but it necessarily covers about 16 hours of meetings on Saturday and Sunday. Therefore, this is a long post.
The retreat began at 9:30 am on Saturday with general discussions about planning and metrics; 2011 Board retreat recap and progress; and strengths and challenges for a 21st century land grant and flagship research University. We continued our discussions through lunch. Afterwards, we heard presentations and discussions on the following: continued discussion & future direction for learning, research, University and community; discussion of current status and future direction of UK HealthCare; and a preview for the bus tour of new residence hall sites and University neighborhoods.
After each section, trustees had opportunities to ask questions and engage in discussions about a variety of topics. All our comments were written down; overnight (through the assistance of hardworking staff) someone grouped our varied comments into overarching themes. First thing on Sunday morning, we were given a presentation that showed a draft with six bullet points. We discussed them and made a few tweaks. Again, through the efforts of staff, we were presented with finalized six bullet points a few hours later just prior to the beginning of the Board meeting.
Below are the Board’s guiding principles goals for the President and the campus for the 2012-13 year.
· Continuing emphasis on undergraduate education and infrastructure (campus core); and
· Strengthening mechanisms for faculty and staff recruitment, rewards, and retention; and
· Conducting an assessment of what constitutes a strong environment for research, creative scholarship, and graduate and professional education; and
· Continuing the development and introduction of the values-based financial model that aligns revenues and expenses to meet the University’s mission, and ensure that individual units develop strategic plans in alignment with the University’s overall strategic planning process; and
· Developing a plan for implementing innovative, technology-rich content delivery to address needs in a constantly changing learning environment; and
· Continuing to develop a master plan that creates a 21st century living and learning environment and is sensitive to community concerns.
It is important that the Board continue to emphasize the needs of staff; asking the President to focus some of his energies on recruiting, rewarding and retaining staff is a wonderful step forward (second bullet, above).
We spent a lot of time on Saturday talking about technology and learning. Many trustees expressed interest in learning how UK plans to leverage available and future technology for our academic mission. We heard about MOOCs (massively open online courses) and how those are being used at some institutions. I was interested to learn that no one has yet identified a business plan for how MOOCs can be used – institutions are experimenting with them without knowing exactly how they will affect an institution’s finances. In addition, the student completion rates of some MOOCs are woefully low – less than 15%. We also heard about “flipped” courses, where the lecture is taped ahead of time and students watch it on their own time (as pre-class homework) and then spend time in the classroom interacting more closely with the instructor.
In the late afternoon on Saturday, trustees and a few others took a bus tour of the neighborhoods around campus to illustrate some of the issues facing campus neighborhoods. Most of us had never visited the areas around Aylesford Place and State Street. As part of the informational tour, we were asked to notice the number of houses with vinyl boxes built off the back of the house to allow landlords to house more students in each house. Another item of interest (unfortunately) was the rather dilapidated nature of many of the houses’ exterior facades and yards.
I learned that there are some neighborhoods around campus that are a nice mixture of single-family homes and student-rented houses. Unfortunately, there are also some neighborhoods that are made up almost entirely of rental dwellings. It’s not so much that there are large numbers of students, but rather that the houses for students to rent have been modified to the point that they do not structurally “fit” into the neighborhood as a whole. Other issues of concern are box-shaped apartment buildings in the middle of some neighborhoods, front yards and back yards that have been paved over for parking, and more than a few wooden stairways that serve as fire escapes. Student Government Association President Stephen Bilas (student trustee) graciously offered some personal insights into the student housing situation. Some Board members were stunned to learn there were five, six, or more students living in some very rundown houses. Trustee Bilas also explained that students can be taken advantage of by landlords – if a student has a complaint, it is a relatively simple matter for the landlord to “wait out” a student by just not responding to a concern. One anecdote had to do with a student who paid an extra month’s rent by mistake – when the student tried to get his money back after moving out, the landlord just ignored him. Bilas' comments were very timely and helped me understand more about the various concerns about student housing off campus.
We also saw the explosion of new student housing off Red Mile Road and Angliana Avenue. I hadn’t realized that those complexes, while nice and new, present their own problems – they are miles away from grocery stores, etc., and they are just far enough away from campus that students cannot walk to campus. Trustee Bilas mentioned that students in this particular area are left with the choice of driving to campus, or walking and taking unsafe shortcuts (crossing major roadways, walking along railroad tracks, etc.). It was good to know that UK is taking its relationships with local neighborhood associations seriously; UK has conducted 13 meetings so far with various associations and has plans for more. The President said more than once that he is committed to working with multiple groups, including the Mayor, to address the challenges.
The Board held its regular October meeting on Sunday; the day started off with the recap I mentioned above, followed by committee meetings and then the full Board meeting.
Sunday Morning Committee Activities
The Nominating Committee identified two trustees to serve on the Mining Engineering Foundation and the Research Foundation Board of Directors.
The Audit Subcommittee discussed the University’s external audit, an annual activity in which UK’s external auditor renders a report on UK’s financial statements. For this year, and for many consecutive years, the external auditor reported that UK’s financial statements fairly present the financial position of the University. Essentially, it means that the University’s financial statements are good representations of how the University uses its funds.
Because of the importance and reputation of UK Athletics, the Audit Subcommittee, in conjunction with the assistance of the Athletics Committee chair, has begun the practice of requesting a separate audit for UK Athletics. There were no activities or suspicions that anything was wrong in Athletics. The only impetus for this is to ensure that Athletics receives appropriate scrutiny because of the importance of that unit and the dissolution of the UK Athletics Association. The scope of the audit for the University as a whole encompasses $2.4 billion in revenues for 2012. Revenues for Athletics are approximately $92 million, or 3% of the total. It would be difficult to identify the relatively small components of Athletics if that information was wrapped up in a report on UK’s overall net assets of $2.7 billion. Therefore, a decision was made to have a separate audit of Athletics to ensure their financial statements are easily visible.
There was also a report from Internal Audit on their activities for the past year, as well as their plans for the coming year.
The Athletics Committee discussed two items. The first was a first reading of a proposed change to Governing Regulations II (“Governance of the University of Kentucky”), specifically the section on the Board’s Athletics Committee. Elsewhere in GR II, the threshold for the Board’s Finance Committee for reviewing capital construction projects is $600,000 or higher. For some reason, the threshold for Athletics capital construction in GR II is $400,000. The change we discussed was to increase the threshold to $600,000 to keep that in line with the language for the Finance Committee. The second reading for this GR change will be in December, after appropriate consultation with campus constituent groups.
Our second item of discussion dealt with the 2011 – 2012 financial statements from Athletics. Those were approved and recommended to the Board.
At the Finance Committee meeting, we heard a detailed presentation on Phase IIA of the residence hall project with Education Reality Trust (EdR). Trustees were given opportunities to ask questions about the proposed expansion in Phase IIA prior to the meeting, as well as during the Finance Committee. In a nutshell, Phase IIA involves the following:
· Five new residence hall facilities – an “E”-shaped hall in the Blazer parking lot; an “h”-shaped hall built on the current site of the (old) Wildcat Lodge; an “L”-shaped hall to be built on the site of Haggin Hall once Haggin is demolished (referred to as Haggin II); and two halls to be built where Cooperstown buildings D and E currently are.
· There will be a total of 2,317 new beds that will be ready for students in August 2014. As of August 2014, UK will have 7,675 beds, an increase of 1,703 beds over fall 2013. Although the number is increasing by “only” 1,703 beds, it’s important to remember that the facilities will be new and full of great amenities for students. As of now, the average age of our residence halls is about 50 years old.
· LEED-Silver certification for all five new residence halls.
· Geothermal energy at Haggin II. I didn’t realize this, but the cost of geothermal also involves land space – it takes roughly double the footprint of a building to be able to accommodate geothermal energy. Since our campus is rather landlocked without much extra surface space, Haggin II will be the only new residence hall in Phase IIA that has access to sufficient adjacent space to support geothermal energy.
Finally, the Board met in regular session around 1:45 pm. I was thrilled to have my first chance at a Board meeting to serve in an official capacity as elected Secretary. The duties are not overly weighty, but the knowledge that I earned the position through my interactions with trustees over the past two years, coupled with gaining and retaining their respect, was truly wonderful.
The Board meeting went rather quickly – we’d all had many opportunities to ask questions about the various agenda items. One other contributing factor to a speedy meeting was the very, very long day we spent on Saturday discussing issues pertinent to UK’s future. By Sunday afternoon, I know I was ready to finish up and head home.
Aside from informing staff about Board activities, this blog post also serves as my first attempt to reach all staff, and not rely on a variety of listservs. That is another wonderful milestone in efforts to ensure staff are well informed about what your staff trustee is up to!
I remain honored to serve staff as your representative to the Board. Please know you are welcome to contact me at any time, about any matter. You can reach me via email (email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org), by phone (257-5872) or you can stop by my office in 202E Main Building.
With very best regards,