Board of Trustees Update
The board’s first meeting of the new academic year took place on campus October 6 and 7. At the October meeting, the board welcomed five new trustees, including our first-ever parent trustee, i.e. a trustee whose Oberlin association developed through his child attending Oberlin. New trustees undertake an orientation program through which they gain knowledge about the issues facing the college. I thank the many people who contributed their time to this program as well as the new trustees who have agreed to serve Oberlin College.
The October meetings were busy with board work and celebratory activity. As I noted previously, we expect the presidential search to be the board’s most important work in this academic year. At the meeting the board approved the process for the presidential search and approved the trustee membership of the search committee. My October 10 letter to the community described the search process and named the six trustee members. Other constituencies will name five additional search committee members. The search committee website will soon be established; this will keep the community apprised of the search progress.
Over the summer the board completed the search for its next chair. At the meeting the board elected Chris Canavan ’84 to serve a three-year term beginning July 1, 2017. Chris currently chairs the audit committee, participated in the Strategic Planning Steering Committee, and has demonstrated leadership and sagacity many times since joining the board in 2012. You can find more information about Chris in his trustee biography, which is available here.
The board also voted to approve the Health and Wellness Project. This project is intended to add to the general health and well-being of students who are not involved with varsity athletics, and it will also serve other members of the Oberlin community. The plan projects that construction will begin soon, with completion expected for the summer of 2018.
Most of the board’s committees met, approved their charters and calendars for the academic year, and conducted normal business. The Student Affairs Committee enjoyed an engaging discussion with the Career Center director and students as the board attempts to understand better Oberlin’s efforts to connect students with opportunities away from Oberlin. The Capital Planning Committee received updates on major capital projects. Aside from the aforementioned Health and Wellness Project, these include the Hall Auditorium renovation/Adaptable Theater and Phase II work on the Gateway Center. The Audit Committee meeting reviewed the college’s risk management procedures, the obsolete endowment fund change process, and information security systems. The Academic Affairs Committee considered and approved various nominations for honorary degrees.
On Thursday evening, many trustees met with students in several locations for the trustee-student forum. In each location a trustee is charged with taking notes that may be used to report back to the board in the plenary session. These reports are the first matter of business at the board’s Friday afternoon plenary. Areas of concern for students included health and mental health, the presidential search process, Title IX, and governance.
On the festive side, the board and the Oberlin community celebrated the successful end of the Oberlin Illuminate Campaign. This campaign was the largest fundraising effort in Oberlin’s history, raising $317.8 million in gifts and pledges. I salute the committee cochairs and the development staff for this strong outcome. The board also celebrated with the wider Oberlin community the grand opening and dedication of the Hotel at Oberlin. Many trustees also attended presentations of the After Fossil Fuels: The Next Economy conference. This was the first significant conference to be held at the new hotel.