Board of Trustees Update December 2016
The Board of Trustees’ second meeting of the academic year took place in Oberlin December 8 and 9. Aside from the usual committee meetings, the weekend’s highlights included a discussion of the Presidential Search Committee’s presidential profile draft, the review and approval of the 2016 financial statement, the approval of the adaptable theater project, and a meeting with Student Senate.
The December board meeting’s schedule differs from other board meetings in that it begins with an Investment Committee meeting that is open to all trustees and offers the entire board the opportunity better to understand the committee’s important work. The Investment Committee also meets away from Oberlin three times per year to make it easier to meet with outside investment managers and consultants. At this meeting, the committee reviewed and updated its charter and the Investment Policy Statement. The Investment Committee later held “office hours” in an effort to communicate its work effectively to the board.
Later in the afternoon, the Audit Committee met and approved the financial report for the previous academic year. In this meeting, the committee meets with outside auditors who have analyzed the college’s financial procedures. The Audit Committee also continued its program of reviewing the college’s risk management issues.
The Capital Planning Committee meeting followed. After a final review of the adaptable theater project, the committee moved that the board approve it. This project will add a large lobby area to Hall Auditorium, as well as a new scene shop that will provide space for building sets, thereby freeing parts of the main stage area that are currently used for this purpose. The committee received updates on the Health and Wellness project and the Gateway project. The estimated completion date for Phase II of the Gateway is March, 2017. For Health and Wellness, the expected completion for Phase I is April 2017, and the pool renovation will begin in August 2017. Ever-Green Energy presented to the committee a report on energy conservation measures and the committee endorsed pursuing most of the measures outlined. The committee also discussed the capital maintenance budget for the next fiscal year.
Later in the evening, a trustee working group met with Student Senate to discuss and plan a mini-retreat to be held during the March board meeting. More details relating to this activity will be provided in late February.
On Friday morning, the board had breakfast with members of the faculty who serve on board committees. Most board standing committees have two faculty representatives who contribute their opinions on board matters; approximately half of these representatives serve on board committees by virtue of their service on the General Faculty Council, while the remaining representatives are elected from the faculty as a whole. The dialogue in the annual breakfast gives the board the opportunity to hear faculty observations and suggestions concerning their board work, and generally how to enhance faculty-trustee engagement. The faculty invites trustees to attend selected classes when the trustees meet in March, but consideration is being given to offering additional opportunities.
The board’s Friday morning plenary session focused on the work of the Presidential Search Committee and the presidential profile that the committee had developed. The committee had met with the search consultants the night before, and the consultants also attended and presented in the plenary session. The consultants noted that they had spent four days on campus in November meeting with various constituencies, and that these dialogues had significantly influenced the development of the presidential profile. The website for the presidential search is now available here. The committee will distribute a progress report to the Oberlin community in the near future. The remainder of the morning plenary session was devoted to the annual review of the endowment by the Investment Committee.
Friday afternoon was filled with committee meetings and the second plenary session. The Student Affairs Committee focused its time on a discussion with students and staff concerning student stress. In recent years, the number of students who report feeling overstressed and anxious has increased significantly. The college has devoted more resources to student support in this area, and efforts continue to ensure that students receive necessary help. The committee noted that more work can be done to enable students to aid their peers.
The Budget & Finance, Academic Affairs, and Development and Alumni Affairs committees also met in the afternoon. Budget & Finance reviewed and approved a proposal for the college to issue new debt in 2017. A portion of this debt issuance would refinance some existing debt to more preferable interest rates, while the remainder would support capital projects. Academic Affairs had a long list of faculty promotions and tenure approvals to review and approve. The Development and Alumni Affairs meeting featured a presentation on how to motivate young alumni to participate in the Oberlin Annual Fund. That committee also studied Oberlin’s international fundraising efforts in contrast to its peer institutions.
On Friday evening, the board enjoyed a dinner with newly tenured faculty, student athletes, presidential fellows, the trustee search committee from the Alumni Leadership Council, and other invited guests. From the dinner, trustees moved to the Oberlin Orchestra concert. The evening ended with an after-hours reception in The Birenbaum, the new innovation and performance space located in the lower level of The Hotel at Oberlin. That reception featured music from a conservatory jazz quintet.