Board of Trustees Update March 2014
The Board of Trustees met in Oberlin on March 6 and 7. Although trustees are always encouraged to attend classes during the academic year, the March meeting puts particular emphasis on classroom visits. The board thanks the many professors who opened their classrooms for observation and learning.
During the meeting, the development staff was pleased to announce the current total of $215 million for the Oberlin Illuminate Campaign. This represents an increase of $15 million since our December meeting. The campaign has now exceeded 85 percent of its $250 million goal. Once again, the board thanks the development staff for its hard work and all of you who have pledged or contributed to the campaign.
At the beginning of the academic year, the board began to consider how to organize for the strategic planning process expected to begin in fiscal year 2015. A planning advisory group under the leadership of board vice chair Diane Yu ’73 has met several times to evaluate consultant candidates and to discuss possible directions for this effort. This group met with consultant candidate Carol Christ, retired president of Smith College, to hear her thoughts about structuring this process. The strategic planning process is anticipated to include faculty, students, staff, and alumni—in addition to members of the board—to ensure effective engagement and transparency.
At the board’s plenary session, the administration reviewed the college’s progress against the strategic indicators, which were developed in the previous strategic planning process and amended in 2010. The board thanks the administration, in particular Dean of Studies Kathryn Stuart and Director of Institutional Research Ross Peacock, for their diligent efforts to keep the board apprised of the college’s trends. The board also approved the appointment of Michael Frandsen to the position of vice president for finance and administration. Finally, the board approved faculty appointments to endowed chairs, faculty promotions, and faculty tenure recommendations. Details of these appointments and promotions will appear on Oberlin OnCampus soon.
Five board committees met during the weekend. The Capital Planning Committee approved expenditures for the Allen Art Museum and the Oberlin Inn project. It also approved the annual requests for capital budgeting purposes. This allocation funds expenditures for information technology, telecommunications, library books/materials, fire alarms, and other similar items. The committee reviewed the current sustainability standard used by the college for building/construction projects. Under that standard, Oberlin is currently required to achieve a rating of silver for new construction and major renovation projects in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) system for green building design—unless it would be financially imprudent or specific alternative steps would allow Oberlin to achieve superior environmental performance at a cost similar to that involved in meeting the LEED standard. The committee adopted a supplement reaffirming the existing standard while directing that sustainability be an explicit function to be managed in all capital projects, that the process to evaluate the efficacy of sustainability features be formalized, and that the director of energy management and sustainability participate in major capital projects as a member of the Project Committee in order to provide appropriate oversight and accountability.
Other board committee work included the Development and Alumni Affairs Committee’s review of tools to support alumni engagement. At the Budget and Finance Committee meeting, the administration reviewed the current year’s budget status and planning assumptions for the next fiscal year. That committee also approved a resolution to increase capital campaign funding to reflect the lengthening of the campaign by one year.
On Thursday evening, members of the board participated in a lively Class Trustee forum in Wilder Main. These sessions provide the board with valuable insight into campus concerns. Although confidentiality obligations stemming from trustees’ fiduciary duties bar board members from speaking about particular board decisions, trustees appreciated the chance to hear about students’ priorities and to share information about the board’s structure and decision-making process. Board dinners at Oberlin also provide many opportunities for interaction with students.