Board of Trustees Update March 2015
The Board of Trustees’ third meeting of the academic year took place in Oberlin on March 12 and 13. Four years ago, the Board began the practice of attending classes during the weekend of the March meeting. The Board wishes to thank the faculty and student body for welcoming our intrusion into your schedule. Although the Board attends classes in order to better understand how pedagogy is evolving, doing so also reminds us of why we loved our own Oberlin experiences.
The Strategic Planning Steering Committee met on Thursday afternoon. The Steering Committee is divided into three working groups, each charged with exploring a different set of challenges and possibilities for Oberlin College. At the March meeting, the working groups each welcomed two new students, bringing the total membership to nine. Interested community members should look to the Committee’s website to learn more about the Committee’s activities and findings.
On Thursday evening the Board attended another lecture in the series that the Steering Committee has scheduled to help the Board and the Committee gain additional perspectives on the state of liberal arts education. The speaker for this session was Michael Horn, Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation co-founder and executive director of its education program.
The Board moved from that presentation to the Trustee-Student Forum. During this meeting, the Board piloted a new format for the Forum that involved small groups of students and trustees, with students signing up in advance to participate. The class trustees, Inyang Udo-Inyang ’12, Joseph Condon ’13, and Nicholas Loh ’14, have shared the following thoughts on the Forum and next steps:
Broadly speaking, we’re taking away the need to constantly work on how to keep lines of communication as clear as we can. To that end, we’re creating a dedicated email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) student groups can put on their listservs as a way to continue to update us about issues on campus. During the Forum and in our conversations with students around the March Board meeting, we also heard many specific concerns about campus safety, funding concerns for critical programs, divestment, and other issues that are important to students. We have notes taken from trustees in the discussions, corresponding notes from student note takers, and the memories of all these interactions. We have therefore been in a position to share specific aspects of these concerns with our fellow trustees, and we will continue engaging with these topics and working hard to fully understand their nuances.
On the whole, we felt like the small group discussions that happened provided valuable time to meet face to face and get to know students and trustees on a more personal level. As trustees, we’re taking back valuable personal stories related to many similar issues we’ve been hearing for some time now. We’ll be sending out a short survey soon asking for students’ feedback on the format of the forum.
Friday morning’s plenary session focused on the work of the Strategic Planning Steering Committee. The Board then moved to Committee meetings. During lunch, the Board had the privilege of hearing a dialogue between Professor Steven Volk and invited guests Michael Horn and futurist Bryan Alexander. In the afternoon business meeting, the Board approved the divisional capital budget allocations for fiscal year 2016, additional spending on the Health and Wellness Project, the student charges plan for the next academic year, and the hiring of the College Auditor. The Board was also honored to sign a steel beam that was later installed into the framework for the Gateway complex.
During the meeting the Development Staff was pleased to announce the current total of $256 million for the Oberlin Illuminate Campaign. This puts the campaign in excess of its $250 million goal with 15 months still to go. Just because we have met the goal does not mean that we are done, however! The Campaign still has work to do to meet the individual goals for financial aid, health and wellness, and improvements to Hall Auditorium. I thank the Development Staff for its hard work and all of you who have pledged or contributed to the Campaign.
As always, the work of the Committees and therefore the Board, may be found on the trustee website.