Board of Trustees Update October 2013
The Board of Trustees met in Oberlin from October 10 through October 11. The program began with orientation for three new trustees who have joined the board: Karen Buck Burgess ’72; Joseph Condon ’13, the 2013 class trustee; and David Krischer ’78. This orientation process, under the leadership of board vice-chair DianeYu and various administrators, endeavors to bring new trustees up to speed with the current work of the board.
As part of our normal practice, trustees met with students at a forum on Thursday evening, October 10. At this forum, students voiced a variety of concerns–but, in some cases, chose to express themselves in ways that belied our community’s expectations of respect and civility. On behalf of the board, I encourage students seeking a productive dialogue with trustees to work with their peers, the administration, and faculty leaders to speak out against attacks on any segment of our community and to identify vehicles for future communications that reflect Oberlin’s commitment to a diverse array of viewpoints.
The board met in plenary session to review the preparatory work on strategic visioning and strategic planning that the deans and faculty have initiated. This discussion continued at the Academic Affairs Committee meeting with an emphasis on how the faculty incorporate technology into their pedagogy. The board anticipates beginning the full strategic planning process in the next academic year and will soon begin its work to define key issues to consider in that process.
With the exception of the Investment Committee, all board committees met during the weekend and approved their charters and working calendars for the year. For those with interest, the charters, which help to explain the work of the committees, and therefore the work of the entire board, may be found on the Board of Trustees webpage.
During the meeting, the development staff was pleased to announce the current total of $191.6 million for the Oberlin Illuminate Campaign. This represents an increase of $5 million since our last meeting, and puts the campaign in excess of 75 percent of its $250 million goal. The board thanks the development staff for its hard work and all of you who have pledged or contributed to the campaign. As chief development officer Bill Barlow has noted, “this [fundraising success] reflects the work of the entire Oberlin community.”
The board continued its work on the Oberlin Project, approving modifications to the design for the hotel and commercial building to meet city of Oberlin requirements. Fundraising efforts for both charitable donations and tax-credit financing continue for the project. The board again thanks the administration for its dedicated and focused commitment to bring this phase to completion. Additional capital planning matters included approval of athletic facility construction and updates from the SPRITE committee and about the Central Heating Plant project.
Other board committee work included the Audit Committee’s review of the college’s risk management and insurance programs; the Student Affairs Committee review of the 2013 admissions process; the approval of one faculty tenure and promotion recommendation—Jed Deppman has been promoted to full professor of comparative literature;, and the approval of associate professor of biology Roger Laushman’s appointment as David Orr Associate Professor of Environmental Studies and Biology, effective in 2014-15.
Other board actions included a remembrance of the work of our friend and colleague George Bent ’52, chair of the board from 1987 to 1992. George will be greatly missed. The board also reviewed its goals for the coming year along with those of the president.
In addition, the board approved a resolution for an Impact Investment Platform from the Investment Committee. As part of a collaborative, inclusive process engaging various constituencies from the entire Oberlin College community, the Impact Investment Platform will combine socially responsible investing with student-trustee-administration collaboration. An Impact Investment Platform subcommittee will provide policy recommendations to the Investment Committee; this subcommittee will be cochaired by Tom Kutzen ’76, chair of the Investment Committee, and Jainen Thayer, Oberlin’s chief investment officer, and it will draw seven additional members from the student body, faculty, the board and Investment Committee, and alumni. In addition, the Impact Investment Platform contemplates investments with a measurable positive effect on targeted social and/or environmental issues, while earning a competitive rate of return. We are excited about the future of this initiative, which places the college in the vanguard of educational institutions seeking a constructive approach to socially responsible investing.