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Board unanimously backs each agenda item at meeting

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When Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee gave the president’s report that kicked off Friday’s Board of Trustees meeting, he discussed everything from new appointments to March Madness to Lady Gaga.

Gee discussed the appointments of David Williams as the dean of the college of engineering and Brian Cummings as the vice president for technology commercialization. He also congratulated the men’s and women’s basketball teams on their successes in the national tournaments.

But it was Gee’s comments about Lady Gaga’s March stop at the Schottenstein Center that brought a welcome moment of levity after a long day of committee meetings Thursday.

“Being lectured to about morality and social issues by a 24-year-old woman in a see-through dress is certainly a memorable experience,” said Gee, whose comment was met with laughter from the 18-member board and roughly 30 audience members.

The positive mood carried throughout Friday’s meeting at the Longaberger Alumni House, where the board unanimously voted in favor of every agenda item. Here are some of the highlights from the meeting.

University finances

“In a word, our financial situation is good,” committee chairman Robert Schottenstein said.

Geoffrey Chatas, university chief financial officer, reported revenues across the university were up 6 percent to $2.2 billion from $2.07 billion in the first six months of 2011 in the same period in 2010.

Consolidated expenses increased by about $82 million during the first half of fiscal year 2011 when compared to the same period last year. Chatas was quick to note that revenue increases more than covered the increase in expenses.

Chatas said he was cautiously optimistic the state will make a $25 million subsidy lapse payment to OSU in December.

The payment was originally canceled, but Chatas said state revenues were exceeding expectations and comments made at a recent Ohio House Finance Committee meeting lead him to believe the payment will be made.

“Obviously, we will not count that until it arrives,” Chatas said.

The board delayed decision-making related to tuition and fees for students because of the uncertain state budget.

The current budget proposal decreases funding for higher education by 10.5 percent, Chatas said. Assuming the budget gets approved, he plans to recommend a 3.5 percent increase in tuition for resident undergraduate students.

“As of now, that will be the maximum increase in resident undergraduate tuition rates,” Chatas said.

However, Chatas said Inter-University Council President Bruce Johnson recently recommended raising the cap to 8 percent.

Graduate and non-resident surcharges are still being discussed.

Housing and dining rates will increase by 6 percent, and students should expect an increase in some fees for programs and lab/tech fees, though Chatas said he plans to cap new and existing fees at $50.

Jesse Hill, a first-year exploration student, said that while he doesn’t like the idea of an increase, it might be necessary.

“It makes sense with the economy,” Hill said. “It’s unfortunate, but I can’t see how it would be avoided.”

Campus projects update

The board addressed South Oval residence hall renovations, Cunz Hall renovation, Ohio Agriculture Research and Development Center on the Wooster campus and the William H. Hall complex expansion. Three of the four projects are on track, but there are problems with South Oval.

The South High Rise Renovation and Addition project aims to install 460 geothermal wells primarily in the South Oval, as well as the courtyard between Park and Smith Halls and the parking lot to the south of Hale Hall, according to the Facilities Operations and Development website.

“During the course of drilling those wells, we encountered a problem with the rock surface,” said Mary Lynn Readey, associate vice president of facilities operations and development. “The drillers have moved from finding solid limestone to fractured limestone.”

The university will look into whether there is a better method to drilling this type of rock.

Readey said her department hopes to have a solution to the complication in June for the next board meeting.

The Cunz Hall renovation, OARDC and William H. Hall complex expansion are expected to be complete in August, Autumn Quarter and June 2012, respectively.

Medical affairs

The trustees voted to release an additional $111.3 million for the medical center expansion. The project, which is the most expensive in university history, has been carefully scrutinized.

Alan W. Brass, chairman of the medical affairs committee, said Deloitte LLP, an independent auditing firm, is testing numbers for the third time in two years.

“Everything is on budget and on time,” Brass said. “There have been no accidents or safety issues.”

Although the project is within budget, the budget has grown.

Originally planned as a $1 billion, 19-story structure, the board authorized the addition of a 20th floor, which raised total costs to $1.1 billion. A federal grant awarded in December funded the additional $100 million.

The floor will house the radiation/oncology unit. The unit was originally planned as a separate wing of the hospital and would have required the removal of a parking structure. The unit will now be on the second level of the Cancer and Critical Care Tower. The parking structure will remain.

“It will be the 20th tallest medical center in the world,” Brass said.

The addition required, and was given, approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, Brass said.

The board also approved the creation of the Faculty Group Practice within the Office of Health Sciences. The practice will employ faculty physicians within the College of Medicine and place administrative authority with the senior vice president for health sciences and the dean of the college of medicine.

OSU physical environment

Terry Foegler, associate vice president of physical planning, reported that 75 buildings on the main campus need major renovation or replacement. There’s a need for analysis of buried infrastructure, including steam and cold water pipes, which Foegler said is long overdue.

Foegler said action on these issues is in the early study phase.

Ronald Ratner, chair of the physical environment committee, said infrastructure renewal will be a significant need over the next 10 years.

Ratner brought up the issue of funding for these renewal projects, though no concrete plans for funding have yet been decided.

“That’s going to be the really complex aspect of this,” Ratner said. “How do you find the funds? How do you allocate those funds?”

Authorization was granted to undertake and enter into construction contracts for Sullivant Hall and the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library. The action initially allocates $300,000 to move dance space from Sullivant Hall, where a larger $24.4 million renovation will make space for the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum.

Academic affairs and student life

In a cooperative effort to streamline the transfer process between Columbus State Community College and OSU, the board approved the Preferred Pathway Program.

The program will guarantee qualified CSCC students admission to OSU and simplify the transfer process. OSU and CSCC will coordinate curriculum so transferring CSCC students have more credits toward their desired area of study.

In an effort to improve career services for OSU students, the board reviewed a proposal to consolidate career services.

Currently, career services are facilitated at the college level; the new plan would centralize career services to serve the entire university.

The plan would increase visibility among hiring professionals so students have better access to diverse job and internship opportunities, said Javaune Adams-Gaston, vice president of student affairs.

“We want to be first in the
nation in terms of recruiters. When they think about students that they want to hire, we want to be that destination,” Adams-Gaston said.

The board also approved an honorary doctorate for U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, who is scheduled to speak at Spring Commencement.

Zachary Skidmore, a fourth-year in biology and psychology, said he isn’t excited but is glad to have a big-name speaker.

“At least it’s somebody well known; its not some obscure author,” Skidmore said. “At least people have heard about him.”

University advancement

The trustees voted for a comprehensive fundraising campaign with a working goal of raising $2.5 billion by June 30, 2016. The campaign is part of a strategic effort to make OSU the No. 1 public university in total private support by 2020.

Committee Chairman G. Gilbert Cloyd reported that the university began fundraising efforts earlier this year and it has raised about $296 million, including the $100 million gift from board chairman Leslie Wexner, his wife Abigail and the Limited Brands Foundation.

“They have always been very generous in their giving, and I’ve always spent it,” Gee said.

Cloyd said the campaign hopes to be at 40 to 50 percent of the overall goal by the fall 2012.

Cloyd also highlighted OSUmobile, an interactive application for mobile devices that provides directions and information about the OSU campus.

Golf course membership dues

The trustees approved an increase in membership fees at OSU’s golf course, increasing the annual dues to $590 from $575 for students and to $1,993 from $1,916 for faculty and staff. The annual rates will go to $2,491 from $2,395 for alumni and affiliates and to $295 from $288 for the member’s children that are under 13.

There will not be an increase in the daily course fees, tournament fees, or food and beverage minimums.

The increased annual course fees will be used to cover operational costs, said Ben Jay, senior associate athletics director of finance and operations.

Brittany Schock contributed to this story.

 

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