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Ohio State Board of Trustees approves all proposals, discusses campus concerns

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The OSU Board of Trustees meets Aug. 30 at the Ohio Union. Credit: Daniel Bendtsen / Lantern reporter

The OSU Board of Trustees meets Aug. 30 at the Ohio Union.
Credit: Daniel Bendtsen / Lantern reporter

The Ohio State Board of Trustees unanimously passed every proposal on their agenda at its August meeting, including a measure to nameWexner Medical Center’s new emergency department the Abercrombie and Fitch Emergency Department. Board members also discussed issues including whether the university is addressing the needs of victims of sexual violence and international students as well as it could be.

The emergency department is set to be named after the New Albany company that donated $10 million to the Medical Center in 2008. Of that sum, $5 million was put toward creating the Abercrombie and Fitch Chair of Inflammatory Bowel Disease, according to a WexnerMedical Center press release.

The emergency department was created as part of the $1.1 billion expansion to the Medical Center and will serve the OSU University Hospital, the James Cancer Hospital, the Solove Research Institute, the Ross Heart Hospital, the Harding Psychiatric Hospital and the Dodd Rehabilitation Hospital.

In days leading up to the meeting, the move was mocked by national media such as the NY Daily News and Esquire magazine. The timing of the decision also coincides with backlash against Abercrombie and Fitch, after controversial comments from CEO Mike Jeffries resurfaced on social media earlier this year.

Jeffries had told “Salon” magazine in 2006 that Abercrombie and Fitch has an exclusionary marketing model, and aims to appeal to “cool, good-looking people.”

Several students said they could empathize with the university wanting to reward donors, but said naming an emergency room after a clothing store seemed strange.

“It’s nice that (Abercrombie and Fitch) wants to support it, but the emergency room doesn’t seem like the kind of thing you should shell out to a corporate sponsor like that,” said Athan Burlotos, a first-year in engineering.

Eric Friday, a first-year in engineering, joked that the emergency department “will probably smell really good.”

Jeni Ruisch, fourth-year in zoology and English, said the name change is trivial and doesn’t concern her.

“Their credibility doesn’t derive from their name, their credibility derives from their doctors, and I don’t think it’s going to deter anyone from going there so really it doesn’t matter in effect,” she said.

Discussion of financial and campus concerns

Wadsworth brought up several concerns to the Board that came up in Thursday’s academic affairs committee. Wadsworth said the university needs to look into whether it is catering well enough to the needs of both victims of sexual violence and international students. He also said the STEP program and eLearning program need to be examined, as eLearning pass and completion rates were much lower than hoped.

Jerry Jurgensen, the retired CEO of Nationwide Insurance, gave a financial report to the Board during the Friday meeting as well.

“We brought in a bunch of money, we spent a bunch of money, and we have a bunch of money left,” he quipped before telling the Board he was concerned about the “bunch of money left.”

Jurgensen reported OSU’s investments are on target when judged against the university’s scorecards. Jurgensen said, however, overwhelmingly excellent ratings of its investments might actually be cause for concern because it might indicate the scorecards do a poor job of measuring financial stability.

“You really have to be diligent about this, and continue to ask yourself questions, and just not fall into the pattern of routine. I think with respect to financial scorecards, to some degree, that’s where we are,” he said.

Jurgensen said predicting investments is especially of concern because cash and investments make up such a large portion of the university’s $10 billion in assets. He said of that $10 billion, $4 billion is “brick-and-mortar,” $5 billion is cash and investments and $1 billion is accounts receivable. He added that the university is not getting the private philanthropic support the university needs, and indicated the Board needs to take measures to encourage donations.

The continuing expansion of Wexner Medical Center led the Board to replace the Medical Affairs Committee with a separate Board of Trustees for the Medical Center.

Trustees also praised fellow Board member Alan Brass, who chaired the Medical Affairs Committee, for his leadership in the $1.1 billion expansion of the Medical Center.

“When Alan joined this board in 2006… there really wasn’t a member of this Board that had more than a superficial understanding of what medical centers do or what the business of medicine is even about. Not only did Alan bring that, but (he) brought it in a deep and intelligent way,” said Chairman of the Board Robert Schottenstein.

Schottenstein and others said Brass’ leadership was crucial, especially since the Medical Center amounts to half of the university’s budget and likely a greater portion of its financial risk.

Brass expressed pride in the projected direction of the university’s medical future.

“What we’ve accomplished, we will look back in the next 10, 20, 30 or 40 years and say, ‘We put this s— in the right direction.’ Health care is going to go through some hairpin turns like we’ve never seen before, but we are poised well, if we stay focused and stay strategic, I think we’ll do just fine,” Brass said.

Other measures taken

The Board also officially established the Presidential Search Committee, which had already held three meetings since former OSU President E. Gordon Gee retired July 1.

Jeffrey Wadsworth, the president and chief executive officer of Battelle Memorial Institute, is the chair of the search committee and its selection subcommittee, which consists of four other Board members besides Wadsworth.

The committee also includes an advisory subcommittee consisting of three board members and 10 members from OSU administration, faculty and student government.

Deborah Jones Merritt, an OSU law professor, oversees the Presidential Search Committee’s advisory subcommittee and told the Undergraduate Student Government General Assembly Wednesday the search for a new president would take “as long as necessary” but estimated a president will likely not be announced until the summer of 2014.

Merritt also said the committee will do most of its work behind closed doors and will maintain high secrecy about potential candidates, joking that candidates would be “parachuted in at night” to prevent leaks of names.

The Board also approved the hiring of Dallas-based consulting firm R. William Funk and Associates to assist the search committee. The contract with the firm was not yet finalized as of Friday afternoon, OSU spokesman Gary Lewis said in an email.

The Board approved renovations to Kottman Hall and the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Library and the Student Success Center.

The Kottman Hall renovation has an approximate cost of $13.1 million coming from state appropriations, Facilities Operations and Developments funds and general funds, while the CFAES Library and Student Success Center will cost about $5.1 million and will come from general funds. The renovations are to be funded without external debt, instead using cash reserves and some state capital.

The Board also waived the audit requirement for Campus Partners for Community Urban Redevelopment because the “reduced scope of the affiliate’s activity reduces the university’s financial exposure and the need for a full audit,” according to Board meeting minutes.

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