Board of Trustees establishes Sustained Racial Justice Committee
Last week’s meeting also covered budget decisions and planning.
September 9, 2020
Below are the highlights and decisions that came out of Friday’s Metropolitan State University of Denver Board of Trustees meeting.
Sustained Racial Justice Committee
Board members unanimously approved a motion to revise the board’s bylaws to create a permanent committee for Sustained Racial Justice. This decision follows a resolution the trustees issued over the summer that expressed the board’s commitment to engaging in anti-racism work. The purpose of the committee will be to provide Board of Trustees oversight regarding University efforts to eradicate systemic racism, including adequate representation of, and opportunity to be heard by, Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) at all levels of leadership. The committee will also ensure that sufficient steps are being taken to address potential racial bias across all areas of the University.
Prior to the vote, Michael Benitez, Ph.D., vice president for Diversity and Inclusion, provided an overview of the University’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion structure and noted that he will work closely with the new committee. Trustees Mario M. Carrera and Albus Brooks will serve as co-chairs. The committee met for the first time following the full board meeting, and Brooks took the opportunity to speak about the group’s purpose.
“We are not here to talk; we are here to be about action,” Brooks said. “What does it really mean to break down a racist system in our society?”
Watch for more details in an upcoming Early Bird article.
Tuition increase and Phase II budget approval
After an update on the Fiscal Year 2020-21 budget outlook and a lengthy discussion, members approved a 3% increase to resident and nonresident undergraduate tuition for the spring and summer 2021 semesters. The alternative fee schedule that was approved for the fall 2020 semester, which waives certain on-campus and combined technology fees, will be maintained. However, even with a 3% tuition increase, MSU Denver maintains the lowest tuition and fees of any university along the Front Range.
“We had a robust discussion on the impact of increasing tuition by 3% for the spring,” said Vice Chair Russell Noles. “We considered the impact on students, both in terms of the fiscal impact and the impact on their learning environment, and the long-term impact on the University’s financial health. Our student trustee, Alaura Ward, strongly advocated that for many students, a 3% increase may mean they could not attend the spring semester.”
Members and staff also agreed on several ways of helping students offset the increased cost, including targeting more funding to financial aid, leveraging the Minority-Serving Institution CARES Act Grant funds and working with the Faculty Senate to use more Open Educational Resources so students won’t have to pay the high cost of textbooks. The board also agreed to increase pay for student workers. Rather than maintaining the state minimum-wage rate of $12 per hour, MSU Denver will direct funds generated from the tuition increase to raise the hourly minimum wage to $12.85 immediately, $14.77 on Jan. 1 and $15.87 a year later.
A motion to adopt the FY20-21 Phase II budget allocations was also unanimously approved, which includes $680,000 in financial aid for Pell-eligible students and those with the highest needs, $1,072,674 for faculty promotions and post-tenure review and $673,000 for contract increases.
Bill Henry, Ph.D., interim provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs, presented an update on the Academic Reorganization, which would realign departments into functional units within the existing college structures to increase interdisciplinary alignment, improve administrative structures and promote disciplinary identity. The reorganization focuses on the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and the College of Professional Studies because they are the University’s largest academic units.
Henry said at this time there are no plans to create any new colleges or schools; however, this reorganization could lend itself to future diversification of academic structures. Key changes proposed include the formation of two divisions within the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences: the Division of Mathematics and Sciences and the Division of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities. The College of Professional Studies would see a name change to the College of Health and Applied Sciences, which would also have two divisions. In this arrangement, the Criminal Justice and Criminology and the Journalism and Media Production departments would move to the CLAS. Watch the Early Bird for more developments as the project progresses.
Statewide advocacy initiatives
Elaine Berman, former MSU Denver trustee and chair of the Hart Center for Public Service, briefed members on two projects she has been working on. The first is a statewide higher-education advocacy initiative, which will educate, organize and mobilize business and civic leaders to speak to the value of postsecondary education and the need for greater funding throughout Colorado. The goal is to quickly form an executive committee and build a coalition of individuals from existing boards of trustees at public institutions across the state prior to the 2021 legislative session. Berman also spoke about the establishment of the Hart Center for Public Service, whose aim is to create an innovative center dedicated to diversifying the ranks of the country’s public-service leaders.
Roadrunners Safe Return and Strategic Plan highlights
An update on the Roadrunners Safe Return plan covered the steps that the University has taken to ensure a smooth and safe return to campus this fall for a limited number of faculty, students and staff, including health protocols, PPE kits, custom signage and reconfiguring the layouts for classrooms. The Roadrunners Safe Return Committee has also planned for what-if scenarios such as if there is a positive case on campus, if someone doesn’t wear a mask or if the University needs to move its operations fully online again. The committee’s focus is on remaining agile and vigilant while also preparing for spring 2021, with the hope of maximizing space to bring more people back to campus.
The Strategic Planning Team has resumed its work on the Strategic Plan, following a pause over the summer to focus on post-pandemic scenarios. Cathy Lucas, vice president of Strategy and External Affairs, outlined the next steps, which include drafting a vision statement, scenario planning and pillar discussion through October. The Strategic Plan will go to the Board of Trustees for approval in December, with the goal of having it go live in January.
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