Trustees Meeting Reveals Fiscal Challenges at ESU

Photo Credit / Ronald Hanaki L. Patrick Ross (left) and Marcia G. Welsh (right) at last Thursday’s Council of Trustees Meeting. Photo Credit / Ronald Hanaki
L. Patrick Ross (left) and Marcia G. Welsh (right) at last Thursday’s Council of Trustees Meeting.

By Ronald Hanaki
Sports Editor

ESU’s Council of Trustees held its first meeting of the semester last Thursday. In a slight deviation from the usual agenda, State Sen. Mario Scavello presented Trustee Bruno Klaus with a congratulatory citation.

Klaus was recently presented with the Golden Achievement Award by the World Acrobatics Society earlier this month. The President’s Report was then presented by Dr. Marcia Welsh.

“This has been the busiest semester start of my career,” said Welsh. “It was a great kickoff with the Warrior Induction and the new opening of Sycamore Suites,” stated Welsh. “The Warrior Walk is really an impressive event.”

“We then had the academic convocation to officially launch the semester, and it really hasn’t slowed down since,” said Welsh. “Then we had two nights of the Good Neighbor Walk.”

“We had 44 faculty, staff and students knocking on the doors of 541 neighbors,” stated Welsh.

“We are following up on all issues raised by our neighbors,” said Welsh. “For the most part, we have received positive feedback.”

“With significant work by Joanne Bruno and Nancy VanArsdale, we redesigned our Distinguished Professor program,” said Welsh. Pat Smeaton from the Department of Professional and Secondary Education and Greg Dwyer from the Department of Exercise Science were announced as new Distinguished Professors.

“We hosted the fifth annual Economic Summit,” said Welsh. “It had a record crowd of 290 people, and it was the best conference yet.”

“We named [Pa. State] Rep. Jack Rader, Jr. as ESU’s 2017 Legislative Fellow and signed a formal agreement with the Milton Hershey School to provide focused and sustained support to low income students from that school,” stated Welsh.

Moreover, Welsh said that many faculty and staff were concerned about the hurricanes in Florida and Texas.

“So a lot of teachable moments with that, but I’ll leave that to the Committee Report,” said Welsh. “But our students are passionate and trying to do service in local areas including in our food pantry.”

“The 16-inch telescope in the observatory on top of the SciTech Building is now working,” said Welsh. “The Physics Department, especially Dr. David Buckley, is holding open house events to view planets and stars.”

“On Sept. 29 between 7:30-8:30 p.m., they will look at the moon and Saturn,” said Welsh.

“It’s a fun thing to do with your family and kids, and Dr. Buckley does a wonderful job of explaining what you are seeing.”

“Fall sports have begun, and the women’s field hockey team is ranked No. 1 in the country,” said Welsh. “In watching that team, I have to say that they are better now than when they won a national championship.”

However, there was a bit of sad news.

“We lost a student, Demetrias Johnson. He was a junior business management major from Philadelphia,” said Welsh.

“He passed away,” stated Welsh.

“He was a very active member of Lenape Hall, and this semester he was a resident of Sycamore Suites.”

“It was really sad to have that happen to a student, and our hearts go out to the family,” said Welsh.

The Chair’s Report was presented by Trustee L. Patrick Ross. Ross stated that the PACT (Pennsylvania Association of the Council of Trustees) will held on Oct. 17 where the system review will be discussed. Ross also presented the University Affairs Committee Report.

“Enrollment is down 1% this year,” said Ross. “A lot of that has to do with free education in New York.”

“We lost 26% of people from New York, but we are holding our own compared to the rest,” stated Ross. “That is a tribute to the leadership of the university and people working together.”

Ross also talked about investing more funds in ESU’s facilities and said that $34 million in funds to improve the facilities could be on the table.

Welsh added that the deans talked about new initiatives and academic programs they are working on including a sim lab for health sciences and a Bloomburg lab for business.

Trustee Marcus Lingenfelter presented the Strategic Initiatives Committee Report.

“We face unprecedented challenges at the university,” said Lingenfelter. “We have threats from outside our borders as the chairman mentioned in New York state, but even threats from within our own borders where our own Board of Governors issued a contract for which we have no means to pay for.”

“So decisions are being made that face the university’s stability and sustainability, and we must marshal all minds and resources to act far more carefully and strategically than we have ever before,” stated Lingenfelter.

Next, Lingenfelter discussed ESU’s new strategic plan.

“We have a rolling plan updated every three years with continuous input,” said Lingenfelter. “I applaud the fact that ‘Student First’ is the overwhelming theme of both the original plan and the new plan.”

“The new plan of action of 2017-2018 is called SPIRIT,” said Lingenfelter. “Students first, empowering innovation through collaboration.”

“It’s far more urgent than ever before that we all row in the same direction if we are going to get through these challenges,” stated Lingenfelter.

“One last thing is congratulations for reaffirming accreditation for another decade,” said Lingenfelter, “We had positive statements from our friends at Middle States signifying our good work that was done by all of our volunteers and our staff to bring about that accreditation.”

Trustee Harry Lee presented the Finance Committee Report.

“A lot of projects are going on, but the major item we talked about was the budget for the upcoming year,” said Lee.

“It’s a tough topic to talk about,” said Lee. “Enrollment has remained steady, but unfortunately the contribution from the state has diminished, and that puts more pressure on the administration to resolve those differences.” Lee asked Ken Long, ESU’s Vice President for Administration and Finance, to elaborate.

“The summary of the budget for fiscal year 17-18 is presented to the Council of Trustees for approval,” said Long. “It shows a projected $1.2 million deficit.”

“That deficit is being made up by one-time funds from reserves to balance the budget for the current year,” stated Long. Long added that contributing to that deficit is an increase in personnel expenditures and increasing personnel costs.

Long cited personnel benefits as the primary reason creating additional strain on the university.

“We are budgeting approximately $1.2 million in expenditures to address infrastructure and maintenance,” said Long.

“Typically, we wait to see how much funds we have left, but given the huge backlog we have in deferred infrastructure and repairs, we need to incorporate those in the budget,” stated Long.

“Projecting into the next fiscal year, we are looking at a $2.4 to $2.5 million deficit next year that we have to address,” said Long.

There was a motion to approve the budget, but the proposed budget was unanimously rejected. The Campus Environment Committee report was presented. The report focused on the current campus climate under four areas: DACA, race relations in relation to the recent protests in Charlottesville, Va., hurricane support and the recently opened food pantry.

“We recently opened a food pantry on campus following a survey that indicated that some of our students were really in need of support in this area,” stated the report.

The food pantry served seven students at the initial opening of the food pantry.

Also, a letter was recently sent to ESU students about some of the concerns in the ESU community.

Lingenfelter then said, “Mr. Chairman, I have one piece of new business that I would like to propose.”

“I recommend that the Council officially communicate our disapproval to the Board of Governors regarding their highly irresponsible actions this summer in approving a contract that we cannot pay for,” said Lingenfelter. “I submit that we do so in the form of resolution and transmit that to the Board of Governors,” stated Lingenfelter. “I make that motion.”

The motion was carried unanimously.

The next Trustees meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 26.

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