By Steven Bonini, Sophia Harris
The Board of Trustees discussed a freeze on student tuition, the governor’s budget, and phase 2 of the perception study for strategic student enrollment at its Jan. 26 meeting.
Trustee Michael Grilli discussed the Board’s decision to freeze tuition for the 2022-23 Academic Year during the finance committee report.
Grilli said, “I think any student listening should be encouraged. The trustees continue to lead in the circles that we compete for, and have frozen our fees.”
He added this pause will include a freeze on fees for housing as well.
Grilli proposed a motion on behalf of the finance committee to recommend to the Board of Trustees the tuition freeze and the motion was passed with unanimous consent.
Chair of the Board of Trustees Kevin Foley said following the motion that he believes this decision speaks volumes about the “fiscal management” of the Board of Trustees, adding it shows they recognize the “difficulties that the students still have as far as in the current economic conditions.”
He said he is pleased with this decision.
Dale Hamel, executive vice president, discussed the governor’s budget for Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23), which he said came out the afternoon of Jan. 26.
Hamel highlighted collective bargaining costs and said the “state portion” of those costs are “included” in the governor’s budget “both in terms of FY21 retroactive payments, FY22 increases, and because this is actually the FY23 budget submittal, includes the incremental costs of that.”
According to Hamel, the governor’s budget recommends an increase in the formula funding line of 1%.
“We had assumed a 2% increase in that line item,” he said. “We’ll work through with the legislature to hopefully get that back up to 2%.”
Accompanying the governor’s budget is a new bond bill, said Hamel.
“A bond bill would provide authorizations for DCAMM (Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance) spending on critical repair programs that we’ve been fortunate to receive annual funding from and would capitalize it for the next five years,” he said.
In an email, Hamel said the bond bill would “provide the Administration with ability to provide matching funds that are required for some ARPA-funded (American Rescue Plan Act) capital projects,” as well as “provide ability to continue existing capital programs, including funding for public higher education capital programs.”
One of the programs Hamel said this would help fund is renovations to the McAuliffe Center.
During the Trustee meeting, Grilli and Hamel asked the Board to ask DCAMM to approve funding for the Christa McAuliffe Center renovation project.
Hamel said the project would receive $2 million in funding from ARPA funds, contingent on the state supplying “$5.8 million through their major project finance program.”
Trustee Beth Casavant asked what the situation would be if the state didn’t supply the needed funding.
Hamel said, “Well, we can’t do the whole project, obviously. We’ll probably still want to do the
planetarium project and we’ll have to come back and decide how much of it from this source of funding we will do for the planetarium.”
The motion was carried out and passed unanimously by the Trustees.
Lorretta Holloway, vice president of Enrollment and Student Development, discussed the perception study and the decision by the Board to invest $1 million in what she said are “strategic enrollment” strategies, ultimately leading to the “RFP (Request for Proposal) process” of the development of a new University website.
“This is really going to be a whole University endeavor for this website migration, because there’s so many pages and so many things on the website,” she said.
Holloway said the new website is going to focus on three key areas: “Recruitment, accreditation, and community presence.
“Anything that currently we have on the website that doesn’t do that, really needs to be put elsewhere,” she added.
Holloway said the website currently contains pages that take up several slots of space that aren’t necessarily beneficial to students and it’s really thinking about “how we’re going to move some of those pages.”
Grilli raised a concern to Holloway about the use of the word “branding” and said, “In the past year, this website development was spurred by a discussion among the trustees” that they want to “brand” Framingham State.
“We haven’t heard the word branding once,” he said, adding, “I want to make sure, that from my end of things, that you understand how important that is.”
Holloway agreed, saying, “That’s an essential part of the RFP process for the website.”
During President F. Javier Cevallos’ report, he said the state’s COVID-19 positivity rate is “going in the right direction.” He added the number of cases at Framingham State is heading in an “even better direction.”
According to Cevallos, the week preceding Jan. 22, FSU’s positivity rate was at 6%. Cevallos said this was “very high” compared to positivity rates in the past. The state’s positivity rate at this time was higher – at 11%, he said.
In an email on Wednesday, Feb. 3, Cevallos provided an update on the most recent COVID-19 testing numbers, saying, “Our most recent COVID-19 test results are showing great improvement.”
FSU’s positivity rate for the week ending Jan. 29 dropped to 1.6% among the 559 people who were tested, according to Cevallos.
He asked for the endorsement of the Trustees for the renaming of the FSU gymnasium as the Richard “Dick” Logan ’70 Gymnasium, after the late Richard C. Logan, who graduated from Framingham State College in 1970 and served on the Board of Trustees between 2012 and 2021.
Logan was also a member of the “first men’s basketball team at Framingham State,” according to Cevallos.
Foley said it is a “well-deserved honor.”
Cevallos said the University is in the process of starting the searches for the vice president for Academic Affairs and Provost and for the vice president for Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement.
He said that he met with incoming President Nancy Niemi to discuss the searches.
Cevallos said he expects her to make the final hiring decision for the positions.
Eric Gustafson, vice president of Development and Alumni Relations, said in the fundraising report that the University raised about $1.27 million so far this year, adding they are doing “very well.”
He said they are expecting to reach their target by June 30.
Gustafson said FSU has received “quite a few new gifts,” one being a five-year $250,000 commitment for a scholarship for incoming students in education.
He said there is a “good possibility” the funding will last longer than five years.
Gustafson added they have multiple new endowed scholarships. He said, “We have two for students and education, one focused on students who are doing their student teaching,” and “one that is for students in food and nutrition.”
Gustafson said new exhibits at the Danforth Art Museum will be on display through March.
He said he “highly recommends” the current exhibits such as Jaune Quick-to-See Smith’s, who’s a “renowned artist but also an FSU alumna.”
He said the Danforth will be continuing the Drop into Art Program – a free program for families in the MetroWest area to come to the Danforth Art Museum on the second Saturday of every month – as well as “hands-on art activities.”
Gustafson added the University recently received a gift to the art school to set up a scholarship program for students and adults who otherwise could not afford to take classes.
The scholarship was offered by Nan Hass Feldman, who is a “renowned artist as well as a longtime faculty member at the Danforth Art School,” he said.
Gustafson said the registration has opened for Summer Arts, a program at the art school which consists of week-long classes for youth over the summer.
He said, “If you know anyone who’s interested, interested in a really enriching program for their kids for summer, direct them to the art school and there’s still time to register.”
During the Compliance, Audit, and Risk (CAR) report, Trustee Anthony Hubbard said FSU’s “biggest threat to the University from an information security perspective” is phishing.
Hubbard reported there was “55% participation” during the fall awareness training for students, faculty, and staff regarding phishing emails.
He said of the members of the community who received the training, only one person clicked on a test phishing email.
“No one provided any credentials in response to any of the emails that came in,” he added.
Hubbard said the Executive Office of Education is running an “assessment of all state community colleges and universities that will continue into this spring.”
He said this assessment is being conducted in order for the state to “approach how it will upgrade the systems, the protection of those systems in a unified manner across all institutions.”
Trustee Brian Herr announced his resignation from the Board of Trustees.
He said, “It’s been a great honor and a privilege to serve over the years.”
Herr added his life has been more “complicated” with other work commitments and it’s time for him to step aside to let others give their “time and energy” to the University.
“I think the University is in great hands from the Board of Trustees’ perspective, and I think it’s in great hands from the administrative perspective,” said Herr.
In Cevallos’ report, he introduced the Student-in-the-Spotlight – Ericka Maurer, a graduate student in the Master of Human Resources Program, nominated by Robert J. Awkward.
Awkward said Maurer was nominated because from her first time in his class, she was “very inquisitive” and engaged.
He said, “She’s just a remarkable person.”
Maurer said she is the first woman in her family to graduate from college. She added, “The tools Framingham State University provided has allowed me to advance in my career.”
She said, “The success of the Framingham State University master’s program is a result of a well-designed curriculum and a highly capable faculty teaching ambitious, hard-working students that are eager to learn.”