Board of Trustees hold last meeting before budget is finalized
By Emily Rosenberg
By Naidelly Coelho
Asst. News Editor
The Board of Trustees discussed the University’s budget, anti-racist initiatives, and fundraising during the March 31 meeting.
During the Finance Report, Dale Hamel, executive vice president, said the committee expects there to be no student charge increases for Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24).
Hamel added the UMass system proposed a tuition lock where students pay the same tuition and fees throughout the four years they attend their university. He said the state universities were asked to cost out this proposal as well, but they asked for more “flexible language.”
He said flexibility is necessary because some students at Framingham State do not graduate in four years. Therefore, the University would want to ensure the tuition lock remains the same from when they are a first-year student until graduation.
He said, if FSU were to take this approach, which is called “student cost stabilization,” it would be implemented in Fiscal Year 2025 for incoming first-year students in the Fall 2025 Semester. However, he said it may be a “better approach” for the UMass system than for smaller state universities.
Vice Chair Beth Casavant said if the tuition lock were designed to end after four years, it would be an incentive for students to finish by then. On the other hand, it could also be a “disincentive” because then they would be discouraged by the knowledge that they would be hit with a fee increase.
Also in the finance report, Hamel said there will be significant funding for the Mass Grant Plus program, bringing in more financial aid for students in FY24.
He said the finance committee is using the governor’s budget proposal as a baseline for any changes made to the initial FY24 budget, with the caveat that the house and senate budget proposals may decrease allocations to state universities.
Hamel said, “We’re not counting on it at this point,” referring to additional funding from the Fair Share amendment, which went into effect this January.
Hamel said two of the trustees recently had a “legislative breakfast” with representatives from the House Ways and Means Committee, as well as Senate President Karen Spilka.
“So at least we’ve made our case,” he said, adding that the state legislature may decide to allocate all of the additional Fair Share funding to transportation, but it is going to be an “interesting” time in the next few months as the state legislature’s budget rolls out.
In the President’s Report, Nancy Niemi noted the 50th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War, during which approximately 58,000 Americans lost their lives.
She provided an update on the NECHE accreditation process which will conclude in 2024.
NECHE, the New England Commission of Higher Education, determines institutional quality using nine standards for accreditation.
There are nine NECHE sub-committees writing an entry self study, she said.
They are writing how the University meets the standards and making observations where the University “shines and where we need improvement,” Niemi said.
She said once the appraisals are complete by the end of April, there will be writing sessions before the writing team leaves at the end of May.
The first draft of the self study should be ready by the Fall 2023 Semester, Niemi said.
Jeffrey Coleman, vice president of diversity, inclusion, and community engagement, said racially motivated incidents keep happening on and off campus that will impact the “sense of belonging” on campus.
He said the implementation of a “playbook” of procedures would help FSU respond to these incidents.
“But we want to be able to immediately, within a 48-hour time frame, provide a campus response so that we can definitely be able to address the threat that incident is posing to the sense of belonging, of an identity or well-being of an identity of any of the represented portion of our populations on campus, whether it be faculty, staff, or students,” Coleman said.
Another initiative he will be implementing would provide support to the communities that have been impacted, he said.
“This team will help us to identify campus partners across campus who can liaise with us and make contact with impacted communities across campus. It will also be able to help us be able to immediately provide resources to members of the communities on campus that have been impacted,” Coleman said.
The race and policing conversation that happened as a response to Tyrese Nichols’ death was designed to help the campus process and talk through that incident, according to Coleman.
He said some faculty shared concerns about the increased workload of faculty of color resulting from advocating for students of color.
“The things that came up really focused around safety, belonging, and customer service - specifically for students,” Coleman said.
Trustee Diane Finch said she is “thrilled” with Coleman’s initiatives because of the caring and support they will provide to students, faculty, and staff.
She said these initiatives will make FSU a model for other institutions and hopefully, the “gold standard” in terms of what DICE is doing for community and safety.
During the Strategic Enrollment Report, Trustee Nancy Budwig shared some of the areas the committee has been focusing on to enhance enrollment efforts. For example, she said they looked at faculty recruitment in terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
“And it's not just about the representational qualities, but really looking at what is diversity, what's going on - structurally and through appointment,” she said.
She said the data concerning the lack of diverse faculty representation is surprising, and something FSU needs to “work on,” especially for part-time faculty.
Budwig said this is especially important for FSU as it pursues the status of being a Hispanic-serving institution, even though right now, it is considered a primarily white institution.
Regarding the enrollment strategy, she said understanding what students need and who is applying will take time.
Budwig said, “You know, it's a competitive market.”
In the Development and Alumni Relations Report, Vice President Eric Gustafson said a couple of scholarships and $90,000 were gifted to FSU.
He said it was a “busy winter” with the men’s and women’s basketball gathering, and an event celebrating the 90th year anniversary of The Gatepost.
In the spring, the class of 1973 will have their reunion, Gustafson said.
He said, “We’re really focused on partnering academic departments as we always have in terms of how we connect alumni with current students and alumni and faculty.”
For example, there was recently an event for students to connect with and learn from alumni of the liberal studies major.
FSU has about $4 million in reserves so far in grants, and $1.7 million pending in two large transactions, Gustafson said.
For fall 2023, there are already 391 students registered for the Danforth Art School, while last year, there were 175 students at this time, he said.
“So we're definitely going to be well ahead of last year - so excited to see that continue to grow,” Gustafson said.
He said another focus is to have high school students take summer fashion design classes. They will be working with admissions and the faculty of fashion design and retailing to make sure those students get to come to campus to visit the labs and see what FSU can offer.
In the Chair’s Report, Kevin Foley said there has been no movement with the two vacant board positions since the previous meeting in January.
Foley said mandatory diversity, equity, and inclusion training for the board will be taking place in May.
In the Student Trustee Report, McKenzie Ward said SGA elections will take place April 13. Ward will be graduating in the spring, and a new student trustee will be voted on by the student body.
Ward also commended the University for their anti-racist efforts. She said during her job search for positions in higher education, no other institutions have required candidates to include a diversity and inclusion statement as part of their application.
The Student-in-the-Spotlight was senior political science major Blake Carlson. He was introduced by Joseph Coelho, chair of the Political Science, Global Studies, and Pre-law Department.
Carlson is a goalie for the FSU Hockey team, the vice president for the Political Science Club, and a research assistant for Political Science Professor Giuliano Espino - they have produced multiple academic papers on drug policy. He also tutors students in statistics and research methodology.
Carlson highlighted his time as a student of professors Espino and David Smailes, saying both professors made him realize that the faculty at FSU are what sets the University apart.
He said Smailes “has been an excellent lecturer who has made me really enjoy learning, and the way in which he shaped his classes and tests pushed me to dig deeper into the subject more than I normally would.
“The rumor mill is Dr. Smailes is going to be retiring in the next year or two, and it's going to be a sad day when he finally does because the school and Political Science Department will be losing one of their very best,” Carlson added.
He said without Espino, he probably wouldn’t be the student he is today. He said Espino pushes his students to think “autonomously,” adding the first assignment he completed for Espino was an essay asking him to disagree with two of the professor’s opinions.
He said he found a life-long friend in Espino, serving as his undergraduate research assistant and even helping to create a program in the political science department to teach students methodology.
Carlson said his personal motto is “Leave it better than you found it,” and encouraged the trustees to adopt the saying as well.
He added, “Thank you to everyone who has had a hand in my success here. I may not be able to pay it back, but I know I will be able to pay it forward.”
[Editor’s Note: McKenzie Ward is Opinions Editor for The Gatepost]