Major financial announcements and a protest: from the university’s Board of Trustees Retreat
BY Senior Reporter
AND , City Editor
The university’s Board of Trustees enjoys a great deal of privacy while wielding significant power over the direction of university projects and programs.
The Board of Trustees gathered for their annual retreat on Thursday and Friday at the Courtyard Marriott Hotel on North Campus. There, in addition to updating the trustees on finances and ongoing projects, executives and officials outlined their vision for the future of the university.
The university’s operating budget this year is about $120 million. The operating budget for the next fiscal year is determined by the State through a months long process involving the Office of Management and Budget and two other committees. The university also seeks additional state funding for scholarships given to Delawarean students.
University President Dennis Assanis also announced that the Spectrum Scholars Program, a new enrollment initiative designed to attract prospective students on the autism spectrum, will be funded by a $7.5 million grant from the J.P. Morgan & Chase banking company over the next decade.
Econsult Solutions consulting firm calculated the university’s economic impact from its operations on the City of Newark, the state and the surrounding region. They estimate that the university annually outputs $1.2 billion to the City of Newark, $2.5 billion to New Castle County, $2.8 billion to the State of Delaware and $4.7 billion to the Northeast corridor.
The university reportedly generates approximately $86 million in state tax revenues, according to an economic impact statement.
According to Gina Lavery, a director at Econsult, the average visitor and student spending on campus (not including housing, tuition, dining, etc.) amounts to $146 million in revenue annually.
“UD is driving economic activity throughout the entire Northeast corridor,” Lavery said. “Every dollar we get from the state turns into $23 back to the state and other communities.”
Assanis spoke at length about the Delaware First fundraising campaign. According to Assanis, $635 million of the $750 million goal have been collected.
According to the university’s Master Facility and Budget Plan, the new Graduate College is slated to open on Jan. 1, 2019, pending the approval of the Faculty Senate.
A group of silent protestors also appeared at the retreat.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) staged a demonstration at the retreat against associate professor Tania Roth’s allegedly cruel treatment of rats during experiments.
PETA demonstrators stood at the back of the conference room for nearly a half hour and held signs demanding that Assanis fire Roth immediately. One demonstrator wore a full-body rat costume.
Katerina Davidovich, a PETA campaigner sent to the retreat from its Los Angeles office, claimed that Roth had wasted $2 million of taxpayer money on cruel experiments of no benefit. She said the protest only demanded that Assanis fire Roth and end any cruel experimentation on rats. Rats are exempt from the federal Animal Welfare Act of 1966.
Friday morning, the Board of Trustees reconvened and held a much more mellow session.
No rat costumes were found in the Marriott that day, merely a series of presentations by representatives from the Student Government Association (SGA); Graduate Student Government (GSG); Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC); accounting Professor Jennifer Joe; and Chris Williams, the president of the Faculty Senate Executive Committee.
Joe, a Whitney Professor who receives her endowment from the Board of Trustees, presented excerpts of her research, including an amalgamation of studies she conducted on the issue of auditors being blamed for financial crises.
Following Joe’s presentation, SGA President Kevin Peterson presented an outline of his organization’s successes to the Board. His speech also brought attention to problems within the university’s transportation system.
Peterson proceeded to stress the need for the university to properly respond to sexual assault allegations. Peterson offered a brief anecdote of his own experience being sexually assaulted. He noted the lasting trauma of the incident, claiming that this was only exacerbated when he recalled the episode to his teachers while trying to recover his grades after absences from classes.
As the room fell silent at Peterson’s words, he continued his speech by explaining how he believes the university simply does not do enough to prevent sexual assault and called for stronger action when assault on campus occurs.
The President of the GSG, Michael Bush, spoke after Peterson with a detailed overview of his organization’s mission. The underlying purpose of the GSG is to connect graduate students that are normally focused on their personal research and studies in their respective fields with other students of different disciplines, according to Bush.
He also supplied a brief list of their accomplishments, which included the EmPOWER Peer Mentoring Program, created to aid graduate students in breaking the stigma around mental health by teaching skills to ease stressors.
SAAC President and lacrosse player Kevin Sheahan and sprinter Maame Bema Kyeadea-Amponsah presented the committee’s efforts to aid student athletes in their quest for success at the university. They noted their student athletes’ achievements and campus engagement, including their current involvement with the university’s Police Department to promote the LiveSafe app. They also mentioned the need for better transportation on campus, as missing one bus can leave students stranded until the next one comes. Many student athletes choose to carpool to South Campus for their practices.
Assanis interjected after this second mention of the need for better transportation, remarking that increased spending on buses means fewer scholarships available.
The conference concluded with a presentation from the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, led by Chris Williams. After a detailed overview of the committee’s importance to the university, including the Senate’s “three-legged chair” philosophy (the success of the university only being certain with a compilation of teaching, research and service), Williams mentioned the committee’s recommendations to the Board of Trustees.
These recommendations included the establishment of an Ombudsman Office, meant to create a resource to target and resolve campus-related complaints directly, promoting College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) organic foods and planting native plants on the Science, Technology & Advanced Research (STAR) campus and offering free tuition to prospective Delaware students whose parents were fallen first responders.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the university’s operating budget for the next fiscal year. The figure has not yet been released. A previous version also incorrectly stated figures relating to the university’s economic impact of the surrounding region. Econsult Solutions estimates the university annually outputs $1.2 billion to the City of Newark, $2.5 billion to New Castle County, $2.8 billion to the State of Delaware and $4.7 billion to the Northeast corridor. The goal of the Delaware First fundraising campaign was also incorrect. The fundraising goal is $750 million.