Tuesday, August 9, 2022

5 Takeaways: What you need to know from today's Board of Trustees meeting

October 29, 2021
<p>Board of Trustees member Pat O&#x27;Keefe at the Board of Trustees meeting at the Hannah Administration Building on Oct. 29, 2021.</p>

Board of Trustees member Pat O'Keefe at the Board of Trustees meeting at the Hannah Administration Building on Oct. 29, 2021.

Photo by Lauren Snyder | The State News

The Michigan State University Board of Trustees held its second meeting of the semester on Friday, Oct. 29, in the Hannah Administration Building. Here are five takeaways from the meeting:

Update on COVID-19 and student statistics

During his report, President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. said there has been a decrease in the number of COVID-19 cases reported on campus from the first two weeks of the semester. 

Stanley said there are more than 15,000 students living on campus this semester. Of those students, five are in isolation with a confirmed case of COVID-19 and zero are in quarantine this week. 

“I attribute these low numbers and the absence of outbreaks on campus to our vaccination rates,” Stanley said.

As of Oct. 29, 90.65% of students, staff and faculty are fully vaccinated, according to the MSU COVID-19 Dashboard.

In the report of academic affairs, Trustee Dianne Byrum said there are 49,659 students enrolled in the fall semester — 9,055 of those students are freshmen. 

Byrum said this class of freshmen is the most diverse in MSU history, as 26.9% are students of color.

There are students enrolled at MSU from all 50 states, and 82 of the 83 counties in Michigan. The only county without current student representation is Keweenaw County in the Upper Peninsula. 

Faculty are struggling with pay cuts

Faculty Liaison Group member Karen Kelly-Blake began the liaisons’ report by saying MSU faculty are struggling with salary cuts for 12 months. Kelly-Blake said MSU salary rankings have remained unchanged over the last decade, with MSU near the bottom. 

“These are the deepest and longest cuts of all the universities in the Big Ten,” Kelly-Blake said. “We understand the financial stress that the University has faced, but fiscal responsibility balance on the backs of faculty has costs.”

Kelly-Blake said there was a 30 percent increase in faculty turnover in 2021, compared to the previous year. Black faculty saw a 60 percent increase in turnover, Hispanic faculty a 36 percent increase and Asian faculty a 29 percent increase. 

“We fear this will result in increased retention and recruitment costs as our intellectual assets walk out the door looking for better opportunities and a better institutional climate,” Kelly-Blake said. “Unaddressed, these issues would damage the ascension of MSU’s global scholarly standing, reduce the quality of the educational experience of our students and make it more difficult for MSU to retain and attract top talent.”

Efforts to increase transparency

Chair Dianne Byrum reported a second-year evaluation of Stanley and said the board concluded that he met or exceeded his goals for the year.

Trustee member Renee Knake Jefferson responded to public commenters, ensuring they were enforcing best practices of transparency. She used the president’s evaluation as an example of accountability. 

“I think we also have a board and a president who recognizes that no matter how much good news we have to share, there’s still work that needs to be done,” Knake said.

Knake also shared news of a task force that is focused on making improvements to the faculty discipline policy and unsanctioned review. 

Library renovations

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The budget and finance committee authorized renovations to the library’s third floor East Wing which will include temperature and humidity control for special collections to be exhibited. Committee chair Melanie Foster said the project is entirely donor-funded.

“The library is really the heart and soul of the university and it’s a building we want to make a great destination,” Stanley said. “This will be a way people can see some of the items of this amazing collection displayed in a way that really showcases the kind of knowledge that has been generated at Michigan State and others for centuries.”

Special projects

The board approved state cost participation in the 2023 Capital Outlay Project Request, involving greenhouse renovation, and the Five-Year Capital Outlay Plan. 

“Plant science is one of our strongest departments,” Stanley said. “These are their laboratories, essentially, these greenhouses, and unfortunately some of them are not at the state they should be to keep them competitive. So we’re asking the state to help us with this because it’s such a key item of what we do from a research point of view.”

Executive Vice President for Health Services Norman J. Beauchamp Jr. presented updates from collaboration with the Henry Ford Health System. There will be a town hall on Nov. 5 to share progress and milestones. 

“Ultimately, the goal is to hear from our community about how we can continue to grow and work together,” Beauchamp said.

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