The Ohio University Board of Trustees voted to approve two construction projects, discussed the upcoming search for university executives and heard presentations on the basic needs of students during its Friday board meeting.
Several administrators participated in a joint discussion on “Basic Needs OHIO,” a grassroots initiative addressing students’ food, shelter and financial situations.
According to a survey completed by new and incoming OU students, 36 percent of students who identified as not coming from a financially secure background said they didn’t feel a sense of belonging at OU. Comparatively, 20 percent of those indicating they come from a secure background felt they didn’t belong.
“It’s not like we haven’t heard about poverty or great inequality,” geography Professor Yeong-Hyun Kim said. “The term ‘basic needs’ is kind of new and trending to define the problems that our students have. It’s addressing their very basic right — the student right to certain needs.”
The board also debated the merits of donating food from culinary facilities to students in need which is a “tricky situation," according to Chair Janetta King, as food and health codes often restrict what can be donated. Most of the leftover food from dining facilities is composted, Vice President for Student Affairs and interim Chief Diversity Officer Jason Pina said.
In a presentation on diversity and inclusion efforts, Pina voiced concern about “staff burnout” in certain departments of the division of student affairs, specifically, the Women’s Center, LGBT Center and Multicultural Center.
With thousands of students seeking service from those departments each year, Pina said he worries their ability to support the “whole spectrum” of the student body.
“I have less than five people (in the division of student affairs) who have in their job description, language around diversity,” Pina said. “That’s embarrassing.”
To advance diversity and inclusion efforts, interim Vice President and Provost David Descutner said the university is hoping to begin offering a cultural competency course — something senates and local activists have been discussing in recent years.
The board passed a number of resolutions, including one approving two upcoming construction projects. Shively Dining Hall will undergo a series of “aesthetics and functionality” upgrades for $1.8 million, and James Hall will receive $1 million in masonry repairs to stabilize the building. The board also voted to allow extensions to several academic centers and institutes.
During his presidential report, OU President Duane Nellis discussed developments in various executive searches.
A search committee has been formed in the search for a new vice president for university advancement and president/CEO of The OU Foundation, and a national search firm has been named. In the search for a new executive vice president and provost, a search committee has been formed, and Nellis will soon select from two finalists for a search firm.