The Ohio University Board of Trustees met Thursday to discuss diversity and equity plans, and the university’s financial position during the coronavirus pandemic.

Deb Shaffer, OU’s senior vice president of Finance and Administration and chief financial officer, touched on OU’s current financial standing and cuts made to remedy losses. 

Shaffer, reading from a COVID-19 summary report, said OU lost just over $38 million in revenue in fall 2020 and about $23 million in revenue for spring 2021. Most of those losses came from drastic decreases in room and board revenue, as residence halls operated at decreased capacity in fall 2020 and spring 2021. Cumulatively, Shaffer said OU lost about $84 million as a result of overall decreased enrollment and supplemental scholarships paid to students during the pandemic.

However, according to OU’s variance analysis report for fiscal year 2021 year end, the university decreased personnel expenses, like payroll and benefits, by $23 million, and non-personnel expenses, like supplies and service costs, by $40 million. Those decreases in expenses, Shaffer said, help offset some of the revenue losses experienced as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. 

During the first half of the main board meeting, two presentations were shared, one of which specifically focused on diversity and equity initiatives OU has been working on. 

One initiative discussed was the Visible Campaign, which launched in 2020.

Interim Assistant Director of Multicultural Programs and the Multicultural Center Duane Bruce discussed an expansion to go along with the Visible Campaign called Make Respect Visible. The campaign’s goal is to express diversity and inclusion values throughout OU.

“This new campaign supports the strategic goal of creating a sense of belonging for all,” Bruce said.

The Division of Diversity and Inclusion has been working to make OU more diverse, as well to create a sense of belonging for all students at OU by implementing those campaigns and other initiatives. 

“Ohio aspires to build an intentional culture of inclusion, to impact retention and address achievement gaps, to create an enriching academic experience through curricular and co-curricular offerings, to increase the diversity of faculty and to build an intentional culture of inclusion to enhance the experience of faculty and staff,” Bruce said. 

Executive Vice President and Provost Elizabeth Sayrs presented data on the state of OU, including individual college numbers.

Sayrs provided the number of the students in different programs, as well as how those programs have changed over time. 

Data showed that between 1996 and 2020, the nursing program eventually surpassed other programs at OU. 

The nursing program was not in the top 20 programs in terms of undergraduate enrollment from 1996 to 2019. However, in 2020, nursing was at the top, with 4,531 undergraduate students.

“So when we think about who we are as an institution, you can see that we have changed and evolved in terms of both our composition of students, but also even on the same campus, the same location, the different modes leading to different sizes and different proportions of programs that our students are choosing,” Sayrs said. 

Sayrs also shared that graduation rates are increasing.

Candace Boeninger, vice president for Strategic Enrollment Management, highlighted the importance of OU implementing a test-optional shift in applications. She said about half of OU’s fall 2021 applicants applied test-optional, and 64% of historically underrepresented students on campus applied test-optional. 

“We are glad that we have been able to introduce this change, and students across the country are empowered, now more than ever before, to take their shot at colleges and universities, and they've done that through their applications,” Boeninger said. 

Ashley Beach, Lydia Colvin, Ryan Maxin and Maya Morita contributed to this report.