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FILE: Members of the Ohio University Board of Trustees meet on Thursday in Walter Hall (The BoT is currently not meeting in Walter Hall, but virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic). 

Board of Trustees approves continuation of budgetary planning, new Climate Action Plan

Resources, Facilities and Affordability Committee 

The Ohio University Board of Trustees met Friday morning for the second time in two days to discuss the upcoming budgets, enrollment projections and the Ohio University Sustainability and Climate Action Plan. 

The university experienced a large fiscal impact due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is still affecting the university’s budgetary planning, Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration Deb Shaffer said. As a result of these impacts, the committee brought forward a resolution to continue budgetary planning for fiscal year, or FY, 22. Shaffer said the projected impact is $83 million in lost revenue during FY 22.

This resolution was passed unanimously by the Board.

Additionally, the board passed a resolution to increase tuition rates for incoming classes by 1.8%.

“It's important to remember that 1.8 (%) is locked for four years, and it represents a four year increase, theoretically,” Shaffer said. 

However, Shaffer said when that number is broken down, it is closer to a 0.4% increase a year. Shaffer also said the university’s fall 2021 enrollment is currently higher than was previously budgeted for.

The Board also discussed the Ohio University Sustainability and Climate Action plan. This new plan includes the following goals: carbon neutrality by 2050, 50% emissions reduction from FY 12 baseline by 2026 and goals and targets which align with external reporting and United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

As part of this plan, the university will implement various learning opportunities for students and faculty to increase knowledge about climate issues, improve building operations over time and reduce fossil fuel usage. 

The Board unanimously passed a resolution to approve the new Ohio University Climate Action Plan.

In other business, the Board discussed deferred maintenance plans, and former OU President Duane Nellis gave final remarks and received a certificate of appreciation.

Main Board Meeting 

In his report to the Board, outgoing OU President Duane Nellis addressed several achievements made by the university during his presidency. 

Nellis focused on the identity of OU, highlighting the importance of research in its curriculum. 

“We've talked a lot about the nation’s highest return on experience…that is a central theme,” Nellis said. “We want every student to have that unique experience that is unlike any other university that they might participate and engage in.”

In recent years, OU has worked on updating the general education curriculum for the first time in over 40 years. Designed to emphasize critical thinking, communication and equity and inclusion, OHIO BRICKS will continue to attract transfer students, Nellis said. 

Nellis noted the significance of the OHIO Honors Program, which was established during his presidency and graduated its first students this year. He additionally spoke of the effort to turn the former presidential residence into a center for honors and academic achievement. 

Nellis recognized the academic facilities that were built and updated during his presidency, including Heritage Hall, the new chemistry building, the completion of the Perry and Sandy Sook Academic Center and the elevation of the Innovation Center. 

Nellis reviewed numerous opportunities and academic programs created during his presidency such as the Presidential Leadership Society, the Capital Internship Program, the OHIO Challenging Dialogues and the J. Warren McClure School of Emerging Communication Technologies.

Nellis closed his address by looking to his future as a geography professor in the College of Arts and Sciences at OU. Nellis will take a paid sabbatical before he begins teaching.

“It’s been, again, my honor to serve as the 21st president of Ohio University, but I’m looking forward to being closer to our students, being engaged with our students in the classroom,” Nellis said. 

Nellis was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation recognizing his leadership as president during the meeting. 

President Hugh Sherman addressed the Board with plans for his upcoming presidency. Sherman outlined five priorities he plans to focus on: academic quality, enrollment, student experience and student success, serving the community and financial sustainability. 

“I look forward to working with the faculty and staff across the university, as well as our student leaders, to continue to move Ohio University in fulfilling its mission and commitments to our students, to the region and our state,” Sherman said. 

Anna Millar and Jack Knudson contributed to this report.

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