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Members of the board of trustees speak at their meeting on April 7, 2023. (Harshita Singhania | For The Post)

OU Board of Trustees meets, discusses AI, Ridges development

The Resources, Facilities and Affordability Committee

The Resources, Facilities and Affordability Committee met to discuss the forecast for Fiscal Year 23, an update on special course fees and items addressed by the advancement group. 

The FY23 forecast original budget contained about a $1 million deficit; however, this prediction was wrong, and the forecast now shows almost a $39 million surplus for this year, Senior Vice President, Mark Heil, said. 

A resolution was proposed concerning three areas for the graduate programs and special course fees. First, a master's sports administration and master's business program will increase its required program fees by $25. This additional charge is due to the capstone trip senior students will take. 

Secondly, the resolution states that courses that are extremely limited by the guarantee are kept frozen by the state except for certain categories. The first group affected by this is the fine arts company fee, an optional fee that would provide students accompanying for coursework in private lessons. 

The last part seeks to implement smaller fees in other courses that need accompanying dance and musical theater for $70 an hour. Once these parts get approved by the Board, this resolution must be reviewed by the Chancellor. The criteria also state that these fees must be optional to be eligible for review. 

The advancement group started by proclaiming the University Foundation has earned the platinum seal of transparency from GuideStar for the third consecutive year. Ohio University is the only public university in Ohio to have received this award three years in a row.

Also, the advancement group focused on financial stability and operational excellence, increased philanthropic support and strengthened engagement. The group created an advancement funding model to ensure financial stability and operational excellence. The model seeks to reduce the university's expenses and maintain sustainability. The university has an endowment fee of 1.7%, but the model aims to get the fee down to 1.10%.

The next area of increasing profit support comes from pledge payments from previous gifts. Now, the university has received $36.8 million in an influx of financial support, which is the first time this high of a number has happened to the Foundation. 

Lastly, strengthened engagement has a lot to do with the Alumni Association. The association has worked diligently on tracking overall engagement and helping create new ways of making the university better.

Main Board Meeting

During the Main Board meeting, OU President Hugh Sherman delivered his report to the Board concerning space optimization of university buildings, The Ridges Development Strategy and the future use of AI in university business.

Due to a shift in the ease of virtual learning and teaching, many classrooms and faculty offices are empty, Sherman said. "We're utilizing 50% of the classrooms and 50% or less of the offices on the Athens campus, so we have a lot of room for improvement," Sherman said. 

Sherman then discussed The Ridges Development Strategy, which includes the rehabilitation and development of The Ridges buildings. The strategy will develop and utilize The Ridges buildings and its 700 acres of land for senior housing, attainable housing and recreation and land research space.

Sherman also addressed the personalization of student learning that AI technology permits. He said AI optimizes curriculum design, the analysis of research data, and predictive analytics, which could help identify effective recruitment and retention strategies. 

"(AI) will have an impact on the entire organization," Sherman said. "The organization that exists in 2030 will be very different from today, and we need to start talking about it and investing in it."

Following Sherman's report, the Board approved several resolutions addressing graduate program fee rates and undergraduate course fees, capital projects and the surplus property designation for the Proctorville Center.

The next Board meeting will take place June 15 and 16 in Walter Hall on the Athens campus.

Madalyn Blair and Addie Hedges contributed to this report.



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