Dear Faculty and Staff Colleagues,
I write to share with you a summary of our spring Board of Trustees meeting, which was held on campus from Thursday, April 28, to Saturday, April 30. A regular highlight of our spring meeting is the annual Faculty Recognition Dinner. It was a joy to celebrate with so many of you the promotions of 31 faculty colleagues and to honor eight faculty who are retiring from Bucknell. The night was also special as it afforded us the opportunity to thank Professor Kim Daubman for her four years of service to Bucknell as faculty chair. Kim performed masterfully in what is often an underappreciated role, and I am grateful for her leadership.
Among the Board's principal responsibilities is stewardship of the University's finances. After extensive reviews of both the current and upcoming fiscal year budgets, the Board approved the fiscal year 2016-17 budget, which includes a 3.6 percent increase to the comprehensive fee, a 2.75 percent salary increase pool for staff and a 3.25 percent increase for faculty, all of which were approved by the Board in January. In my winter Board of Trustee summary, I wrote that we must commit ourselves to financial restraint due to the confluence of world financial market instability, low returns on our endowment and a period of a significant expansion to our faculty and staff. One result of that prudence is that the upcoming fiscal year budget reflects a 1 to 2 percent decrease to most departmental operating budgets; another is evident in the one-year delay to the rejuvenation of the Elaine Langone Center.
At the same time, we will continue to make appropriate strategic investments, including in capital projects. After much discussion in January, and again during this meeting, the Board approved the construction of two small houses on south campus, beginning this spring and concluding in fall 2017. These new spaces will, among other things, allow us to move forward with renovating and repurposing the former Delta Upsilon fraternity house into a physical space for our Humanities Center. That work is expected to begin in summer 2017.
The architectural design firm Stantec gave an in-depth presentation to the Board on the status of Academic East. The contents of the presentation were heavily informed by our many on-campus discussions, including this semester's open forum and subsequent sessions focused on various sustainability efforts around this project. While we continue to refine the programming that will be supported by this new facility, we expect it will house new classrooms and state-of-the-art lab space for engineering, with a particular focus on biomedical engineering and the WE DO Campaign's Human Health Initiative. We also expect it to be a new home for our Department of Education, allowing for subsequent renovations to the Olin Science and Rooke Chemistry buildings. We plan to seek Board approval for construction of Academic East at our October meeting. Once approved, building the facility will be contingent upon fundraising.
As I've shared with you on several occasions, the Board has been discussing a modest increase to our student body. We have spent considerable time analyzing the comprehensive impact of such an increase, taking into consideration factors such as faculty and financial resources, enrollment management goals, campus infrastructure, etc. After much deliberation, the Board approved an incremental, 200-student increase in undergraduate enrollment. We expect the increase to be fully realized in five to eight years.
In my May 2015 Board of Trustee meeting summary, I wrote that this decision allows us to bring the student-to-faculty ratio from nearly 9:1 to 10:1, which was the expected outcome when the Board committed to lowering the faculty course load from six to five a decade ago. In addition, while debt and donations will support the construction of future capital projects, we expect new tuition revenue from this enrollment growth to support the operation and maintenance of future capital projects. Finally, this decision enables us to meet the growing enrollment demands for management education without diminishing the size of student bodies in the College of Arts & Sciences and College of Engineering. You can read the full text of the motion.
In concert with that decision, and after considerable thought and debate with many of my colleagues and with the Board, we have also decided to eliminate the practice of Bucknell students transferring into our management program at the conclusion of their first year. As many of you know, allowing such transfers often results in all-around discontent. Each year, a notable number of students who are not admitted to our School of Management still choose to attend Bucknell with the intention of transferring into management after their first year. We typically accommodate only a fraction of those who wish to do so. As a result, many of the students who are not granted transfer remain in programs in which they never intended to major. Their dissatisfaction often ripples, affecting their classmates and leaving our faculty colleagues teaching students who may want little to do with some of the classes in which they find themselves. Eliminating these transfers in tandem with the Board's approved motion to increase student enrollment allows for initial growth in our new College of Management while improving the academic engagement and interests of our student body in the College of Arts & Sciences.
In the spirit of full transparency, I should add that many on the Board view this decision as a restriction on our students' intellectual and academic exploration, and feel it is antithetical to what is educationally normative and desirable. The Board will regularly evaluate this decision in the years to come.
Word of mouth is a powerful communications tool, and having a long history of allowing transfers into the School of Management will likely mean it will take several years to change perceptions about the practice. However, I have directed our admissions and communications teams to begin messaging in unambiguous terms the change to our prospective students; I anticipate that the 2016-17 academic year will be the last in which admitted students can transfer into management as rising sophomores.
In my winter Board of Trustees summary, I also wrote to you about our need to establish a comprehensive, well-defined, authentic and aspirational identity. During this most recent Board meeting, Ologie, a branding firm with whom we have partnered and that works primarily within higher education, met with the trustees to discuss this important endeavor. Representatives from Ologie also spent the majority of their time on campus talking with more than 100 students, faculty, staff and members of the Board as they work to gain a deep understanding of Bucknell and help us better articulate to our various audiences what we all believe to be a truly distinctive educational experience.
While we know that students choose Bucknell for our excellent academic offerings, their experience outside of the classroom significantly impacts their overall experience and informs how they think, feel and talk about the University. Like nearly every campus in the country, our social environment presents challenges to meet, and also opportunities to improve upon our living-learning environment. It is within that context that the Board has directed my administration to develop a new assessment tool that takes a comprehensive view of students' experience outside of the classroom and produces actionable data to help us build upon our strengths and addresses areas of concern. We will ensure that a wide-ranging group of students is involved in the development and implementation of the survey tool, which we anticipate will launch in the fall.
On the Thursday of the Board meeting, the University held its fourth-annual Trustee Giving Challenge. It was once again an extremely successful 24 hours, with more than 4,400 individuals donating nearly $1.8 million. The gifts will benefit students in every corner of the University, with the Bucknell Fund receiving nearly 20 percent of the funds. The event pushed the total raised in the WE DO Campaign to nearly $400 million. My thanks to all of those who participated to support our students, and to our trustees for their generosity and their continued support of this event. You can read more about the results of the challenge.
I am also pleased to share that the Board unanimously voted to confer on this year's Commencement speaker, Leslie Moonves '71, a Doctor of Humane Letters degree. Before being considered for this honorary degree by the full Board, this nomination was approved by independent committees of our trustees and faculty. Les has expressed to me his great appreciation for this special recognition.
During its annual business meeting on Saturday, the Board unanimously re-elected four trustees to new five-year terms: Harriet Edelman '77, P'14; Gene Gorab '85, P'12, P'16; Marlene Hurd '79, P'10 and Frank Schoeneman '76, P'06. Their new terms will commence July 1.
Also on July 1, the Board will welcome three new trustees, including alumni Dawn Becker '85 and Bob Gilligan '81. And given our deep and diverse connections with Geisinger Health System, Geisinger's new President & CEO, David Feinberg, was also elected to the Board. This continues the practice of having our two institutions represented on each other's board.
This meeting marked the retirement of two valued Board members: Jeb Bachman '78, P'12 and Craig Mills '76, P'06. It is impossible to enumerate the ways in which Jeb and Craig have contributed to the University. We have all in some way benefited from their passion and commitment, and we greatly appreciate their longstanding dedication to Bucknell. Under new bylaws recently passed by the Board, Jeb and Craig will be eligible for consideration for emeritus status only one year after the end of their final term.
Finally, this year's spring Board meeting was particularly special because it offered Bucknell the privilege of publicly recognizing the contributions of some extraordinary individuals. On Friday afternoon, we gathered in the newly named MacDonald Commons Building to honor Randy MacDonald P'02 and his wife, Kathy, for their recent naming gift to the University. It was particularly delightful to see by their side their daughter, Megan MacDonald Hodgson '02, her husband, Dawson Hodgson '00, and their two young boys. We owe sincere gratitude to Randy and his family for their support and deep commitment to Bucknell.
As you no doubt recall, in January we announced a pledge of $20 million, the largest in University history. The pledge by Bob Malesardi '45 and his wife, Doris, is a commitment from Bob's estate and will be used exclusively to support financial aid endowment. On Saturday, in what was a truly historic event, Bob and Doris joined us for the official dedication of the Malesardi Quadrangle. Surrounded by their four daughters (three of whom are alumni) and other family members, trustees, faculty, staff and students, and with the cooperation of the weather, we held a brief program on the newly named Quad honoring the Malesardis' unparalleled financial commitment to our students. You can read more about this exceptional and singular moment.
These extremely generous commitments by the MacDonald and Malesardi families are tangible reminders of why we are here - for our students. As we close another academic year together, please know how grateful I am for your passion and unwavering dedication to our students. Bucknell is better today than it was yesterday, and it will be even better still tomorrow, because of you.