Dear Faculty and Staff Colleagues,
I write to share with you a brief summary of the recent Bucknell Board of Trustees meeting, which took place in Washington, D.C., from Thursday, Feb. 2, through Saturday, Feb. 4. Much of the Trustees' time was spent in executive session as part of a Board retreat. During that time, they focused on issues with significant impact on the University's long-term viability, including our students' various social experiences and how they align with institutional goals and values, and how the institution is adapting to the changing demographics of college-aged students. The Board will continue to focus on topics such as these moving forward, and I will share details on those conversations as they become available.
The Board also engaged in deep discussion around our more immediate financial situation. As I have stated several times, during the past decade Bucknell has made significant, strategic investments in the people, programs and infrastructure that allow us to compete for an academically strong and increasingly diverse student body. Those investments continue to benefit the University and have helped to elevate Bucknell's standing as the highly regarded, selective institution it is today. Fortunately, through the stewardship of our financial resources, such as our endowment, which contributes approximately one-fifth of our annual operating budget, we are in good financial standing relative to many colleges and universities. To maintain that status, and having now emerged from that period of growth, we must continue to exercise prudent financial restraint and be highly intentional about the resources we expend. The Board continues to grapple with the reality that Bucknell cannot continue to introduce new initiatives — however desirable — that increase net expenses without evaluating other programs that either have run their course of usefulness or, despite our best intentions, have proven to be ineffective or do not align with our mission.
We will, of course, continue to make strategic investments that strengthen the University, including in our faculty and staff. I am pleased that the Board accepted recommendations from the University Planning & Budget Committee in regards to faculty and staff compensation, and established a 3 percent increase to the compensation pool for staff and a 3.25 percent increase to the compensation pool for faculty. As in years past, a percentage of those pools will be reserved for promotional or market-driven adjustments. The merit portion of the staff wage pool provides resources to be allocated by different percentages to each staff member by supervisors for implementation July 1, 2017. Though the Board also acted on the University's comprehensive fee, we will follow our usual practice of first sharing that information with students and their families before making it publicly available.
The Board also continues to recognize the importance of making appropriate strategic investments to keep Bucknell competitive in its recruitment efforts for high-quality students, faculty and staff, and to enable the University to offer its students a rich living-learning community. With that said, I am excited to share the news that the Board accepted the administration's recommendation to renovate and expand the former Delta Upsilon fraternity house for the purpose of creating a physical space for the Bucknell Humanities Center. The approved project is expected to cost $7.9 million, and is the proposal preferred by the Humanities Council, which includes a large common room on the ground floor capable of holding 100 in theatre-style seating. We will also bring the facility into ADA compliance, including through the addition of an elevator, and the original structure (which is about 65 years old) will benefit from a variety of sustainability upgrades. You may see proposed floor plans and conceptual renderings. This is a great moment for the humanities and for Bucknell. We hope that work on the facility will be completed by spring 2018.
The Board also voted to move forward with phase two of the enhancements to the Bucknell West baseball and softball fields. Among the enhancements included in this project are adding certain accessibility features, grandstands and press boxes to the facilities. This $2.1 million project is completely funded by donors, and it is expected to be completed next winter.
The Board received an update on the WE DO Campaign, which currently stands at $435 million raised, as we close in on our half-billion-dollar goal. As you'll recall, it was during last winter's Board meeting when I announced the largest pledge in University history — Bob and Doris Malesardi's $20 million to support financial aid endowment. Through that generous commitment, the Malesardis created a matching program designed to inspire additional gifts to financial aid. I am happy to report that more than 50 donors have participated in the Malesardi Match program to date, totaling an additional $12 million in commitments to endowed scholarships. The campaign as a whole has raised almost $150 million for financial aid support.
I want to thank the following faculty representatives who traveled to Washington, D.C., to attend the various committee meetings that took place: Prof. Bill Kenny, faculty chair; Prof. Gary Steiner, faculty secretary; and Profs. Stu Thompson and Nancy White. I also want to thank Gary for delivering what I hear was a fascinating snaptalk in the Academic Affairs Committee about the moral status of animals other than humans, which is the focus of his current research. I know our Trustees value such interactions with our faculty.
As an aside, I want to note that for the first time in perhaps a very long time, the average tenure and average age of the active Board members is below that of the president's tenure and age. We've appointed 17 new members since July 2010 (nine men, eight women), with 13 members continuing from before I was appointed (eight men, five women).
Somehow the calendar leaves us with fewer than 100 days until Commencement. We have much to do between now and then, and I look forward to working with you to continue our unremitting journey toward making Bucknell the best it can be.