Dear Faculty and Staff Colleagues,
Please find below my summary of our most recent Board of Trustees meeting, which occurred on campus beginning Thursday, Oct. 13, through Saturday, Oct. 15. I would like to extend my gratitude to the faculty representatives who attended the various committee meetings, including: Prof. Bill Kenny, faculty chair; Prof. Gary Steiner, faculty secretary; and Profs. Sue Ellen Henry, Greg Krohn, Linda Smolka, Jennie Stevenson, Stu Thompson and Nancy White. I would also like to thank Prof. Janice Mann for delivering a compelling and insightful snap talk on the Leaning Tower of Pisa during the Academic Affairs committee meeting. And thank you to everyone who was able to attend our annual Academic Celebration Dinner last Friday. This event is among the highlights of our annual October Board meeting, bringing together trustees, faculty, staff and students to recognize and celebrate the great work we do together in service of our mission of educating individuals for a lifetime of critical thinking and strong leadership.
The Board focused a great deal of its attention on the status of our 2008 Campus Master Plan and future strategic capital investments — topics I expect will remain at the forefront of the next several Board meetings. Among the projects we discussed is the construction of Academic East, which we envision will provide new space for Engineering and serve as a new home for our Department of Education, building upon existing synergies between the two disciplines while also allowing for subsequent and much-needed renovations to the Olin Science and Dana and Breakiron Engineering Buildings. It is worth noting that the development of Academic East and our recent conversations with the Board continue to be heavily informed by our many on-campus discussions, including last spring's open forum and subsequent sessions focused on issues of sustainability.
I had previously written to you with the expectation that we would seek approval to build Academic East this fall. However, given the existing economic conditions and the need to provide the Board with a comprehensive review of our Campus Master Plan, we now plan to seek that approval from the Board no later than our April meeting. Actual construction of Academic East will remain contingent upon fundraising.
We also continued our discussion around a new facility for what will soon be our College of Management. In my October 2015 Board update, I shared with you a suggestion from one of our trustees that we consider a joint facility for both Management and Art & Art History. There is continued enthusiasm around the concept of this interdisciplinary approach, which offers potential to strengthen connections between the programs and provide Bucknell with yet another point of distinction, further setting us apart from our peer and aspirant institutions. As is the case with Academic East, construction of a new Management facility will be contingent upon adequate fundraising.
Included in our ongoing discussions around the Campus Master Plan and major capital investments is the issue of student housing. As you know, in the spring the Board approved an incremental, 200-student increase in undergraduate enrollment, which we expect to be fully realized in five to eight years. That, coupled with the loss of bed space that we anticipate will occur during upcoming renovations to existing residence halls — and the question of what will become of our housing units west of U.S. Route 15, commonly referred to as “the Mods” — requires a well-defined, strategic plan to address issues of student housing in the near future. We will most certainly advance that conversation at our upcoming winter meeting and beyond. In total, some 700 beds are in play: 200 from enrollment growth, 200 that are currently housed downtown, 260 in the Mods and about 40 that will be displaced as a result of renovations over the next decade.
I am also pleased to share that the Board continues to show strong support for transforming the former Delta Upsilon fraternity house into a physical space for our Humanities Center. We expect to receive final construction approval for that project this winter.
The Elaine Langone Center (ELC) also remains in need of significant structural, mechanical and aesthetic upgrades throughout, similar to the transformation to Walls Lounge. Those upgrades are projected to cost $20-$25 million. Due to a confluence of continued uncertainty in the world's financial markets, our expectation of a sustained period of low endowment returns, and in an effort to demonstrate continued prudent financial restraint, we have again decided to delay renovations to the ELC. We recognize this facility is an essential space on campus, and remain committed to addressing this significant need in the near future. One consideration is to move from a multi-year, phased approach to a single renovation, which may result in cost savings. We will continue that analysis to help inform our decision on how and when to move forward with this project.
In addition to our conversations around the Campus Master Plan, Provost Barbara Altmann led a robust discussion with the Board on the topic of shared governance — a notion that is unfamiliar to many of our trustees and, in fact, many individuals outside of academe. While the University’s charter specifies that our Board of Trustees maintain ultimate responsibility for all aspects of the University, our Board recognizes — and now better appreciates — the role that all of us play in stewarding the University, and that certain decisions, such as those related to curriculum, appropriately come under the purview of the faculty. We will continue to educate the Board on this topic, including during our orientation sessions for new trustees.
The Board also received an update on our branding initiative with Ologie from Trustee Chris O’Brien ’80, P’18, P’20, who chairs the Board’s Development & External Relations committee; Chief Communications Officer Andy Hirsch; and Ologie Partner and Chief Creative Officer Kelly Ruoff. As I have written in the past, our goal through this initiative is to establish a comprehensive, well-defined, authentic and aspirational brand that helps us better communicate Bucknell’s unique offering to our various constituencies. I am pleased to report that we are making significant progress on this front, and I would like to thank the nearly 300 faculty and staff who have offered their insights and feedback at various points throughout this process so far.
Finally, the Board paused to remember Randy MacDonald P’02, who passed away in September after a long and courageous battle with cancer. As I shared with you last month, Randy was a special person whom I considered a close and trusted adviser, and a good friend. In honor of Randy, the Board offered a Resolution of Remembrance, which reads in part, “We remember him as a beloved and influential member of the worldwide Bucknell community and an exemplar of his profession.”
November is quickly approaching, with the conclusion of the fall semester not far behind. While the time pressures mount as the days pass, please take a moment now and again to appreciate the great and important work you are doing on behalf of Bucknell, and the immeasurable role you play in shaping our students’ futures.
With deep gratitude,