Story by Mary Bradley, Editor-in-Chief
With the approval of the Strategic Initiatives plan, the 2015-16 budget, new freshman admission standards and the transition of the provost, the Board of Regents began to shape the upcoming academic year and beyond during its quarterly meeting June 5.
SEAL OF APPROVAL
While discussing the Strategic Initiatives plan with the board, President Bob Davies said the plan was a living document that carried with it the declaration of rigor, relevance and excellence for the University.
After a year of developing objectives and strategies and with the approval from the board, the 7-year plan will provide guidelines for the University in an effort to focus on improving the four pillars of Murray State: academic excellence, student success, scholarship, research and creative thought and community engagement.
The objectives, which will be implemented through key stakeholders in specific areas of the University, will be reviewed through the years spanning to 2022.
Regent Constantine Curris said the plan needed to be bolder, adding that the key to success for the plan is to develop a distinct brand for the University partnered with having substance.
However, Regent Jerry Sue Thornton said that boldness can become apparent during the implementation of the plan.
“It’s already a good, solid plan that covers a lot of different areas,” she said. “Boldness means big involvement.”
The Board of Regents also approved the $169.2 million budget for the 2015-16 year, with a $6 million increase from last year’s budget. Tuition and fees represent $4.4 million of the budget and scholarships represent $2.5 million.
Approved with the summary of the budget was the raise of salary for University employees. A predictable Cost-of-Living Adjustment strategy was presented to the board, which raises salaries of $25,000 by 1.5 percent and salaries of more than $25,000 by 1 percent.
Housing and dining rates were approved for increase, with housing rates increases being between $104 and $190, depending on the residential college. College Courts was exempt. Dining rates were raised by 2 percent for those who live on campus, which totals to an increase of either $32 or $33, depending on the plan selected by students. Commuter plans were not increased.
Increases will also effect those who have yet to come to campus after the board approved new freshman admission standards. The new standards, which follow similar models of other universities, is packaged in a four-tier structure.
The four tiers address the GPAs and ACT scores of applicants in effort to attract achieving students, maintain retention and increase graduation rates, Davies said.
“We pride ourselves on being a University focused on student success and being student-centered,” he said.
The tiers for admission begin at students having an ACT score of 18 or higher, with top tier applicants having an ACT score of 23 or higher. Students with ACT scores of 17 or below do not qualify for admission according to the new standards. However, the University will assist those students in finding a community college and in transferring to Murray State if they would still like to attend once their test scores are improved.
Other academic changes include the approval of the memorandum of agreement with the Council on Postsecondary Education, or CPE, for Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Jay Morgan, who will be transitioning out of his position to be vice president of Academic Affairs for the CPE.
The board also approved Tim Todd, dean of the Bauernfeind College of Business, to be appointed as interim Provost and vice president of Academic Affairs while the University begins the national search to fill the position.
ON THE AGENDA
In the report of the president, Davies spoke to several changes that will occur on campus, including a narrowing search for vice president of branding, marketing and communications, an update on the tobacco ban and planning for 16th street construction.
He said the search for the vice president position has been narrowed down to six semi-finalists, with the final three to be determined soon by the search committee.
The University has been preparing to make the transition for the campus-wide tobacco policy in the fall, and will begin to notify residents surrounding campus via letter of the new policy. Davies said the University, with the help of Facilities Management, will begin to monitor smoking and will be cleaning up discarded cigarettes near campus.
He said he intends for the implementation and the policy to be done in a positive way and said he has received feedback that reflects his sentiments.
With a new student orientation held June 4, a day before the Board of Regents meeting, Davies said about 75 attendees spoke positively of the new policy, with two attendees criticizing the change.
In partnership with the City of Murray and Mayor Jack Rose, Davies said 16th street is being evaluated for a change to keep students, faculty and staff safe from traffic.
While he said he doesn’t believe an overpass would be the most effective remedy for the issue, he said he the University and the city intend to develop a plan that considers timing and expenses. He said the need for a change increases more and more, with students and faculty having already been hit on the street.
As the board approached adjournment for the day, Regent Constantine Curris and Student Regent Michael Dobbs were presented with a resolution of appreciation as their terms on the board neared the end.
Curris, who has served on the board since 2009, was given the resolution by Davies, but to Curris’ surprise earlier in the meeting, he was also honored by being selected unanimously for the honorary doctorate of education, which is awarded to those who have shown dedication and service to the University.
While the degree will not be presented until a later date, Curris said there was no one more surprised than he was and that the honor was completely unexpected.
“I’m going to miss this board,” Curris said. “This is a great board and a great University.”