OU Trustees approve building projects

DUBLIN — The Ohio University Board of Trustees approved three construction projects and the design phase of a fourth during its recent meeting at the University’s Dublin Integrated Education Center.

The board also received updates on the FY18 operating budget, OU’s online learning strategy and the process that will be used to develop a new Strategic Enrollment Plan for the University.

Ohio University Capital Projects

Three projects were approved for design and construction starting in 2018, and one project was approved to undertake design.

The restrooms in Bryan Hall will be renovated to provide a more efficient layout, address failed plumbing systems and bring them to code and University standards, as well as to improve aesthetics. Bryan Hall was built in 1948, and the restrooms are original to the building. The $2 million project design will begin in FY18, with construction scheduled to complete FY19. Both phases were approved.

Exterior limestone panels will be repaired on Brasee Hall on the Lancaster Campus. The building was constructed in 1968, and the original limestone panels and brick facade are still in place. However, weathering has caused the limestone to begin to separate from the building. Design on the $610,000 project will begin in FY18, and construction is expected complete in FY19. Both project phases were approved.

The South Pole, a space below Nelson Commons, will be renovated into a lounge and hub. The space is currently underutilized because it is small and out-of-date. The project will upgrade functionality and aesthetics. Entertainment elements, study spaces and office spaces will also be created to transform the space into a hub for South Green. The $1 million project’s design will begin in FY18 and construction is expected to be complete in FY19. Both project phases were approved.

The Chilled Water Piping Project will provide the opportunity for buildings on OU’s North Green to connect to the University’s Central Chilled Water Loop. The connection will be coordinated with future building renovation projects. The current project budget is $850,000, and $110,000 for design work was approved by Trustees today.

OHIO’s FY18 Operating Budget

University officials provided a budget update now that the Ohio General Assembly and Gov. John Kasich have finalized the state’s biennial budget bill.

“The provisions of that bill did not change any of the assumptions included in our FY18 budgets as presented to the Board and, therefore, the budgets approved in June are considered final at this time,” said Deb Shaffer, Vice President for Finance and Administration, CFO and Treasurer.

The state budget maintained flat State Share of Instruction (SSI) funding and the freeze on in-state undergraduate tuition for FY19, reinforcing the need for realistic enrollment projections and continued discussions regarding the development of a balanced, multi-year budget that maintains academic quality.

OHIO’s Online Learning Strategy

Senior Vice Provost for Instructional Innovation Brad Cohen presented an update on OU’s online learning strategy as a significant and growing dimension of the University’s teaching mission.

Cohen noted that, although the University’s existing plan has served it well for the past two years, the online learning environment is volatile and complex and calls for ongoing consideration.

“Ohio University has experienced rapid growth in fully online learning at both degree completion and graduate/professional level courses and programs. For Ohio to build on this success in an increasingly competitive space — for Ohio to move to a mature operation with essential and appropriately aligned services that will position us for the future — we must address critical questions and challenges,” Cohen said. “This next generation eLearning unit will be primarily responsible for leadership, project management, administrative support, student support, and coordination across many units which need to be engaged for successful online learning operations. The vision is for an eLearning unit that supports both a turnkey operation from the perspective of academic units and a seamless high touch enrolled student experience.”

The presentation also included examples of online learning at OU, a review of quality, national trends and OU data that show growth and increasing centrality of online learning and OU’s current strategy and its implications.

Strategic Enrollment Management Planning

University officials presented the scope and process to develop a new Strategic Enrollment Plan, which is expected to be finalized and presented to the board in early 2018. The presentation included a discussion of challenges related to meeting enrollment goals and the ways in which OU is using analytics and data to address those challenges.

OU’s Coordinated Response to Sexual Misconduct

Senior Associate Vice President and Dean of Students Jenny Hall-Jones and Sara Trower, executive director and Title IX coordinator for University Equity and Civil Rights Compliance, provided a review and update on OU’s campus Sexual Misconduct, Relationship Violence and Stalking policy.

The discussion included a look at the University’s comprehensive, coordinated approach in working to prevent and respond to sexual misconduct, relationship violence and stalking, as well as a summary of services and planned service expansions, including increasing capacity to deliver online training.

Annual Sustainability Update

Steve Wood, Associate Vice President of Facilities Management and Safety, provided OU’s annual sustainability update.

During the discussion, Wood noted that the University’s 2012 plan was comprised of 35 benchmarks in the subgroups of built environment, outreach and education, waste reduction, and energy efficiency. He shared that the University has met, will meet, or will exceed 25 of those benchmarks.

Wood also discussed the University’s plans and progress related to updating the 2012 Sustainability Plan.

University Progress Report on Governor’s Taskforce on Affordability and Efficiency

University officials reviewed institutional progress and initiatives against Board-approved Affordability and Efficiency Goals in response to the Governor’s Taskforce Recommendations. Materials included updated Cost Diagnostics through FY17.

Other Board Business

In other business, the board:

Approved a 25-year easement with American Electric Power to permit installation of an underground line to connect the substation at 79 Factory Street to an AEP utility pole on the corner of South Shafer Street and Riverside Drive.

Acknowledged and approved two 25-year cell tower ground leases, which the University originally entered into in 2004 and 2009. One is just east of Route 33 near the city of Athens’ water treatment facility, and the other is adjacent to a water tower located at The Ridges.

Approved an amendment to the Bylaws of the Ohio University Board of Trustees.