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Trustees cruise through packed agenda at their first meeting of the academic year

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The board of trustees held their first meeting of the academic year Wednesday in the Horace Mann Center’s Presidential Board Room.

The meeting lasted about two hours and had an action-packed agenda.

Because the guests from O’Connor & Drew, P.C., the university’s accounting firm, had to leave early, their report was taken out of order and presented first.

David Diiulis, the same accountant who one year earlier presented the accounting firm’s damning report on former president Evan Dobelle’s spending, reported that the university is back on track with its finances.

Even though the construction of the new science center is a burden on the capital assets part of the budget, the university’s finances are currently in good shape.

He called the two reports that they conducted “clean reports.”

New trustee Bob Martin asked about the financial solvency of the university if there were to be a dip in the economy.

Diiulis responded that there are a lot of cash reserves and that the university should be okay.

Trustee Kevin Queenin added that solvency will be discussed in the future. He is the chair of the trustee’s Finance Committee.

Once the accountants left, Queenin made a motion to accept the report from O’Connor & Drew. It was approved unanimously.

During the president’s report, interim president Elizabeth Preston introduced Larry Johnson, who will be the university’s director of non-discrimination and compliance. He will be responsible for the university’s enforcement and compliance with Title IX and other statutes that deal with discrimination.

She then introduced Cheryl Stanley, dean of education, who spoke about a book that was written and published regarding the histories of the nine state universities in Massachusetts.

Each trustee was issued a copy, which contained articles written about Westfield State University by professors Mara Dodge and Beth Rothermel.

Marsha Marotta, interim vice president of academic affairs, then introduced four outstanding students who had been identified as excelling in academic efforts over the summer.

The first student was Kane Hardaker, a senior geography and regional planning major who spent time abroad in the Peruvian Amazon studying indigenous land use.

“I really appreciated the trip because it helped me grasp what I wanted to do in the future,” he said.

The second student was Angelo Burgos, a senior criminal justice major. Burgos is also a member of the EMS Club and the deputy chief in the student security force.

He interned with the Massachusetts State Police and the Governor’s Office. He worked with the State Police with programs that they were doing and coordinated with the Governor’s Office, where he was also an intern.

The third and fourth students were John and Patrick Bartel.

The Brothers Bartel are both senior history majors from Groton, Mass.

They both spent their summers in the Washington Center program in the nation’s capital.

John interned with the U.S. Treasury and Patrick interned with the Land Trust Alliance.

John gave an impassioned speech about all of the opportunities that Westfield State University has provided for him.

“Whenever I was asked where I was from I would tell them Massachusetts and then I was very proud to tell them Westfield State University,” he said.

Patrick said, “Being from Westfield opened so many doors for me.”

Marotta then introduced Felicia Barber, assistant professor of music, who talked about her research on African-American spirituals over the summer.

She said that her research from the summer expanded on her dissertation, which dealt with the African diaspora, Louisiana Creole, the Gulla language, and the African-American dialect of American English.

She said that she was happy to complete the research with scholarship grants through the university at the Avery Research Center in Charleston, S.C. and other research centers around the American South.

She then asked the trustees and audience to close their eyes and listen to her perform an a capella version of a spiritual in our dialect and then the same spiritual in the dialect that she was researching.

Richard Lenfest, athletic director, introduced two students who had performed extraordinary feats in Track and Field in the spring.

Naloti Palma, a junior ethnic and gender studies major, threw discus in the New England Championships and placed first. She qualified for the national championships in shot put and discus.

Travon Godette, a junior English major, became New England champ in javelin. He threw 213 ft. in javelin in nationals to become another of the university’s All-Americans.

Lenfest said that it was the first year that the university had two All-Americans in the same year.

The board of trustees then heard the Student and Academic Affairs Committee report.

Carlton Pickron, vice president of student affairs, asked the board to consider a $100 surcharge for first-year non-transfer students who do not complete the AlcoholEdu or Havens courses by Oct. 30.

“The surcharge is a little stick to remind them to take this extremely serious and understand the ramifications of their actions,” Pickron said.

Once the motion was made, the trustees wanted to make sure that the students were not facing the surcharge punitively, but Susan Lamontagne, dean of students, helped the clarify the confusion by informing the trustees that it is very clearly not punitive.

The courses cost the university $21,000 so the $100 is an effort to recover some of the money from students who do not complete the course, she said.

It passed unanimously.

For the Emeritus Committee report, three professors were granted emerti/a status.

William Bennett, professor of geography and regional planning; Kathleen Macintosh, professor of world languages; and Marilyn Templeton, professor of education, were granted the honor of professor emerti/a.

Kimberly Tobin, interim vice president of administration and finance, was then asked to help provide the Finance Committee report.

She announced that the number of university credit cards issued went from 47 to zero, which was met with praise from the trustees. A&F now uses procurement cards of which there are 27.

She also announced a project that will be done in accordance with the Division of Capital Asset Management, which aims to increase the university’s energy savings.

There is an initial up front cost of $1.9 million, but it will be repaid over 20 years with the savings that are projected to be made.

Tobin reminded the trustees of their previous approval of $1.5 million to be taken from reserves to help pay for the Science Center.

They already moved $1 million, so a motion was made by Queenin to allow the interim president to transfer the remaining $500,000 from reserves to the monies being used to pay for the Science Center. It was approved unanimously.

She announced the IT is in the process of implementing systems to ensure that the network is more secure.

Queenin applauded the efforts by saying, “It is a great step made by the university to move security forward.”

The trustees unanimously approved the security policy.

Lastly, she announced changes to the travel policy.

The six major changes were as follows: 1) to require supervisory signatures on reimbursement requests, 2) to clarify when travel is permitted before business activity, 3) wording that directs the reader to the business meals policy instead of repeating it in the travel policy, 4) mileage calculation was made more consistent and excluded mileage of normal commute, 5) established Pan Am as travel vendor, and 6) to amend travel forms for consistency with generally accepted accounting practices.

From trustee Terrell Hill’s Governance and Nomination Committee, a proposal was put forth requesting the establishment of an Advancement Committee.

Chaired by new trustee Bob Johnson, the committee will provide oversight for the Advancement arm of the university. It was unanimously approved by the trustees.

The trustees then established that members can participate in meetings with remote participation. They cannot, however, miss more than two board meetings in a calendar year or more than two committee meetings. A physical quorum is still needed.

The second to last item on the agenda was the presidential evaluation.

The trustees voted to complete the evaluation by Oct. 30 so it could be sent to Richard Freeland, commissioner of higher education, which will then be ratified by the trustees in December.

The last item on their agenda was the presidential search. For more information on the presidential search, refer to the article on the front page.

The next meeting of the board of trustees will be Dec. 15 in the President’s Board Room on the second floor of the Horace Mann Center.

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