Photo by Eric Goodwin / Assistant News Editor
The 10-member Board of Trustees, who are responsible for the oversight of MTSU, met Tuesday in the Student Union Ballroom to discuss and approve motions regarding new building projects, ways to evaluate President Sidney McPhee and to discuss funding through the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.
The meeting marked the third time all trustees have been present to meet at MTSU for a Board meeting, but committee meetings in previous months helped consolidate the lengthy processes required to adopt policy pertinent to a campus of over 22,000 students.
Lt. Gen. Keith Huber, the senior adviser for veterans and leadership initiatives at MTSU, opened the meeting by leading a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by a recognition of Juan Davila, a veteran who served in Iraq. Davila plans to graduate with a degree in computer science in May.
Following the opening remarks by MTSU President Sidney McPhee, the various committee heads in the Board gave committee reports and presented action items to be moved.
Trustee Pam Wright, the academic affairs, student life and athletics committee chair, presented the information items presented in previous committee meetings, including the recommendation of new academic degrees. The degrees presented included a B.S. in Tourism and Hospitality Management, M.S. in Teaching English as a Second Language, M.S. in Physician Assistant Studies and B.S. in Interactive Media.
Finance and Personnel Committee Chair Joey Jacobs detailed the submitted proposals to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission for the construction of two new buildings on campus. The first building Jacobs discussed, an academic classroom building, had been approved by the Tennessee Board of Regents prior to the conception of the new Board of Trustees.
Jacobs explained his proposal to build a new mechatronics and engineering building. In the fall of 2016, 51 first-time freshmen enrolled as Mechatronics Engineering students.
Chris Karbowiak, chair of the audit and compliance committee, discussed internal audit measures to be adopted, and Vice Chair Darrell Freeman discussed measures in the administrative and governance committee to create a way to evaluate McPhee and respond accordingly.
All action items were approved by the board unanimously.
McPhee gave a report describing positive signs of growth at MTSU, such as a 3.4 percent increase in enrollment for first-time freshmen and a 7.64 percent increase in new graduates.
He also addressed crime near campus, affirming that MTSU, MTSU Police and the Murfreesboro Police Department would continue to work together to deal with the issue.
Two men died by gunfire within weeks of one another in May at apartments near campus. The apartments are catered for college students but not directly affiliated with the university.
McPhee said that, on Monday, “the City of Murfreesboro and MTSU finalized the signing of a mutual law enforcement assistant agreement that allows ongoing collaboration between the two agencies regarding police patrolling and crime prevention.”
The president also touched on a new academic institute to be established this fall.
“This institute will allow students to follow in the footsteps of the late MTSU graduate and Nobel laureate James Buchanan by exploring the impact of public policy on the economy,” McPhee said.
The new addition will be dubbed the “Political Economy Research Institute” and will receive funding from a $3.5 million grant from the Charles Koch Foundation.
An important non-action item on the agenda was the presentation given by Mike Krause and Steven Gentile, two representatives from THEC. Much of the university’s funding stems from THEC, and decreased allocations to MTSU in recent years have shifted the university’s economic needs from the commission to the students.
Krause, the commission president and a member of the Tennessee Board of Regents, said he feels like communications between the new Board of Trustees and the THEC are going smoothly.
“When I talk to my peers in other states, one of the things I’ve learned that I’m very thankful for is the relationship between the Higher Education Coordinating Board and the governing board,” Krause said. “Its tone is directly linked to communication and trust, ultimately. We feel we have both of those things with MTSU.”
However, Krause also spoke about the subject of decreased state funding as a result of THEC’s performance-based funding mechanisms, as well as the impacts of the 2008 recession.
“The state used to give you a lot more money,” Krause said.
For research, service and sponsored programs alone, MTSU lost almost $4 million in THEC funding between the 2012-2013 and 2015-2016 years.
Despite the newfound freedoms handed to MTSU with the adoption of a governance board specifically dealing with the university, Freeman said he still feels like much power is out of the Board’s hands.
“I think what I learned today is that we don’t have 100 percent control of our destiny,” Freeman said.
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