Photo by Andrew Wigdor / MTSU Sidelines
The MTSU Board of Trustees held its first quarterly meeting of the spring 2018 semester Tuesday in the Student Union Building, in which two new academic programs in the colleges of Business and Education and a recommendation to bring all faculty, staff and administrative salaries up to the market standard were approved.
After the introduction of new MTSU Head Basketball Coach Nick McDevitt, the trustees began by approving the minutes of the last quarterly meeting on Dec. 5, 2017. The chairs of each of the four board committees then presented the reports from the 2018 committee meetings. The trustee committees include the Academic Affairs, Student Life and Athletics Committee, the Finance and Personnel Committee, the Audit and Compliance Committee and the Executive and Governance Committee.
During the report presentations, Academic Affairs, Student Life and Athletics Committee Chair Pam Wright stated that a Bachelor of Science in Commerce and a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education will be established from existing concentrations at MTSU. She also said that a new Bachelor of Science will be added to the existing Bachelor of Arts in English, and a Bachelor of Arts will be added to the existing Bachelor of Science in Communication.
“These new programs will give students more options and clarify the degree that they are earning,” Wright said.
Wright also stated that the committee was notified of the establishment of the International Ginseng Institute, which is a research partnership with the Guangxi Botanical Garden of Medicinal Plants in China, during their previous meeting.
Finance and Personnel Committee Chair Joey Jacobs then stated that the board, during the Finance and Personnel Committee meeting in January, was informed that it would cost MTSU $12.1 million to bring faculty salaries up to the 2014-15 market standard. Last year, the state only funded MTSU $3 million for salary increases, and it cost the university $4.5 million to implement the three percent “across-the-board” salary raise.
“If implementation of the current compensation plan began July 2018 and was completed July 2020, the university would still be six years behind the market in salaries,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs stated that, during the January meeting, it was determined that faculty, staff and administrative salaries should be brought to market level before the implementation of a merit-based pay plan. Jacobs said that MTSU President Sidney McPhee informed the Finance and Personnel Committee that the university had a hired a director of partnership and strategic planning to help develop partnerships with industries to build outside sources of revenue for MTSU. The recommendation to bring salaries to market level was then approved by the full board in the quarterly meeting.
Board of Trustees Vice Chair Darrell Freeman then stated that the Executive and Governance Committee approved Jacobs to negotiate an employment contract with McPhee, and consideration for an overall evaluation policy for McPhee was delayed after Faculty Trustee Tony Johnston discussed the need for expanded feedback from stakeholders in the process. The board also approved the raising of McPhee’s salary by $52,184, which is a 15 percent raise. Before determining the notable salary increase, the board hired an outside higher education consulting firm to look into McPhee’s compensation.
To close out the meeting, McPhee provided the “President’s Report,” in which he outlined the status of some major activities that the university has been involved in or undertaken. During his report, McPhee updated the trustees on MTSU’s recent legislative involvement.
“This spring, we have maintained, as a university, a very visible presence during the 110th session of the Tennessee General Assembly,” McPhee said.
McPhee stated that he made about six trips in recent months to personally “engage with legislators, present budgetary needs in various committees and engage in several meetings with the governor and state leadership.”
The president then provided the board with an update on the legislative issues or pieces of legislation that significantly impact MTSU.
The first piece of legislation that McPhee mentioned was the Tennessee Tuition and Accountability Act, sponsored by Sen. Steven Dickerson. McPhee said that the act has unanimously passed in both the Tennessee House and Senate and has been sent to the governor for his signature. The bill would require universities to provide students with a four-year prediction of tuition and fee increases in the student’s admission materials.
McPhee then spoke about the Transparency in Higher Education Act, which is sponsored by Sen. Frank Nicely and is still in committee hearings for both the House and Senate. The bill requires state institutions of higher education to provide detailed information on course instructors, materials and assignments prior to student registration.
“There has been considerable work from all of our higher education institutions to inform the sponsors and committees of the significant challenges that (the Transparency in Higher Education Act) will present to our institutions, and the sponsor has agreed with an amendment that, if passed, should evaluate most of our concerns,” McPhee said.
Another bill McPhee discussed was House Bill 2155, which is sponsored by Rep. David Hawk and would require local school systems to exclusively utilize the community colleges and Tennessee colleges of applied technology to provide dual enrollment programs. The bill will be headed to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission for evaluation this summer.
“We remain adamantly opposed to this bill, as it will have measurable impact on our enrollment,” McPhee said. “We are confident that many of the local school systems are opposed to this bill.”
The second bill that McPhee said the university was opposed to was the Complete College Tennessee Act, which would require students to complete 30 academic hours their first year and 30 hours each subsequent year at a public university to maintain their lottery scholarship.
“We … continue to work to modify or defeat this bill,” McPhee said.
McPhee also said that, in anticipation of the passage of the state budget, university administrative staff will be holding budget hearings that involve each academic dean into late April. McPhee clarified that the construction of the new College of Behavioral and Health Sciences building, which ranked first on the THEC’s higher education priority list, will most likely begin in the fall. The university hopes to begin classes in the building by fall 2020.
McPhee then reminded the board that the Tennessee Historical Commission denied MTSU’s request to rename Forrest Hall in February.
“Last week, (University Counsel Heidi Zimmerman) and I discussed with the state attorney general and his deputy the possibility of filing a petition for review in transitory court,” McPhee said.
Because the attorney general’s office would be representing two state entities in court in this case, Attorney General Herbert Slatery advised McPhee that the school would need to retain outside legal counsel to move forward. MTSU would be responsible for paying the legal fees.
“Currently, no decision has been made regarding our next action,” McPhee said. “We are taking that under consideration as a result of the feedback we have gotten from the attorney general.”
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