Board of Trustees discusses retention rates, funding

By Dominick Ferlito

Feb. 5, 2018

The Cleveland State University Board of Trustees had an eventful meeting Jan. 29, headlined by the approval of Harlan M. Sands as the next president of the university.

The board also discussed donations, tenure, the university’s mission statement and retention rates among undergraduate and graduate students.

President Ronald M. Berkman reported that a 14-person committee will address the second phase of Path to 2020.

“We have a diverse committee of 14, who have been brought together as a university-wide group to help us make recommendations about how we can close this gap,” Berkman said.  “The gap will be closed by either increased revenue or decreased expenses.”

Faculty, staff, administration and one student serve on the committee.

This also includes William M. Bowen, Ph.D., faculty senate president and a faculty representative on the board of trustees.

The university has also engaged Richard M. Freeland, Ph.D., who served as president of Northeastern University and commissioner of higher education for Massachusetts, as consultant to the committee.

“I hope the people on the committee know there are no sacred cows, and that they are free to offer any ideas,” said trustee Deborah Vesy.

Moreno also stressed the importance of collaboration between the committee and university.

“If this is going to succeed we all need to understand, with eyes wide open, that there is going to be lobbying, there are going to be constituents, there are going to be arguments, there are going to be side phone calls and side meals, but none of that is productive,” Moreno said.

Jianpin Zhu—provost and senior vice president for academic affairs—presented the board with a review of the current tenure process at Cleveland State to ensure compliance with new state mandates regarding commercialization and tenure, which come as part of the state’s new budget bill.

Several board members expressed concerns with language in the current tenure process, regarding professor support in student success. 

“One of the areas we want to figure out going forward, is how we can help the wrap-around services keep improving,” said David H. Gunning II, board treasurer.

One of the wrap-around services referenced consistently was Starfish, an online program created to help students with communication and scheduling with faculty and support services.

“That is something we have to implement, we need to build in and monitor,” Berkman replied. “But the board has heard before, about 50 percent of the full-time faculty use Starfish.”

“And that should be—I’m sorry, I’m saying it publicly. You can quote me on it, front page of the paper, that is unacceptable [that only 50 percent of faculty use Starfish]. Unacceptable. And that needs to change now,” Gunning said.

Zhu also presented the board with requirements for accreditation.

However, several board members were uncomfortable with approving the mission, vision and values statements—which are a significant part of the accreditation application—without getting input from the new president and his board.

“Approving this would essentially say that we don’t really care that much about student success,” vice-chairman Moore said.

“When Ron and I talked about his retirement, and the transition, accreditation weighed heavily on that conversation,” Chairman Moreno said. “We have to go through the scheduled events of accreditation. That’s not optional. So not including this now, and waiting until later would be nice to be able to do, but unfortunately the schedule does not allow us to do that.”

Trustee Vesy expressed some disappointment that the board had not been engaged earlier in the process of approving the mission statement. 

“I think that was a huge missed opportunity,” Vesy said.

The board chose to advance in the accreditation process, but wanted to emphasize that retention and grad-uation rates were missing from the mission statement and would like to see more board feedback included in future amendments to the mission statement.

Timothy J. Long, associate vice president for finance and budget, led a mid-financial year 2018 budget review.  A slight deficit has occurred in credit hours with both graduate and law students this year, but undergraduate enrollment is still on pace.

The budget shows an $888,830 shortfall.

Long said the balance of operating carryover funding should decline based primarily on tuition freezes and slower enrollment growth.  Cleveland State can employ $4-4.5 million annually in carryover to help fund operations, he said.  He estimated current carryover expenditures are slightly more than $6.7 million.

Undergraduate financial aid is the biggest expenditure in the carry-over budget, which accounts for many scholarships in the school. Long would like to see this put into the permanent budget rather than the carryover in the future.

Long also presented a preliminary budget for the 2019 fiscal year, which forecasts a $4 to $6 million deficit for next year.  Energy cost increases add to the projected deficit, which Senior Vice President for Business Affairs and Finance Stephanie McHenry said resulted from the continued addition of square footage on campus.

McHenry also presented two trans-actions regarding the new engineering addition, which included additional chilled water lines. Neither transaction adds to the original budgeted cost of the project.  The board approved both.

In other business, the board:
•Acknowledged Moreno’s $1 million donation to Cleveland State for the creation of the Bernie Moreno Center for Sales Excellence in the Monte Ahuja College of Business and a $500,000 donation from Thomas and Marsha Hopkins for the Pratt Center.
•Nigamanth Sridhar, dean of the College of Graduate Studies, discussed graduate enrollment. According to Sridhar, the decline comes, almost singularly, from international students who are required to take more classes to obtain visas.
•The marketing office earned a Best in Show Award at the 15th annual Cleveland Rocks Awards, which honored the best marketing and communication campaigns of 2017.  Cleveland State earned the honor for its Arts and Humanities Alive! Festival

Following the executive session, the board of trustees officially voted to make Harlan Sands the seventh president of Cleveland State University.



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