Jane gave a presentation today on the February 2016 board meeting. Because there was only one scheduled presentation and it intersected with class time, a faculty member requested that Clerk’s find somebody to take notes and share them. I found me. Here’s my summary of Jane’s presentation, which included an accompanying slide presentation.
Jane began by reading a poem by Wendell Berry titled What we need is here. Here is the text of the poem:
Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.
Jane noted that it was particularly apt because it mentioned geese, of which we have an abundance at Guilford.
Jane said that although the challenges she’s faced since coming to Guilford have been difficult, she has enjoyed the work, and that Guilford is now poised for a renaissance, with lots of signs of a turnaround in progress. She shared with us a set of accomplishments and developments that she also shared with the board. I’ve categorized them as she did below.
- Approved a new bachelor’s program in cybertechnology and network security
- Developing a new bachelor’s program in user experience and design
- Approved a new master’s program in criminal justice
- Approved a new bachelor’s program in sustainable food systems
Jane pointed out that these are in development, but most can’t be announced yet because they either require new staffing and resources or SACS-COC approval, and it would be unethical to advertise a program that was not ready to begin operation.
- Website and marketing redesign is in the works
- The Art and Science enrollment study is underway
- The advancement division is being assessed and restructured
- Ten strategic priority objectives in three areas have been identified, and the strategic planning oversight committee (SPOC) is working on details and metrics for these objectives
- Renovation of Mary Hobbs with lots of alumna support. Jane said this could be a good model for future projects.
- A gift of more than $300,000 to support the Friends Center
- The adoption of a girl with significant health challenges by the women’s lacrosse team
- An unprecedented successful football season, with nominations for national honors
- The many fine speakers in the Bryan Series. Jane said we need to use this resource in our recruiting and other efforts.
- The Every Campus a Refuge program led by Diya Abdo, which has led to refugee family members staying on our campus, and which is spreading to 41 other colleges in the U.S. and Canada. Jane reported that Diya has also been contacted by federal agencies about broadening this kind of effort.
- Stephanie Flamini’s great basketball season, during which she reached a career 200 wins and was named the ODAC coach of the year.
- Dennis Shore’s great work with the softball team, reaching 200 career wins this year.
- The Godspell production, which drew rave reviews.
- Guilford being named in a list of the top 30 sustainable college farms. Jane pointed out that the farm is very successful within limited means, which makes it a good model for our efforts.
- A new cooperative accelerated degree program with the Elon law school.
- The “Degrees Matter” program for adult students
- Early College at Guilford being named the #1 public high school in North Carolina
Then Jane went on to describe actions and deliberations undertaken by the Board during its February meeting. These were as follows:
- Remembering alums Howard Coble ’53 and Seth Macon ’40
- Expressing gratitude to Carole Hunter ’63 for her work leading the Mary Hobbs renovation
- Bringing the Vision for Excellence bridging campaign to an early close. The campaign raised a total of $9 million, which was positive but short of its goal. With the departure of Mike Poston and the potential restructuring of the advancement division, Jane and the board agreed that we would focus on general fundraising until new people and structures are in place.
- Approving the freeze on tuition for 2016-17. For the first time in a long while, traditional student tuition will not increase next year, although there will be small changes in room, board, and fees to match increasing costs in those areas.
Jane then turned to issues of finance and enrollment. Jane described our situation as difficult but promising. Jane indicated that we had survived a $1.8 million budget deficit this year through a combination of $800,000 in spending cuts and the board’s approval of borrowing $1 million against our line of credit to cover costs and to fund new initiatives to improve enrollment. Fall enrollment numbers look positive for traditional students but not for CCE enrollment. Jane cited our initiatives with community colleges, some of which have held special Guilford Days for recruiting. She indicated that all community members have a role in recruiting and retention.
She described her view of our recovery as U-shaped, not V-shaped, indicating that it might take us a while to change course to positive growth. Although there will need to be some budget cuts for 2016-17, she sees us as near the bottom, and anticipates recovery and renaissance possibly within two years. She said we would experience (she hopes) “one more hard year” before completing our turnaround. Recovery depends on new enrollment, retention, and transfers. It may be difficult, and that we’re in for some more pain for the community next year, but she believes we are on the way to a brighter future. She said that the necessary cuts for next year should be clear by May or June of this year.
She also cited plans to restructure our debt, change our banking relationships, and borrow $20 million in new funds which would go to a variety of projects, perhaps most importantly to renovations in residence halls.
She indicated the compensation philosophy is on track and should be ready for when we have additional money to dedicate to salary increases.
The Board’s Buildings and Grounds committee met and discussed several issues, although they did not take new action. They discussed how to handle a new property gift on Arcadia Drive, how to handle our $16.8 million in deferred maintenance projects (much of which would presumably be covered by the new borrowing), and how to deal with requirements for Title IX and ADA. They also discussed management issues for the Guilford woods.
Board members met with students from the Integrity for Guilford group which has produced a list of demands posted online and publicized in the Guilfordian. Jane described this meeting as a unique emotional interaction which was not easy for trustees or for students. She said that despite a challenging discussion, there was universal praise for the students, their courage, and their message.
There were also two student research presentations shared with the board, one in biology and one in community justice. Jane thought that one of them might have prompted a new $25,000 gift to support science research.
Jane shared with the Board and with the meeting today her strategic priorities for Guilford, which came in three areas with ten objectives. She said that work will continue on SPOC to report on and reach these objectives.
Jane said that trustees seemed pleasantly surprised by the news and strategies she had shared. Although there are difficult challenges, she said the board was impressed by the fact that there were specific positive strategies proposed to meet each of these challenges. Her message was that we will need time to fix our problems, that we need to stay the course, and that it was her belief that with hard work, a way will open for Guilford to complete its turnaround.
Finally, Jane announced that our commencement speaker for this year will be the Rev. William Barber II, an award-winning activist and member of leadership in the NAACP. He has led the Moral Monday movement in North Carolina. Jane said he was honored to be asked to speak by the college, and that we were honored to have him.
Jane closed the meeting by reading the poem from Wendell Berry again, and then observed a moment of silence.
There were two questions from the audience. One questioner asked if we would have trouble with our SACS-COC reaccreditation because of ongoing structural deficits and because of lower-than-average salaries in many positions. Jane responded that she thought SACS would not be concerned with the salary issue, but that the deficits could be problematic. She was hopeful that the steps we’ve taken and the plans we’ve made to address the deficits would satisfy SACS.
Another questioner asked if there would be clear benchmarks for progress on our goals, and if they would be available to the community. Jane responded that she intended to create a “dashboard” available to the college community, and perhaps to the public, where our progress on our many strategic objectives could be reported. She indicated that these would be color coded (red for problem areas, yellow for potential concerns, and green for met goals) for easy interpretation, with detailed information also available.