ANNOUNCEMENTS TO FACULTY AND STAFF
February 5 and 6, 2013
Introduction of General Counsel
Amy Foerster began as General Counsel on January 1. She has extensive experience in higher education law, is a national expert on Title IX and related matters, and is deeply informed on the complex legal matters affecting higher education today. Wayne Bromfield will remain on the staff as Senior Legal Adviser to the President until July 1, 2013, after which he will be available to the University and me as he is uniquely informed on litigation matters already underway and on a wide variety of local issues.
SAT and Rankings
U.S. News & World Report announced on Tuesday that it had concluded that the corrected SAT scores we provided to them do not affect Bucknell's position in the current rankings.
In response to the email message we sent to the entire Bucknell community with the news of the errors, I received hundreds of letters. While the dismay and anger this situation caused were evident in many of them, almost every letter, whether from personnel or students, alumni or parents, stressed that the individual's pride in Bucknell transcends any single matter. I want you to know this because I hope you will find it reassuring that Bucknellians take the reputation and conduct of the University seriously and feel a strong appreciation for our mission. Some of the most notable responses came from the non-alumni parents of Early Decision I students in the incoming Class of 2017, who said that our candor affirmed for them that Bucknell was the right choice for their students.
To avoid future data-related problems, we are initiating a comprehensive analysis to identify key areas in which data is gathered and reported to other offices or the public and are implementing best business practices to ensure that no single person controls or disseminates critical data without its being verified.
As I was receiving those emails, a phone call came in from a devoted couple that expressed the same view as so many other Bucknellians, with an exclamation point. They said that they wanted to make clear particularly at this time how important Bucknell was to them and to offer a tangible reminder that its influence occurs in no single moment but by work that lasts a lifetime. And then they pledged $10 million to Bucknell. This extraordinary expression of support was unexpected in this situation, to say the least.
This is the third-largest pledge ever made to the University. Including a handful of verbal commitments, it raises the total of gifts and pledges received so far for the half-a-billion dollar WE DO campaign to $272 million.
The couple that has made this wonderful gift prefers to remain anonymous for now. They have decided to allocate this gift to scholarship endowment, our top campaign priority. With this gift to scholarships, this couple is investing in opportunities that will transform the lives of generations of Bucknellians. Even beyond that, though, they have made a powerful statement about what the work of Bucknell and its faculty and staff means to so many. Their affection for their University symbolizes what is evident to Bucknellians everywhere -- love for Bucknell is deep and profound.
This gift is another indicator that the WE DO campaign continues to build momentum. We will host the first roadshow on February 23, in San Francisco's AT&T Park, followed by events this spring in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, and next fall in Boston and New York. Each of these events will celebrate and feature our faculty and students and the great work being done across campus.
Martin Luther King Jr. Staff Holiday
As we know, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a federal holiday. It seems only fitting that here at Bucknell we mark this celebration of Dr. King's life and legacy, especially given our commitment to diversity. Effective in 2014, Martin Luther King Jr. Day will be a paid holiday for staff, and we will build significant campus programming around diversity in conjunction with the holiday. We will be asking faculty governance to discuss the possibility of making the day a no-class holiday for faculty and students as well, part of a larger consideration of the academic calendar. Shortly I will be sending a broader update to campus on the work of the President's Diversity Council, but wanted now to share this particular development.
Board of Trustees Meeting
As outlined in last week's summary of our January winter board meeting, the Finance Committee decided on the comprehensive fee for the coming year. We are communicating the rate of increase and the amount to the parents of our students first and will inform campus next week. The committee also approved the administration's recommendation to set aside slightly more this year than last for the compensation-merit and market-adjustment pool, as well as to include an additional increment for the associate professor and full professor ranks to begin addressing growing competitive disparities in those ranks. The increment pool is equal to three percent of the current year salaries of tenure-line faculty in those ranks; plans for allocating the available increment to individuals in those ranks are being developed now in concert with faculty governance.
New Residence Halls
In April, the board will vote on moving forward with plans for four new residence halls in the south part of campus, and we are confident they will want to proceed. This is the same set of residence halls as has been announced several times in recent years and on which plans are now being finalized. The facility has been designed in close consultation not only with student life staff but also with students. Together the buildings will house 340 juniors and seniors in apartment-style suites, bringing about 300 students residing downtown back to campus as part of our commitment to being a residential learning university as well as moving 40 students to these residence halls from other rooms on campus. We will take advantage of the current favorable debt market to fund the approximately $45 million facility, which is slated to open in fall 2015. This new set of residence halls will fulfill a 15-year-old commitment of the Board of Trustees.
I was asked at the faculty meeting why we would not take advantage of the favorable debt environment and build 500 spaces now, which would allow us to return all students from the downtown area. The simple answer is that we could not prudently take on that level of debt and still have the capacity for financing the additional academic buildings we seek to construct in the coming few years (e.g., Academic East). We also believe that it is best not to completely depopulate the downtown area, as students enjoy living there and we need the flexibility afforded by the downtown spaces to help us with the normal yearly fluctuations in our on-campus student population.
Longer term, we will need to find a way to build approximately 400 more bed spaces to replace the modular units across Route 15 and to complete the residential vision for community living.
The rising inflation in health insurance costs that has become a national issue is also affecting the University. Health insurance costs are among the University's most significant expenses (currently the University pays an average of $11,500 toward insurance for every employee on the University's insurance plans). Bucknell's contract with Capital Blue Cross ends with calendar year 2013. Signing a new contract with Blue Cross or any other available plan would result in significant cost increases, so we are exploring the limited set of available options for keeping costs down, including a new PPO-type plan possibly to be offered through Geisinger. We will keep you informed as these analyses progress.
We hope everyone will give serious consideration to participating in the new Wellness Initiative. Not only can it help reduce your medical and other health costs, wellness programs are shown to contribute to fulfilling and productive personal and professional lives. Enroll or learn more about the Wellness Program.
An audio recording of the entire University staff forum is available in myBucknell.