Updates from the February Board of Trustees meeting

The+February+Board+of+Trustees+meeting+touched+on+a+number+of+topics.

Nathan Herde

The February Board of Trustees meeting touched on a number of topics.

Alexandra Feller and Anna Frazier

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Editors Note: The “Budget Update” section of this article was updated on March 5 to clarify that employees making less than $40,000 a year are not considered for pay cuts. 

In a virtual town hall on Feb. 22, Linfield University President Miles Davis provided an update about the February Board of Trustees meeting. Topics included the state of the university budget, upcoming master’s programs, and new sexual misconduct policies. Students, faculty, and staff submitted questions prior to the event that were answered by university administrators. 

In his opening statement, Davis said, “Quite frankly, most [trustees] left the meeting very optimistic and energized about the potential for Linfield to emerge from the difficulties brought by the pandemic.”

While the school faces ongoing challenges, “there’s some good news to report,” Davis said.

Budget Update

In the fall, the university projected a $1.6 million budget deficit, due to decreased revenue and increased costs from COVID-19 safety protocols. Chief Financial Officer, Mary Ann Rodriguez, said the federal stimulus package for private universities across the United States covered $1.5 million of Linfield’s total budget deficit. This still leaves a $100,000 gap.

Davis announced that employees who make more than $40,000 a year will not receive pay cuts. “I’m hoping that that comes as a relief,” he said. “A lot of the questions that we received were about what was happening with pay cuts.” Last fall, the university specified that pay cuts would only effect employees who made over $40,000 a year.

His promise for no pay cuts is dependent on the university making it through the end of this fiscal year, which ends on June 30, without additional shocks to the budget. 

The board also approved the 2021-2022 fiscal year budget proposed by the Budget Working Group. This new budget includes a 2% increase in tuition, room, and board fees.

Additionally, the budget proposes a 1% “across the board” salary increase for employees. It also “makes resumption of contributions to employee retirement accounts a priority for any excess of revenue or expenses,” Davis said.

Davis wants the university to get to a point where costs are “contained,” and is trying to avoid “balancing the budget on the backs of students.”

Academics and Scholarships

The board approved a motion for the School of Business and College of Arts and Sciences to each launch new master’s degree programs in the fall of 2021. The programs still need to receive financial approval from each department before they can start. 

Two new master’s degrees are proposed for the School of Business: “Sports Leadership” and “Design and Innovation.” A master’s called “Sports Sciences and Analytics” is planned for the College of Arts and Sciences.

According to Davis, there will also be two new, fully funded scholarships. The first, is the Lisa Shara-Hall Wine Education and Journalism Scholarship, which honors a well-known wine writer.

Second, third and fourth year students with a declared major or minor in wine studies or journalism and media studies are eligible for the scholarship. The new fund will also provide stipends for visiting wine journalism speakers and scholars.

Another wine studies scholarship, established by Domaine Serene Winery, will be a resource to “help fund underrepresented minorities–specifically Black Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans who have wine studies as their major,” Davis said. 

Sexual Misconduct Training

Jackie Sandmeyer, J.D., founder and principal of Title IX Education Specialists LLC, spoke at the board meeting about changes to sexual misconduct policies. “Of course, Sandmeyer comes with a wealth of experience, including leading Oregon State’s sexual assault task force for many years,” Davis said. “Providing consultation, advocacy and policy development for many state agencies, school districts, colleges and universities.”

Dean of Students Jeff McKay and Director of Student Rights and Responsibilities Addrienne Hammond also gave a presentation at the board meeting. They are part of the Linfield sexual misconduct task force that consists of students, staff and faculty, and have been meeting since June. 

Their presentation informed the board of changes in the Student Code of Conduct that aligns with new federal Title IX policies, Davis said. 

Michayla Sponsel’s Presentation

Associated Students of Linfield University (ASLU) Vice President Michayla Sponsel also sits as a student representative on the Board of Trustees. Each meeting, she gets a chance to offer a student’s perspective on school-wide issues. Although this time, she chose to provide her update to the Board of Trustees differently, by reading letters from other students.

She included students from as many groups, clubs, and social circles as possible, and made sure to have at least one person from each grade and a transfer student.

“My role in this position is to represent the students and report to the board about student life and experiences that are being had,” said Sponsel. She added that her inspiration for the letter-writing campaign came from the realization that she “can never truly capture every student experience.”

Sponsel said the letters were a “huge hit” with the board and members continued to bring them up throughout the days-long meeting. 

“Not only was it something that they had never seen before, but the stories that the students decided to share were real and deep,” said Sponsel. “They displayed both feelings of love for the university, but also deep disappointment, fear or frustration. The board members greatly appreciated being able to hear so many students’ experiences and really took them to heart–which led to some really great discussions about their topics.”

Though Sponsel couldn’t share the content of the letters with The Linfield Review without express permission of the authors, she believes students “spoke from the heart” about their experiences thus far on campus.