OSU trustees approve budget, new master plan, talk affirmative action

As thousands of Ohio State University students and their families moved back to campus this week, the board of trustees met across the street to discuss the upcoming academic year and the university’s future.

Trustees held committee meetings and a full board meeting for the first time this week at Vitria on the Square, a new event space housed within University Square at 15th Avenue and High Street.

It’s not, however, the trustees’ first meeting without a permanent president at the helm.

More:Ohio State is beginning the search for its next president. Here’s what we know

Typically, Ohio State’s president gives a report to trustees at the public full-board meeting Thursday afternoon. But with no interim president in place, board president Hiroyuki Fujita shared remarks with the board before voting on its agenda.

Fujita recognized Gene Smith, Ohio State’s long-time athletic director who announced last week he will retire in 2024, and Peter Mohler, the university’s newly appointed executive vice president of enterprise for research, innovation and knowledge.

Fujita also addressed the university’s presidential search, saying that search committee members “continue to make great progress” and they “look forward to sharing more information soon.”

“We know that many are eager for news of Ohio State’s next president,” he said.

Here’s a look at some of the board’s actions:

Framework 3.0 and the future of campus

After 18 months and six consecutive visits to the trustees, board members approved Framework 3.0, the next iteration of Ohio State’s master plan.

In February 2022, trustees approved spending $1.2 million to update the “Framework 2.0” plan and began work on the project that June. The planning team met with more than 250 faculty and staff members, more than 400 students and held dozens of listening sessions to craft the plan.

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Curved sidewalks and lots of plants greet pedestrians around the renovated Mirror Lake on the Ohio State campus.  Photographed Tuesday, June 16, 2020.Download Image
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Amanda Hoffsis, Ohio State’s vice president of planning, architecture and real estate, said Framework 3.0 “provides a roadmap for the university” over the next several decades.

The plan includes a number of projects that could take place in the next five to 15 years, with room to be flexible as enrollment and employee needs change. Hoffsis said a major theme of the plan is connection — connecting north and south campus, connecting the campus core to Carmenton, connecting the city to the university through updated transportation.

Some near- to mid-term changes could include:

  • Replacing Evans Lab with updated research labs, teaching labs and faculty offices
  • Renovate and modernize Hughs Hall
  • Renovate and build new residence halls across campus to add more beds and address inequities
  • Building out new labs and commercial enterprises in Carmenton
  • Improve pedestrian and bike lanes, as well as build a new rapid bus transit station.

Ohio State’s Senior Vice President of Administration & Planning Jay Kasey said people often take for granted completed works from the previous Framework plans, like the North Campus Residential Area, the varsity athletic complexes and the University Square along North High Street and 15th Avenue.

This new plan, Kasey said, continues to cast a vision for Ohio State’s future.

Ohio State's new Pelotonia Research CenterDownload Image
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Affirmative action’s effect on Ohio State

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal on affirmative action policies in college admissions this summer, multiple board committees discussed the decision’s fallout at Ohio State.

Gates Garrity-Rokous, vice president and chief compliance officer for the Office of University Compliance and Integrity, told trustees at Wednesday’s Legal, Audit, Risk & Compliance committee meeting that complying with the federal government’s expectations around affirmative action and free speech policies are two emerging risk trends facing the university.

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Affirmative action:How does the Supreme Court’s affirmative action decision affect Ohio?

“We are addressing affirmative action in admissions while we continue to meet our obligations under our agreement with the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contractor Compliance programs covering employment,” he said.

Additionally, Garrity-Rokous said potential risks related to the upcoming 2024 election cycle and “the national politicization of higher education” heightens the possibility for misunderstandings between students, staff and faculty.

Later that afternoon at the Academic Affairs & Student Life committee, Ohio State Provost Melissa Gilliam told trustees that the Office of Academic Affairs and Office of Legal Affairs began working together earlier this year to help the university prepare for and respond to the outcome.

Since the Supreme Court’s decision, an applicant’s race and ethnicity have been removed from all documents visible to application readers, and the group is revising evaluation tools used in the admissions process. The university will continue training application readers and others involved in undergraduate, graduate and professional program admissions throughout the academic year.

Students enter Thompson Library on the first day of fall classes on Aug. 24, 2021 at Ohio State University.Download Image
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Trustees approve operating budget and capital investment plan

After approving an interim operating budget and capital investment plan in May, trustees approved an official budget and investment plan for fiscal year 2024. (Trustee Jeff M.S. Kaplan abstained from the vote approving these items.)

Trustees approved a $9 billion budget, which is an increase of about 2.3% or $212.7 million from last fiscal year.

Michael Papadakis, senior vice president of business and finance and CFO, told trustees at Thursday’s Finance & Investment committee that Ohio State’s overall financial position remains strong thanks to a post-pandemic rebound.

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Even with high inflation and other economic headwinds last year, Papadakis said the previous fiscal year reflects a return to normal university operations and a typical college experience for students.

‘Science on display’:Inside Ohio State’s new Pelotonia Research Center in Carmenton

Trustees also approved a more than $2.3 billion budget for capital investments through fiscal year 2028. The vast majority of that budget, about $1.9 billion, reflects funds for capital projects that were previously approved and are already in the works, like construction of the 15th and High Arts District and the Wexner Medical Center Inpatient Hospital. New capital projects in the budget total $448.5 million in spending.

The board authorized several capital projects to enter into contracts:

  • Battery Cell Research and Demonstration Center: Professional services contracts totaling $2.4 million, paid for with university funds and federal grant funds
  • Ohio State University Airport, taxiway A rehabilitation: Professional and construction services contracts totaling $4.5 million, paid for with grant funds and partner funds
  • Department of Economics relocation: Professional and construction services contracts totaling $1.8 million, paid for with university funds
  • Multi-Species Animal Learning Center: Professional and construction services contracts totaling $48.9 million, paid for with university debt, university funds, fundraising and state funds

Official policy on university statements

Trustee John Zeiger shared during Wednesday’s Talent, Governance & Compensation committee that the board would also approve and share the university’s policy on making public statements.

Zeiger said the policy has been used for about a year, but the board wanted to make sure the public understands the policy and its uses.

In May, the board of trustees issued a rare statement in opposition to House Bill 83, which would have dramatically changed how higher education operates in Ohio.

Board chairman Hiroyuki Fujita leads the Ohio State's Board of Trustees quarterly meeting alongside vice chair John Zeiger.Download Image
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Sheridan Hendrix is a higher education reporter for The Columbus Dispatch. Sign up for Extra Credit, her education newsletter, here.

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