Update from Student Trustee Alex Walls

Dear St. Mary’s Community,

As the Feb. 23 Board of Trustee Meeting quietly approaches, I would like to take the time to talk about what will be happening this weekend. Among other conversations regarding Master Planning and Strategic Planning, the Board will be setting tuition, room, and board rates for the next academic year. The scheduled rate increases that will be discussed and voted on are 4%, 3%, and 2% respectively.

For many, these annual increases are unacceptable. Every year, we pay more in tuition while we are promised that next year will be better. Yes, prices do increase. However, tuition has been increasing faster than inflation since I have started attending. And every year, it gets harder for our students and their families to pay the cost of attendance. How many students have missed out on experiencing St. Mary’s because of the ever increasing price tag? How many friends and peers have we lost because of their inability to pay to stay? I don’t know; no one does!

For the past four years, I have been vocal about my disdain for these increases. However, as Student Trustee, I will be voting “aye” on this issue at the next meeting. Why the change of heart? Currently in Annapolis, Senate Bill 828, also known as An Act Concerning St. Mary’s College of Maryland – Tuition Freeze and DeSousa-Brent Scholars Completion Grant, is poised to be voted on and approved by the General Assembly this session. This bill, among other things, would increase our state-funded block grant by an additional $800,000 each year for the next four years and mandate a tuition freeze on all in-state students. This freeze would be similar to the tuition freeze that the rest of the University System enjoyed a few years ago.

Even though this bill mandates a tuition freeze, the school will not know the outcome until April and after the budget process is completed. If it passes, the Board of Trustees will retroactively decrease the tuition for in-state students for next fall. But to demonstrate to the state that we need the funds, we must continue going through the motions of raising tuition. If we don’t, the College may miss out on the additional funding offered. Therefore, it would be advantageous for the Board to vote on raising tuition now and bringing it down later after we receive the appropriations from the state.

But mark my words, I will continue to advocate for the students of St. Mary’s. On Saturday, I will let the Board know that I am voting for the increase for the sole reason to demonstrate to the State that we need the buy down. I believe that the Board should vote to decrease tuition at the next Board meeting, even if we don’t receive the additional funds. We have suffered too many increases over the past few years and at some point we must say enough is enough. If we cannot control our costs, what does that say about our financial model or about the public-private relationship we have developed here? Should we continue on the path of becoming a high price, quasi-private liberal arts college hidden behind a public name?

The SGA and Office of Student Activities are organizing vans to take students to the meeting this Saturday in Annapolis. More details will be coming out as the week progresses so stay tuned. Also, if you want to talk to me about the Board meeting, please contact me at atwalls@smcm.edu.

Board of Trustees Decide Tuition for 2012-2013 School Year

On Saturday, March 10, the Board of Trustees voted to raise tuition by four percent for both in-state and out-of-state students for the 2012-2013 school year.

The ruling, decided by unanimous vote, means that in-state tuition costs will jump from $12,005 to $12,485, a $480 increase, and out-of-state will go up $963 from $24,082 to $25,045.  Other cost hikes include a four percent rise in room costs for all housing options, and a three percent rise in board costs for all meal plan options.

“Looking at rising costs, we came to the conclusion that we didn’t have much of a choice to raise tuition,” said President Joe Urgo.

“The board saw it as a good way to balance the budget,” said Vice President for Business and Finance Tom Botzman. “The aim was to keep it affordable while also keeping a strong academic program.”

According to Botzman, the four percent raise will give the College the ability to increase the budget for financial aid and the ability to strengthen the faculty while still paying all the state-mandated costs.

Another thing the College will be able to do for the first time is give raises to faculty and staff.  “The State will mandate a two percent raise, which means the pay freeze is off, so we’re hoping we can also do more,” said Urgo.

The College will also enhance Information Technology (IT) services as a result of the cost increase.  Such planned updates include improving Internet speed across campus, bettering security, and updating software.

According to Urgo, the tuition hikes for the College are consistent with nationwide college tuitions.  “Overall, we’ve seen a three to five percent raise across the country, and even higher in some cases,” he said.

Though the future is uncertain, Urgo claimed that he “doesn’t foresee a time when education costs aren’t going to go up.  You expect a college to have the best equipment with the latest technology.”

First-year Katherine Mahoney claims she is not a fan of the cost increase, especially because she knows students who have to pay for their college education on their own.  “I mean you get the good name, but it’s still a lot of money. [St. Mary’s] is already expensive compared to other Maryland universities.”

Tuition Discussed at Board of Trustees Meeting

At the General Session of the meeting of the St. Mary’s Board of Trustees on Feb. 25, sophomore Michael Killius was announced as the new Student Trustee-in-Training, and the controversial topic of the tuition raise for the 2012-2013 academic year was also discussed.

Current Student Trustee Maurielle Stewart introduced Killius, saying, “I’m sure he will represent the students well and interact with the board in [an efficient] manner.” Killius is a Nitze Scholar and Judicial Board member from St. Mary’s County.

One of the first orders of business was to approve Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the current mayor of Baltimore, as the commencement speaker for the class of 2012. The vote was unanimous.

Molly Mahoney Matthews, the Chairwoman of the Board, opened the session by saying that the “budget proposals [sought by President Joe Urgo and trustee Gary Jobson at the Maryland Senate Budget Hearing] for the College did not include the extra dollars that we feel our students deserve. Others students in Maryland public institutions have tuition brought down, and we want the same for St. Mary’s. As a consequence of not receiving the funding we wanted, we must thoughtfully review programs, remaining committed to active involvement in community.”

Urgo announced the establishment of The Joseph and Kathleen Garner Endowed Scholarship Fund, the result of a $1 million donation by alumnus Joseph Garner. The Fund “will provide tuition and supplementary co-curricular support to academically talented, financially challenged students attending St. Mary’s College, with a preference for St. Mary’s Ryken High School graduates,” according to the St. Mary’s website. “It is with profound humility that we contemplate this gift,” said Urgo, “which secures access to those with financial need and is designed to support the whole student experience.”

Urgo also lauded the success of St. Mary’s Day, in which the strategic visioning plan for the College, as well as the diversity of the campus, was discussed amongst students, faculty, and staff. “I’ve seen race and other conversations staged at different institutions,” said Urgo, “but I have never seen such an honest, insightful, and courageous production as ‘St. Mary’s Hear and Now.’”

The majority of the General Session was devoted to the discussion of how much tuition should be increased, if at all. Many trustees were reluctant to raise tuition to the suggested four percent, especially after hearing testimonies from students, faculty, and staff about the living wage issue and the constant struggle for students to pay their tuition bills.

Multiple amendments and suggestions were made by trustees that ranged from keeping tuition at a zero percent increase, raising tuition two percent for in-state students and four percent for out-of-state students, or the general four percent raise across the board.

Maryland Congressman and trustee Steny Hoyer summarized this issue by saying, “[The money to run the College] needs to come out of a pocket, but we’re running out of pockets and they’re getting pretty thin.”

Tom Botzman, Vice President of Business and Finance, explained some of the cuts that would have to happen if tuition were not increased: “The supplemental raise pool for faculty and staff would have to be cut, we would remove three additional faculty positions that were supposed to be created, we could not fund IT (Information Techonology) enhancements that are mandated by state, we would cut two housekeepers, reduce our advertising budget, and we would have another $400,000 of cuts, probably more staff.”

As the tuition was such a delicate issue, the Board agreed with trustee Gail Harmon’s motion to postpone the voting on the tuition for the 2012-2013 academic year until March 17, at which time Botzman will present the consequences and trade-offs that would result from each tuition plan that was proposed.

Board of Trustees: New Faces, New Goals, New Discussions to have

In addition to tuition increases, there were several developments during the Board of Trustees’ third quarterly meeting on Feb. 26.

The meeting began with Board Chair Molly Mahoney Matthews acknowledging the presence of several prospective Trustees.

The Board will be experiencing a 20 percent changeover, though the new members will still need to be appointed by Governor Martin O’Malley before the next Board meeting in May.

Faculty Senate President Bob Paul, in discussing the tuition increase and the sustainability of the academic program, pointed out that St. Mary’s professors’ salaries are at the median of those of the College’s peer and aspirant peer institutions.

This lack of competitive salaries causes difficulties in attracting prospective faculty members, though he thanked the Board for increasing salaries for Assistant Professors at the last Board meeting.

Paul also addressed the recent speculation concerning online courses, letting the Board know that faculty were concerned such “quick fixes” to the increasing budget “do not reflect what is best of the St. Mary’s.”

Student Trustee Danny Ruthenberg-Marshall, senior, introduced Alex Walls, sophomore, as the next academic year’s Student Trustee-in-training.

Among tuition concerns, Ruthenberg-Marshall acknowledged the worries some students have about free services gaining new charges, specifically the new fee for official transcripts.

He also conveyed the student population’s excitement towards the recent increased internet speeds and the opening of the campus pub later in the semester.

Michael P. O’Brien, ‘68, reported for the Community Relations Committee, announcing that work had been completed to ensure that the Governor’s Cup remains cost neutral.

He also discussed the concerns many have about SlackWater’s loss of funding, calling the journal “very popular” among the community members.

Enrollment and Student Affairs Committee Chair Neil Irwin, ‘00, reported that Director of the Peace Corps Aaron Williams will be unable to be the Commencement Speaker for 2011.

Williams was asked to travel abroad by President Barack Obama shortly before Commencement, meaning Deputy Director of the Peace Corps Carrie Hessler-Radelet will be speaking instead.

Cindy Broyles, ‘79, spoke for the Development Committee, announcing that there was 100 percent Board participation in donations to the College for this fiscal year, raising over $200,000.

Peg Duchesne, Co-Chair of the Inaugural Committee, announced that Governor O’Malley will be unable to attend the Maryland Day celebration and President Joseph Urgo’s inauguration.

However, she updated the Board on the several activities planned for the four-day long event.

In closing a meeting that Matthews said involved very “difficult discussions on tuition,” Executive Director of Historic St. Mary’s City (HSMC) Regina Fadden let the Board know that HSMC was voted as being the number one place to walk in the United States.

“We beat the Grand Canyon,” she pointed out.

The next Board of Trustees General Session will be held May 13 in Glendening Annex at 3 p.m. All General Sessions are open to the public and College community members are encouraged to attend.

 

Tuition Increases Likely for All Students

Allow me to apologize in advance, because most of what you’re about to read will not be good news.

There will be a tuition increase this year – likely around six percent for in-state and an equal dollar amount for out-of-state.

As with most of you and your families, this institution is suffering financially. Our Foundation is not able to give nearly as much money to the school as it has in the past, and our costs are rising.

How are our costs rising when inflation is so low and we’re doing so many things to cut cost? Three ways: first, cost cuts can only cover so much, as we cannot sacrifice the quality of our program for the sake of budget.

If we did that, we would become just another Salisbury or Frostburg. Second, despite low inflation, some specific expenses continue to rise rapidly. One example is retiree benefits.

Under state law, we are required to provide our employees with a certain level of retiree benefits.

When these premiums rise by ten percent, it hits us hard, costing the institution an additional half million or so dollars, without us seeing any additional benefits.

That hurts. While that is an extreme example, there are other instances of it littered throughout our budget and the budget of every institution in the country.

The third way is perhaps the most difficult one to accept. Our revenue stream is declining.

One of the biggest ways in which this is happening, though there are plenty of others, is through the change in percentage of out-of-state students.

Based on our best estimates, the incoming class of 2015 will likely have forty fewer out-of-state students than the outgoing class of 2011.

That means next year, the whole school will have forty fewer out-of-staters than it does this year.

With an average difference of $10,000 in tuition for in-state versus out-of-state, we’ll have approximately $400,000 less in next years budget.

But shouldn’t the state give us more money for the additional in-state students we have? Well, that’s how it works at most state schools, but we have what’s called a block grant.

That is, we have a certain chunk of money that we get every year, regardless of how many in-state and out-of-state students we have.

That amount normally goes up by the standard rate of inflation each year, and it will go up by that again this year.

The problem is, over the last two decades, the portion of our budget that we get from the government has declined by around twenty percent.

It used to be nearly half of our budget, and now it’s just over a quarter. Again, this raises the question of, “Why?”

In the 1990s, the state government asked us to increase our student population from 1450 to 1850. We said yes, despite not getting a bump to our block grant to coincide with the bump in students.

Earlier this decade, students were seeing annual tuition increases of more than ten percent at times.

This inequity, corrected by charging the students more, is one of the primary reasons our in-state tuition and fees are more than $5,000 higher than University of Maryland College Park.

Not coincidentally, our out-of-state costs are nearly identical with College Park.

These two numbers will go up by the same dollar amount, and not the same percentage, for the foreseeable future, as the college doesn’t want to unfairly distribute financial burdens.

So what’s going to happen with financial aid? The College has made a commitment to increase our financial aid budget by the same percentage as we increase tuition.

While this is necessary, it’s sort of like stealing from the left hand to feed the right.

With our financial aid budget at over six million dollars, a proportionate increase to that detracts from our added revenue due to tuition increase.

Let’s recap: tuition will go up for three reasons. We can only cut costs so much, some expenses continue to rise, and our out-of-state enrollment is shifting significantly.

The proportion of the state government’s contribution to our budget has decreased drastically over the last two decades.

Tuition increases back in the day were insane. Financial aid will still go up by the same percentage. Our budget is suffering big time, even with small tuition increases.

Where do we go from here? We keep looking for ways to cut costs without hurting our program, we keep pressuring the state government to continue with their support and, when possible, to increase it, and we look for more ways to increase financial aid.

As the state balances its books and the economy slowly recovers, things will get better.

Until that time, I promise to do everything in my power to keep tuition increases as low as feasible, and keep looking for new ways to raise money.

When this comes to a vote at the next Board meeting, I will be voting “no” on the issue. It will still pass despite this. Good luck to everyone in making next year’s payment, and I’m sorry I can’t do more.

An Offshore Account Comes Free With the Position

As we dive deeper into the search process for the 2012-2013 Student Trustee, I’d like to take an opportunity to fill you all in on what the Student Trustee actually does that makes the position moderately important.

And before you all stop reading, please know that I’ll do this in as self-deprecating and humorous a way as possible. No guarantees that I’ll succeed, but if you want guarantees then you should talk to a used car salesman.

Everyone knows St. Mary’s has a President, but much like everyone else in this world, even he answers to someone else. In this case, that someone else is that mysterious entity some of you may have heard of, the Board of Trustees (they answer to the governor, who answers to Barack Obama, who answers to Michelle Obama).

Well, that omnipotent group of individuals needs to have some checks and balances in place, so they don’t run amok and put all our tuition dollars in a Cayman Islands bank account. In this case, they created a position for one of those tuition paying folk we call students, who might not want to see his/her tuition dollars siphoned off the top. We call this position “Student Trustee.”

Now, before I go any further, I’d like to reassure all of you that I don’t think our current trustees would put our money in Cayman Island accounts and flee the country. They’re much more the Swiss bank account type of people.

Now, that “Student Trustee” thingy spends a year in training, getting to know the trustees and how the whole process works. Then s/he jumps into the full role of being the voice of the students and attempting to secure his/her own offshore account.

On the side, the Student Trustee gets to advocate for the students in such mundane processes as the Strategic Planning, mold fiasco solution brainstorming sessions, buildings and grounds initiatives, enrollment and student affairs happenings, tuition hikes/drops, internet ramblings, and anything else that s/he feels needs student representation and doesn’t have it.

The position opens doors that might otherwise have been welded shut by the Physical Plant.

In all these instances, it might be helpful to have the opinion of the student body as well. This takes us into the phase Einstein referred to as “information gathering.” This can be done a multitude of ways, from sitting on the patio with a giant sign looking like an idiot, to heated discussions over the pong table.

Sometimes it’s done through everyone’s favorite means of communication: the All Student E-mail. The critical step in this whole process is having people care about things. An impassioned student body gets things done.

So now, if you’re a first-year or sophomore, stop and think about whether or not you might make a good student trustee. If you’re a junior or senior, take a moment to chuckle at the fact that you’re more than halfway through/almost done, and then think if there are any first-years or sophomores that you know who would be good at this. Suggest it to them.

Stress the offshore bank account and the free use of recreational dinghies and kayaks to really sell them on it.

Students who are interested in applying should pick up an application at the info desk in the Campus Center, or e-mail me with questions. People who want to find out more about the position in general should check out the website, www.smcm.edu/studenttrustee.

And just remember, if you really want to get things done, be prepared to bribe someone; it’s what our government is based on.
See you on the path!

Trustees Discuss Finances, Future

Concerns over a tuition increase, budgeting, and the availability of scholarships dominated the conversation at the Board of Trustees’ second quarterly meeting of the academic year.

Held on Dec. 4 in the Glendening Annex, the meeting’s planned location in Washington DC was changed in an effort to save money, said senior Student Trustee Danny Ruthenberg-Marshall.

Molly Mahoney Matthews, Board Chair, opened the meeting by emphasizing the Board’s responsibility to maintain the “quality liberal arts education” provided by St. Mary’s, despite this being a “time of financial challenges” for the school, the state, and the nation.

President Joseph Urgo’s report similarly expressed concerns over the rising prices for education, both at St. Mary’s and around the country. He pointed out that “St. Mary’s is situated better than many” with its ability to control its own budget while receiving state support, and the effect this has is on keeping “our price lower than our peers without sacrificing the quality of the educational program.”

He added that there are ways the College is attempting to maintain this quality more sustainably, including an increased effort to raise funds from the private sector and, more specifically, alumni.
“We require investment by those…who find in our mission and accomplishments an endeavor worthy of their intellectual and financial support,” he said, adding that this support is merited through “the strength of our [educational, administrative, and fiscally responsible] operations.”

Maureen Silva, Vice President for Development, has been working to cultivate alumni and other donor relations “so that [in the future] private funds can be relied upon for College operations” in addition to state support, said Urgo.

“If those whom we’ve educated do not conclude that we merit their support, the argument cannot in good conscience be made to the state or to anyone else,” he added.
Ruthenberg-Marshall’s report as the Student Trustee echoed such financial concerns.

Despite knowing “the financial realities of [running] the College,” Ruthenberg-Marshall asked that the Board take student concerns into account when determining the tuition increase. He reported that students frequently approach him worried about how tuition increases might affect their ability to attend St. Mary’s.

“Traditionally, the second quarterly meeting would be when we vote on tuition changes,” he explained, but the vote was postponed until the next meeting. This was done to avoid raising tuition more than is necessary, since more must be learned about the College’s finances and its block grant from the state.

However, Ruthenberg-Marshall pointed out that some sort of tuition increase is inevitable.

Neil Irwin, ’00, Chair of the Committee for Enrollment and Student Affairs, discussed that the students who struggle the most when paying for college tend to be middle-income students who are ineligible for government grants, despite not coming from affluent families.

He also pointed out that rising costs could lead to losing top-tier students to institutions that are more expensive on paper but cost less due to larger financial aid packages.

Irwin referenced a presentation Wes Jordan, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, gave to the Enrollment and Student Affairs Committee previously on the rising costs of tuition.

Jordan pointed out that since the 2001-2002 academic year, tuition increased 85 percent for in-state students and 105 percent for out-of-state students.

The financial aid budget also increased in that time (from $1.8 million to $5.4 million), but the student population grew by 23 percent Cindy Broyles, ’79, Chair of the Development Committee, asked the trustees to consider a philanthropic commitment to St. Mary’s in order to “support retention of top students.”

She brought up the importance of giving regular contributions rather than occasional large gifts. Many grants that the College could apply take into account the percentage of Trustees who have made monetary contributions.

Last year, 83 percent of Trustees donated money, though Broyles set a challenge to meet 100 percent participation this year. At this point in the academic year, 43 percent of Trustees have made some sort of monetary contribution to the College.

Broyles also reported that an alumni phone-a-thon led to 54 percent of alumni contacted making commitments to the College, though more information was needed to see how alumni were selected to be contacted.

Alumni contributions during the phone-a-thon rose by 18% from last year, a good increase, said Broyles, since alumni contributions are also measured when the College applies for grants.

Despite the focus on tightened finances and fundraising, Matthews reported that the Board of Trustees approved a salary increase for tenure track assistant professors during their Executive Session earlier in the day.

The increase was necessary for faculty retention, said Matthews, considering that these professors’ salaries fell below the average salary of tenure-track professors at the College’s peer institutions. On the other hand, salaries for tenured professors at St. Mary’s are above the average of tenured faculty salaries at peer institutions.

According to Ruthenberg-Marshall, the raises will only add an additional $100,000 to the College’s budget.

At the meeting, the Board also approved to have Aaron Williams, Director of the Peace Corps, come to St. Mary’s as the Commencement Speaker for 2011. Robert Paul, Faculty Senate President, also reported that the faculty approved to recommend to Larry Vote, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty, that St. Mary’s join the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (CMRS) Consortium.

The continued relationship would ensure that St. Mary’s has five to ten slots available at CMRS, the College’s only Signature study abroad program in the United Kingdom.
The next General Session for the Board of Trustees will be held Feb. 26, 2011 at 10 a.m. in the Glendening Annex; it will be open to the public.

Trustee Profile: Sherrie Bailey

Sherrie Bailey, ‘81, St. Mary’s Alum and Judge for the Circuit Court for Baltimore County, is this week’s featured member of the Board of Trustees. Bailey became a Trustee in 2005 while she was an Assistant State’s Attorney for Baltimore City.

She was a member of the Presidential Search Committee in 2009 and currently sits on the committee for Academic Affairs and serves as the Vice-Chair for the committee on Enrollment and Student Affairs.

Bailey is also currently a Judge for the Circuit Court for Baltimore County. Appointed in May 2009, Bailey was up for election earlier this month due to Maryland law, which dictates that judges must be accepted by a vote in the next election after they have been appointed.

Bailey won enough votes to keep her appointment during the primaries (appointed judges are placed on the ballots for both the Democratic and Republican primaries), so she was only on the ballot for the general election as a formality.

Bailey graduated from St. Mary’s with a major in Human Development and a concentration in Psychology.

While a student here, she was active in the Black Student Union and the Fencing Club. She was also one of the first students from St. Mary’s to spend a semester abroad at the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies in Oxford.

“It was a great experience,” said Bailey, who lived with an Irish host family in Oxford during the semester and recalled excursions to sites such as Stonehenge with a former St. Mary’s professor. When she was living on campus, Bailey lived in Caroline for most of her years at St. Mary’s.

Having been both a student and member of the Board of Trustees for St. Mary’s, Bailey believes that this gives her and other trustees who are alums a further understanding of the College community.

“I think the trustees who are alumni deeply appreciate the uniqueness and intimacy of the St. Mary’s College experience,” she said, particularly noting the relationship between faculty and students in a rural residential setting.

However, Bailey acknowledged the difficulties students might have understanding the role of the Board of Trustees in the school’s development, “When I was a student, I didn’t know what the Board of Trustees was.”

She admitted that when she as a student she did not think there was a Student Trustee at the time, making it more difficult for the Board’s work to be as known to the student population.

She said she “would encourage students to seek out” current Student Trustee Danny Ruthenberg-Marshall, senior, if they would like to know more about what the Board does for the College.

Even so, Bailey feels it is important for the College community to know that St. Mary’s has a Board of Trustees that is “very caring about the stewardship of the College.”

Trustees are not paid by the institutions they help run and, according to Bailey, they usually “have many activities, many charities, many institutions that they participate in.”

She also pointed out the passion Trustees have for the College, noting that “[they] choose to participate in St. Mary’s because they believe in the mission of the College and in the students” and in its dedication to public accessibility.

Many Boards for universities or other institutions have members who are “members just in name to go on a resume.” She said that Trustees for St. Mary’s, on the other hand, “really do appear and participate” and “engage each other for the betterment of the College.”

In terms of what she would like to see the Board accomplish this year, Bailey points out that the Board’s largest responsibility is “always to keep an eye on the budget,” especially since “these are difficult economic times for students, faculty and staff.” However, she says, “One of my primary goals…is to ensure that Dr. Urgo has a smooth transition into his presidency.”

Those who would like to learn more about how Sherrie Bailey or other Trustees are involved with the College can do so by visiting http://www.smcm.edu/board.

Board Meeting Marks Several Firsts

There was a lot of love for President Joe Urgo at this year’s first Board of Trustees general session. The meeting, held on the Saturday during fall break, was Molly Mahoney Matthews’s first as the Chair of the Board of Trustees and also marked the first held with President Joe Urgo at the head of St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

“We have a new beginning with Dr. Urgo at the helm of the institution, and with Molly chairing the board,” said Dean of Students Laura Bayless.

The Board of Trustees is comprised of people selected by the Board itself and appointed by the Governor to shape and implement governing policies for the College.

The Trustees, who work on a volunteer basis, meet in committees to shape these policies and then meet in general session in order to vote and implement any changes.

Revisions to the College’s mission, the operating budget, and to other monetary matters were all approved at this past meeting.

Matthews called the Board to order with a speech claiming that the Board’s commitment to students, faculty, and staff has been “stronger in the previous few months than ever” and that a new President heading the institution is the mark of a new era.

She thanked Tom Botzman, Vice President for Business & Finance, for handling the effects of having “finances constrained” due to the economic downturn but also addressed that the pay freeze is having an impact on employee morale.

Urgo’s address to the Board introduced “four guiding principles” for discussions held throughout the year, asking that the Board renew the College’s mission, “reaffirm the foundations” by constantly asking what is best for students, “ensure the public trust” by maintaining a community with “core principles of access, inclusiveness, meritocracy, and sustainability,” and “sustain the monument school” by becoming “a monument to the highest standards of public endeavor and educational practices.”

Many reports to the Board, including Student Trustee Danny Ruthenberg-Marshall’s, ‘11, and Alumni Council Chair Paul Schultheis’s, ‘98, addressed excitement towards President Urgo’s start at St. Mary’s, with Faculty Senate President Bob Paul saying that “we [the faculty] like Joe Urgo a lot.”

Despite the pay freeze Board Chair Matthews addressed earlier, Paul mentioned that the faculty “believe they are being heard at all levels” and that they are confident “in their ability to effect change.”

Ruthenberg-Marshall, in his first report to the Board as the Student Trustee, reported on many student concerns such as the Bike Shop’s loss of funding, with 90% of students responding to him that they were upset with the possibility of its services no longer being available.

He also addressed the restrictions placed on academic work due to the slow internet service on campus, but acknowledged that discussions on the issue will only be likely to effect significant change in the coming years.

Neil Irwin, ‘00, reported for the Enrollment and Student Affairs Committee and announced that Aaron Williams, the current Director of the Peace Corps, has been selected as the Commencement speaker for 2011.

Williams will still need to be confirmed, but he was one of the people suggested by the Class of 2011 last spring.

With a new President at the school and with Matthews being the new Chair for the Board, there are likely to be changes in the Board’s vision for the College. Dean Bayless pointed out the increased focus on fundraising consistently mentioned throughout the meeting as evidence of this new direction. However, Ruthenberg-Marshall claims that, despite the new Chair, there seem to have been few changes to how the Board operates.

Only four students attended the open General Session, including the Student Trustee, which is not unusual according to Dean. “In the 13 Board meetings I have attended, I don’t recall a student just attending because it is an interesting open meeting,” said Bayless, acknowledging that the students present are usually the Student Trustee, Student-trustee-in-training and a Point News reporter, with the President of the Student Government Association occasionally attending.

Students are allowed to attend the General Sessions, which are open to the public, and while the public is not allowed to participate in the discussions within the meeting itself, many Trustees are open to speaking with students before and after the session is adjourned.

Despite the lack of students attending such meetings, both Bayless and Ruthenberg-Marshall believe that the Board is in tune with student concerns. Ruthenberg-Marshall believes that the position of the “student member does contribute to that” understanding, but he also thinks it is a “product of how in tune [the] administration is” with student opinions.

Bayless hopes that student awareness of the Board’s work will increase, with Matthews and Irwin scheduled to appear at one of the Neighborhood Chats she and President Urgo will hold throughout the year.

However, she believes that Ruthenberg-Marshall “is doing a good job of being visible as the Student Trustee, which helps students know more about the work of the Board.”

The next General Session will be held Saturday, Dec. 4 in Washington, D.C., though the time and location are to be determined. The next session held on campus will be Saturday, Feb. 26th in the Glendenning Annex.

Trustee Profile: Neil Irwin

Trustee Neil Irwin (Photo Submitted by Neil Irwin)
Trustee Neil Irwin (Photo Submitted by Neil Irwin)

Neil Irwin, economics reporter for the Washington Post and St. Mary’s alum is the focus of this weeks Trustee Profile. Irwin graduated from St. Mary’s in 2000 and began as an intern at the Washington Post the same year.

On the Board of Trustees, Irwin has served as the chair of the Enrollment and Student Affairs Committee and was also heavily involved in the Presidential Search Committee.
Irwin said, “I’m thrilled that we picked Joe Urgo. It was a long and difficult process and we as the board learned a lot about the college.”

“It triggered a lot of deep thinking about the future of the college….[Dr. Urgo] is a leader who I think is going to lead St. Mary’s into a wonderful period.”

He said his goals and “ambitions are the same as all those affiliated with St. Mary’s.” The Board is always striving to help the college grow and be a place where people of all backgrounds can get a first-rate liberal arts education.”

During his time on the Board of Trustees, Irwin said he has learned a lot about St. Mary’s. “One thing we learned in the [Presidential] search was that there was distrust between different groups on campus; that’s not the way it should be.”

When he heard about the greater transparency and visibility of campus figures like Dr. Urgo and Chief Santiago, Director of Public Safety, he said, “I’m pleased to hear there is progress in rebuilding that culture at St. Mary’s.”

Irwin said the members of the Board of Trustees are “all pretty accessible people…[and] most of us are pretty eager to hear from students. If people want to contact us directly feel free.” A list of all the members on the Board of Trustees is available on the college’s website.

He also stated he and Molly Mahoney Matthews have plans to visit and meet with students in general or the SGA in the next few months.