October 2017 Board of Trustees Meeting: Reflections and Updates

Submitted on behalf of Tom Grape ’80, chair of the board of trustees, and Shirley M. Collado, president of the college

In this year filled with so many firsts and so many rejuvenated traditions, we’ve just returned home from our first Board of Trustees meeting of the academic year, held October 11-13. We chose to hold the fall meeting in New York City so that the board could participate in the alumni awards celebration taking place there. It was an uplifting event that set the perfect tone for the fall.

Joining us for the meeting were new trustees elected to the board in May, as well as all of the deans and the members of the college’s senior leadership team, who shared updates about their work at the college. Although we worked from early morning to late evening each of the days, the energy remained incredibly high, buoyed by tremendous optimism for what lies ahead for IC and anticipation for the Weekend on South Hill and Inauguration.

The board members will be on campus in just a few weeks for the big event, and they are very much looking forward to celebrating IC’s past, present, and future alongside students, faculty, staff, alumni, and families. In the meantime, we wanted to share with you our reflections on the fall board meeting and some highlights about the work we did together.

Tuition and Financial Aid
The board approved the college’s recommended tuition, room, and board rates and financial aid budget for the 2018-2019 academic year. Next year’s rate of increase in tuition is the lowest in more than 50 years; the overall cost of attendance is the lowest increase in decades; and the financial aid budget is the highest in the college’s history. These figures are evidence that the college’s persistent efforts to ensure access and control costs for our students are continuing to work. We encourage you to read more about next year’s rates here.

Fountain Place
As the board leadership shared after its May 2017 meeting, Fountain Place has been discontinued as the college president’s residence due to longstanding financial and logistical challenges in using it as both a home and a place to welcome the college community. After several years of careful evaluation and discussion, the board voted unanimously in its October meeting to sell Fountain Place. This was not an easy decision, but, ultimately, the board came to the conclusion that it was the most responsible choice to make. More information about the decision can be found here.

Plenary Sessions: Deep-Dive Discussions
One of the most important functions of board meetings is to help members stay well informed and engaged about important issues and trends in higher education. At each meeting, we set aside sessions dedicated to deeper explorations of complex topics. For the October meeting, President Collado co-facilitated sessions about campus climate and inclusive excellence, and about the intersections of free speech, academic freedom, and safety. Both discussions were frank, open, and solution-oriented.

Campus climate, and efforts to improve diversity and inclusion on the campus as well as on the board, remain a major focus for the board this year.

Sue Rankin, of Rankin & Associates, the firm that conducted the recent campus climate survey, joined President Collado to share insights on Ithaca College’s path forward. The board fully supports the four focus areas outlined by the college leadership at the start of this academic year and recognizes that success depends on those focus areas being integrated into all of the college’s goals and plans, at every level, including the board itself. Rankin and Collado facilitated a very productive working session on ways the board can help the college’s efforts, and ways the president can help the board’s efforts.

The board’s ad hoc committee on inclusive excellence, chaired by Kristin Muenzen ’00, has been collaborating with the chairs of every board committee to integrate goals and outcomes for inclusive excellence into each committee’s work. They have made strong progress, and we look forward to sharing more about their work in the near future. In both the plenary session and in the governance committee meeting we discussed the pathway to trusteeship, thinking very critically and intentionally about how we can make sure that the composition and engagement of the board is more diverse and more inclusive, so that the board more closely reflects the experiences of our students.

Nationally, the intersections of free speech, academic freedom, and campus safety have become heated topics of debate. President Collado and Nancy Pringle, executive vice president and general counsel, led a very a robust discussion about the ways that various public and private institutions have been navigating this territory, and how boards might best support colleges in this contentious time. One of the most complex discussions centered around the ways in which controversial speakers and protests over them have prompted institutions to examine how they work to ensure both free expression and safety. It was clear from our discussion that there are no one-size-fits-all solutions for such dynamic situations, and it was equally clear that Ithaca College’s deeply held commitment to brave, respectful dialogue and academic freedom is a crucial guiding principle for our community. This clearly will be an ongoing conversation on our campus and many others for some time to come. The board will continue to seek ways to actively support the college’s commitment to engage with its constituents, protect academic freedom, and ensure the safety of our community.

Alumni Awards
For the first time, the board had the opportunity to join with the Alumni Association Board of Directors in honoring the most recent recipients of the annual alumni awards. Their stories moved many in the audience to tears, reminding us in such personal ways how incredibly transformative IC can be for so many people, and how incredibly talented and humble our alumni are. The sense of gratitude, connection, and pride we felt in the room that evening is something we are still carrying with us. We want to congratulate these amazing people for the many ways they have made their communities and the college better places:

Ralph A. Siciliano ’72
Edgar “Dusty” Bredbenner Jr. ’50 Distinguished Alumni Award

Michelle L. Niescierenko ’02
Humanitarian Award

Michael A. Meador ’78
Lifetime Achievement Award

Joseph C. Ewoodzie ’06
Outstanding Young Alumni Award

Jason V. DeLand ’98
Professional Achievement Award

William E. Durant ’86
Volunteer Service Award

Read more about the award winners here.

As we prepare for the Weekend on South Hill, the entire board will be arriving on campus with a deep sense that the college is starting a very important new chapter in its history. It will be up to all of us in the IC family to come together and write that new chapter—to shape, collectively, the community that we want to be. We are off to a truly inspirational start on that journey, and look forward to continuing together, this year and beyond.

Tom Grape ’80
Chair, Ithaca College Board of Trustees

Shirley M. Collado
President, Ithaca College