News from the October 2020 IC Board of Trustees Meetings

Dear Ithaca College Community,

On Thursday, October 22, and Friday, October 23, the Ithaca College Board of Trustees met virtually for its regular fall meetings. Given the nature of the year we’ve had, trustees have been meeting frequently, either in committee or as a full board, throughout the spring and summer. We were grateful to come together as a full board for our regular October session, and particularly pleased to welcome our new faculty, staff, and student trustees for their first regular meetings: Baruch Whitehead, associate professor of music education; Casey Kendall, director of applications and infrastructure; and politics major and MLK Scholar Kalena Yearwood ’23.

Though our time together was engaging and productive, the board continues to miss the opportunity to spend time on South Hill and is very much looking forward to returning to campus for our February meetings, scheduled for February 10-12 at Ithaca College.

Governance Council Leadership Gathering

While Thursday’s slate of activities was primarily centered on board committee work, many trustees gathered midday with leaders of the college’s three governance councils: Faculty Council, Staff Council, and the Student Governance Council. Hosting a gathering where trustees can personally connect with the leadership of these three important college governing bodies has been a best practice for this board annually since 2017.

These meetings typically produce a robust and honest exchange of ideas and this year was no different. The board appreciated the candor and thoughtfulness of the members of the college constituent leadership groups, and our dialogue directly addressed some critical topics: the college’s ongoing campus climate issues related to race and mental health; the decision to open the college in the spring and our students’ desire to be back on campus; the implementation of the strategic plan, Ithaca Forever, which is bringing great change to Ithaca College; and, we specifically discussed the president and provost’s recent message to the campus community.

Board leadership, in particular, shared its appreciation for the respectful tone of public discourse as this college community walks through such challenging times.

Approving the Revised FY21 Budget 

The board well understands the financial challenges Ithaca College has faced this year. Before we share more about the revised, approved FY21 budget — the budget for our current 2020-21 academic year — the board would like to express its sincere gratitude to the college’s leadership and to the members of this community, including the Institutional Effectiveness and Budget Committee (IEBC), for the diligent work and the difficult choices that have been made to respond to and absorb as best as possible the tremendous impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the college. 

The board’s greatest responsibility is to ensure the college’s long-term health and fiscal sustainability, and now, more than ever, trustees remain focused on and strongly committed to our fiduciary duty in support of the mission of Ithaca College and in full support of the implementation of the college’s strategic plan, Ithaca Forever.

As a reminder for this community, the board decided during its May 2020 meetings to delay the approval of the budget until June 2020, due to the impact of COVID. In June, the board approved a net revenue operating budget of $189 million for FY21. This budget reflects savings generated by: pausing of the employer retirement contribution, which represents about $7.5 million in savings; pausing salary increment raises; pausing the ICLA, London, and affiliated programs; offering the early retirement program; and our staff workforce reductions. The college reduced other areas such as travels, meals, and entertainment.

Given the ongoing public health crisis — and the necessary work the college has embarked upon in response — and to also maintain the momentum of Ithaca Forever, the budget approved in June needed to be revised. The revised FY21 budget reflects the lost room, board, and auxiliary revenue as a response to being remote for the semester. It also includes $7 million in COVID-related expenses, up from the $1 million projected in June, confirming the college’s focus to prioritize community health and safety as we prepare to reopen the campus for the Spring 2021 semester. 

Even with the diligent work of this community, the revised and approved budget for FY21 has a projected $13 million deficit — more than half of this sum is represented by the $7 million in COVID-related expenses, the largest part of which is testing. Furthermore, this budget anticipates reopening for the Spring 2021 semester. In the event this does not occur due to circumstances beyond our control, the deficit would increase. The board also reviewed scenarios around this during its meetings last week.

Now that the board has approved the revised budget for FY21, the college administration and the IEBC begins the hard work to present to the board a balanced budget for FY22 — academic year 2021-22 — in May 2021.

Vice President for Finance and Administration Bill Guerrero will share more about the approved FY21 budget and information about the work that’s beginning on the FY22 budget during his next InFinity meeting, this Friday, October 30, from noon to 1 p.m.

Senior Leadership Reports and Plenary Sessions

During our second day of meetings, the board engaged in a dynamic and productive dialogue with members of college leadership during plenary sessions, which offer an opportunity for deep dives into strategic topics for the college. Among them:

  • Vice President for Student Affairs and Campus Life Rosanna Ferro; Christina Moylan, the college’s director of Public Health Emergency Preparedness; and Tim Carey, associate vice president for facilities, provided an overview of our Return to Campus Plan implementation and our work toward fully opening the college for the spring semester.
  • President Collado shared how the momentum of Ithaca Forever continues in this academic year and next and identified strategic priorities that are most relevant and salient in years two and three of the plan’s implementation.
  • Provost La Jerne Terry Cornish provided a continuation of her ongoing updates to trustees around the academic program prioritization process, including an update around the optimal size of the faculty and slate of academic programs, based on a 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio and a target college enrollment of 5,000 (undergraduate and graduate students).
  • Vice Presidents Hayley Harris, human resources, and Bill Guerrero, finance and administration, explored the college’s nonacademic program review and expense management strategy.

Marketing and Enrollment Strategy Committee Formed

Because of the critical nature of enrollment and retention for Ithaca College, the board recently established the Marketing and Enrollment Strategy Committee, chaired by Jeff Selingo ’95. This committee had its first meeting earlier this month, and will complement and support the ongoing work of Vice President for Marketing and Enrollment Strategy Laurie Koehler and her team. We look forward to how this collaborative partnership will strengthen our efforts in this key area.

We want to close this letter by thanking you for being a part of our IC community and for your tenacity this year as we walk through challenge and change.


David H. Lissy ’87
Chair, Ithaca College Board of Trustees

Shirley M. Collado
President, Ithaca College