Board of Visitors focuses on environment, finance

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September 26, 2008

1:59 AM

At yesterday’s meeting of the Board of Visitors, discussion focused on environmental sustainability and the College of William and Mary’s financial situation.

During the committee on administration, Chief Information Officer Courtney Carpenter discussed developments at Information Technology.

He noted that those now connecting to the wireless network can choose to encrypt their connections and that approximately 30 percent do so.

Carpenter added that the new website for the Marshall-Wythe School of Law will launch next week and has been designed to complement the main College website.

“If you come to the law school site from the William and Mary site, you’ll think it’s the same thing,” he said.

He noted that the new websites for the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, undergraduate arts and sciences and academic advising will launch soon. The departments of economics, English and geology will launch in October, followed by the Mason School of Business site in March.

BOV Rector Michael Powell ’85 asked about the use of recent internet developments such as blogs, wikis and social networks.

“If you harness the tools of collaboration and desegregation it would be powerful in class,” Powell said.
Carpenter responded that IT has been exploring those tools and that some teachers already use blogs and wikis not hosted by the College.

Vice President for Administration Anna Martin then discussed updates to the College’s emergency preparedness and risk management plans. Beginning next year, she said, students living on campus will be required to submit an evacuation plan to the administration detailing where they would go in the event of an evacuation.

Martin also presented codified guidelines for vehicle use at the College. BOV Vice Rector Henry Wolf ’64 J.D. ’66 asked Martin if the condensed guidelines were in response to the November 2007 deaths of fencing coach Pete Conomikes and Ben Gutenberg ’11 while traveling to a match. She said in part it was, but that the move had been necessary before.

Martin then moved on to the College’s sustainability plan.

“This is one of the top three or four issues for students,” Martin told the committee.

She detailed the creation of a steering committee, consisting of faculty members, student representatives, a staff member and various administrators, including Martin.

BOV Secretary Suzann Matthews ’71 suggested asking alumni working in the environmental field to work closely with the many students interested.

“The world has problems, but this is one of the major problems of the world. What should a university do? It should deal with major problems of the world and we should be known for doing that. At William and Mary we produce leaders in these efforts,” Matthews said. “Let’s make a splash on this.”

Wolf said that involving alumni and students would help unify the College.

“I think another positive that would come from the suggestion Suzann is making is this is also a good way to increase the dialogue between various constituent interests within the College,” he said.

Board members pointed out that other universities, including the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech, have full-time staff and heavily funded green programs. They compared that the College’s steering committee, which is funded by the Green Fee, which students implemented last spring and which brings in $230,000 per year.

“A lot of schools are going at this, schools that create a vice provost for sustainability or something similar, senior administrative figure and pumping tens of millions of dollars into the effort,” Reveley said. “We’re going at it basically with a normal operating budget and the Green Fee and doing it without a full-time administrator. Let’s see if it works. If it works, we will be a model for lightly funded schools.”
Much of the $230,000 goes toward upgrading facilities to be eco-friendly. The rest funds environmental research projects or is invested.

The BOV committee on finance then met to discuss money issues.

Powell made some opening remarks before the committee met. Although the BOV meets as a whole today, most members were present for the finance committee meeting.

“These committee meetings are always held and they’re always important, but I think they’re more important today perhaps in a good part of the College’s history,” Powell said. “The financial situation, to date, the financial situation is deeply concerning.”

College President Reveley concurred.

“These are challenging times for us financially,” he said. “It’s become unavoidably clear, when we’re talking about our operating budget — not our capital budget, not our bricks and mortar, our operating budget — that we have become already a largely privately supported university.”

At the finance committee meeting, Vice President for Finance Sam Jones presented to the BOV information comparing the College with peer schools, including Princeton University, the University of Virginia and Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. The College consistently ranked in the middle or bottom of the group in topics such as overall endowment, endowment per student, acceptance rate, yield and student-faculty ratio.

The committee also certified Jones and Reveley to conduct business on behalf of the BOV — a necessary but mostly ceremonial distinction.

During the day Powell recognized Ann Repeta, an office administrator for the women’s studies department. Repeta is the first staff representative to the BOV, serving in a non-voting role along with faculty representative Katherine Kulick and student representative President Valerie Hopkins ’09, SA president.

Powell also recognized new BOV members Colin Campbell and Tim Dunn ’83. The other new BOV member, Robert Scott J.D. ’68, was not present at the proceedings.

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