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Trustees approve maintaining CUPA averages for faculty and staff

More on that commitment, plus building repairs and a new degree highlight Sept. 13-14 Board meeting.

By Dan Vaccaro

September 17, 2018

Students walking on MSU Denver campusMetropolitan State University of Denver’s Board of Trustees met Sept. 13-14. Here are the highlights from two half-days of presentations, discussion and big decisions.

Limited budget makes for tough decisions

The Board approved Budget Task Force recommendations for the 2018-19 fiscal year.  

The budget was complicated this year by a state-mandated 3 percent cap on tuition increases, which significantly limited the University’s revenue, and a slight drop in enrollment of 0.9 percent.

After mandatory costs such as faculty promotions and health insurance were paid, the University was left with only $2.4 million in additional revenue.

The Budget Task Force felt it was essential to maintain its commitment to College and University Professional Association salary averages, meaning that faculty members stay between 94 percent and 100 percent of the CUPA average compared with peers at comparable institutions. Professional staff and administrators are not allowed to fall below 92 percent. To honor that commitment, the University invested $1.4 million in its talent resources.

An additional $900,000 was needed to replenish the University’s base reserves, which is insurance in case of emergency costs such as major drops in enrollment. Last year, a similar figure was pulled from the reserves to cover a revenue shortfall.

Unfortunately, that meant there was almost no revenue for funding other priorities, such as across-the-board salary increases, adding advisors or using base budget for the Classroom to Career Hub.

“While it’s not an ideal situation, the Budget Task Force believes it is important to do something for the current faculty and staff,” said George Middlemist, interim vice president of administration. 

The Board approved the recommendation of one-time stipends of $2,000 for faculty, professional staff and administrators. For the majority of faculty, administrators and staff, this amounts to at least a 2 percent increase in their take-home pay.

Middlemist said a flat stipend amount was chosen because it makes a bigger difference in the take-home pay for employees at the lower end of the salary spectrum.

An additional $200,000 in one-time monies will be allocated to a professional-development fund for affiliate faculty.

Help on the way for aging infrastructure

Tina Wells, director of facilities planning and space management, and Sarah Harman, executive director in the Office of University Effectiveness, presented on Capital Renewal Projects. President Janine Davidson, Ph.D., framed the presentation as a primer for a larger conversation the Board will have about aging facilities at its October retreat.

The enlightening presentation provided history and background on Auraria Campus facilities and how maintenance is funded, in particular, on shared buildings.  

Wells reported that the Auraria Higher Education Center submitted a capital-renewal request to the Colorado Department of Higher Education for nearly $73 million. The funds would address the utility infrastructure, mechanical-system maintenance, controlled maintenance and all other types of building maintenance that has been deferred for decades.

Currently, AHEC institutions contribute $1.9 million per year to address the deferred maintenance issues facing the campus’ shared core. This amount, even combined with the AHEC request, falls far below what is needed to tackle issues that the buildings face after 40 years of use.

Wells said MSU Denver is at the greatest risk to be affected by these issues because it has higher occupancy in shared facilities such as the P.E. Events Center and the Plaza and West Classroom buildings. 

Davidson said she wanted the Board to hear the history and see the photos to provide context, both economically and politically, for its extended conversation at the upcoming retreat. “We need to take stock of where we are as we consider how we get to a better, new normal, both in terms of repair and growth,” she said.

Name change to honor University luminary

The Faculty Senate Diversity Committee Postdoctoral Fellows Program is getting a new name – the Wilton Flemon Postdoctoral Fellowship.

Flemon, who has taught chemistry at MSU Denver for more than 50 years, led the effort to create the program and has long served as an advocate for recruiting and retaining faculty of color.   

The program creates a pipeline for academics from diverse backgrounds. There are currently two Latinos in the program – one in the College of Business’ Marketing Department and one in the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences’ Sociology and Anthropology Department. The goal is to bring in two new fellows every other year.

Welcome new faculty trustee

New Faculty Trustee Christopher Harder, Ph.D., gave his first report to the Board. The assistant professor of mathematics and MSU Denver alumnus said he intended to serve “to the best of my ability as a conduit between the faculty and Board, and to faithfully represent the faculty voice.”

He assured faculty members that he would be regularly relaying Board of Trustees business and seeking faculty input on issues. 

Ballot initiative gets Board endorsement

The Board passed a resolution in support of Prosperity Denver, a ballot initiative that would create a dedicated funding stream for college access and success programs through a sales-tax increase of less than one cent on every $10. It would generate more than $10 million annually and sunset in 12 years.

The funds could be accessed by existing nonprofit organizations devoted to providing high school graduates with scholarships for postsecondary education, but only if the students meet certain measures for success.

“These are our kids,” said Trustee Barb Grogan. “What this will do is allow all these wonderful institutions who provide scholarships to do even more.”

New degree looks (and sounds) great

The Board gave its stamp of approval to develop a Bachelor of Arts in sound and vision. The degree will be administered by the Journalism and Technical Communication Department in conjunction with MSU Denver at DIME. The purpose of the new degree is to teach students how to prepare visuals, including video, photography, social media and graphics, for musical artists and the burgeoning commercial music industry.

Board of Trustees meetings are open to the public and livestreamed on the day of the event. 

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