Regents talk retirement options, Title IX and fall semester at July meeting

The Board of Regents gathered virtually on July 8 and 9 to discuss agenda items, including financial sustainability and University policy changes.

The Board of Regents convene for their October 2019 meeting at the McNamara Alumni Center on Thursday, Oct. 10.

Nur B. Adam

The Board of Regents convene for their October 2019 meeting at the McNamara Alumni Center on Thursday, Oct. 10.

Hana Ikramuddin and Abbey Machtig

The University of Minnesota Board of Regents discussed plans for fall semester, financial sustainability and Title IX policy changes in a virtual meeting held July 8 and 9.

The board also held its annual retreat where members covered topics such as the University’s Medical School, advancing the systemwide strategic plan and COVID-19 testing for students, faculty and staff. This was the board’s last scheduled meeting until September.

Among the topics discussed was the University’s sources of revenue. Student tuition is now the biggest source of revenue for the University due to the uncertain status of state appropriation funding, said Brian Burnett, senior vice president for finance and operations at the meeting.

Class scheduling for fall semester

Executive Vice President and Provost Rachel Croson provided an update to the board on details for fall semester.

The University is beginning to assign locations and classrooms on campus to the classes still being held in-person, Croson said. 

As classrooms will have to follow social distancing guidelines, the capacity will be reduced to one-quarter of the original capacity. Regents discussed expanding classes into larger spaces on campus, like Northrop, to hold as many classes in-person as possible.

“The physical space limitation is going to be the limitation, not the desire of students or faculty [to have classes in person],” Croson said at the meeting.

The University is working to have student schedules finalized by the end of July.

Report of the Presidential Performance Review Committee

The board also delivered its review of President Joan Gabel’s work since her inauguration in fall 2019. The Presidential Performance Review Committee officially met in a nonpublic meeting with Gabel in June.

President Gabel demonstrated “decisive leadership in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic,” wrote Regent Mary Davenport in the report. “She continues to navigate an unprecedented global crisis with compassion, steadiness, and adaptability.”

As part of the report, regents also gave the president some priorities for next year, including advancing the strategic plan, engaging the board in key University decisions and continuing the development of the senior leadership team.

Title IX changes

Regents also further discussed changes to the University’s Title IX policy in relation to sexual harassment and misconduct.The University has to update sections of its policy by Aug. 14, following new regulations from the U.S. Department of Education.

Tina Marisam, director of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action at the University, presented a draft policy proposal at the meeting. 

The board will likely call a special meeting to vote on the changes prior to the August deadline.

Retirement Incentive Offer

The regents approved a new retirement incentive plan, which gives eligible employees a one-time opportunity to apply for early retirement. The plan is estimated to create $24 million in net savings.

Eligible employees must apply to the program and cannot be rehired to the University for at least six months after retirement, said Ken Horstman, interim vice president for human resources.

“Having seen a number of [retirement plans], my view is that they do generate very significant savings, and they do open up the opportunity for different kinds of restructuring that can lead to longer-term savings,” Regent Kendall Powell said at the meeting.

Retreat discussions

Following approval of Gabel’s strategic plan in June, the board reviewed the development of metric systems to evaluate the goals set within the plan. The metrics look at data sets like enrollment and retention rates. Regents discussed updating the targets on the University of Minnesota Progress Card to better reflect the systemwide strategic plan.

Additionally, board members reviewed updated projections on the financial status of the University.