February 22, 2012
Dear Members of the Tufts Community:
The February meeting of the Board of Trustees always features a particularly full and substantive agenda: it comes at the midpoint of the academic year and incorporates sessions to orient new trustees to the work of the Board. New alumni trustees Betsy Busch and Tony Cortese joined the Board as of November; they were joined this month by new “charter” trustee Jeff Moslow, elected by the members of the Board. The Committee on Trusteeship and the Alumni Council take very seriously their role in ensuring strong board governance for Tufts. Our trustees, almost all of whom have at least one Tufts degree, bring to their work as fiduciaries not only great loyalty but also a diversity of talents and life experiences.
Another important feature of board governance at Tufts is faculty, student, and alumni representation on the Academic Affairs, Administration and Finance, and University Advancement committees. By tradition, their undergraduate representatives make a major thematic presentation to each of these committees in February. This year’s presentations—on innovation and mentorship, the cost of education, and opportunities to engage the donor community on sustainability, respectively—all generated significant and thoughtful discussion. The administration and Board share a concern for the impact of the cost of education on current and prospective students across the university, and Executive Vice President Patricia Campbell will begin taking a fresh look at how we can hold down growth in administrative costs while delivering the quality of services the community needs.
Student issues also featured prominently on the agenda of the Academic Affairs Committee, which began to plan for a series of discussions of key issues over its next few meetings. At this meeting, the Committee heard about plans for new initiatives to help address issues of dangerous drinking on campus.
In keeping with the student-centered focus of the weekend, on Friday, February 10, the Board had lunch with undergraduate and graduate students from across Tufts who have demonstrated excellence in research. The student participants included many Summer Scholars and Provost’s Fellows. This lunch followed a plenary session in which I had discussed with the Board, in the context of strategic planning, the work the Provost, Deans, faculty, and I have been engaged in to advance interdisciplinary research and graduate education. The Board shares our belief that by stimulating collaboration across traditional boundaries between academic fields and our various Schools, we have an important opportunity to deepen and extend Tufts’ impact on the great challenges facing our world.
At its Saturday meeting, the Board formally voted to appoint Eric Johnson as Vice President for University Advancement ad interim, effective March 1. At dinner with the Trustees on Friday, I had the privilege of presenting departing Senior Vice President Brian Lee with the Presidential Medal in recognition of his exceptional service to the university over a period of 26 years. Awarding the Medal requires the approval of the Board’s Executive Committee, which supported this honor for him with great enthusiasm. The meeting of the University Advancement committee included a substantial discussion of how the University Relations division tells the Tufts story through multiple channels, including Tufts Now and a social-media presence that is regarded as a national leader.
Looking ahead, it is clear that maintaining Tufts’ academic trajectory will require continued investment in our facilities—including both deferred maintenance and new and renovated buildings—as well as in business systems such as the new Student Information System. These needs, and how best to finance them, were another important topic of discussion across the weekend, at the full Board meeting as well as in the Buildings and Grounds and Administration and Finance committees. To ensure that decision-making takes place strategically, we are engaged in extensive capital planning.
This year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Boards of Overseers program, which operates under a Trustee mandate and whose members contribute so much to our Schools, athletics program, and international engagement. At this meeting, the Trustees, following up on the recommendations of the recent review of the Overseers program, formally approved a new name for the program. Going forward, the Boards will be known as the Boards of Advisors, reflecting more accurately the important work they do.
It is a pleasure to work with our dedicated trustees and to have the benefit of their insights into Tufts.