Report on the November 2012 Meeting of the Board of Trustees

Dear Members of the Tufts Community,

The most recent regular meeting of the Board of Trustees and its committees took place on November 1-3, 2012. We seek to provide opportunities for the trustees to engage with all three of our campuses, so they met in Boston for two days and finished the weekend in Medford.

At the Board’s customary Friday plenary session, Provost Harris offered an update on the strategic planning process. All trustees had been invited to share their thoughts on strategic planning in a series of briefing sessions earlier this semester. The Board meeting offered an opportunity to update them on the launch of the core committees and topical working groups and to review plans for faculty, student, and staff engagement. One of the T10 working groups is focused on online learning and digital initiatives, and the remainder of the plenary session focused on these areas. Presentations by Dean of Arts and Sciences Joanne Berger Sweeney and Fletcher Senior Associate Dean Deborah Winslow Nutter set the stage for a wide-ranging discussion of the opportunities offered by new technologies to strengthen teaching and learning at Tufts. Members of the Digital and Online Initiatives Working Group joined the trustees for lunch afterwards.

Meetings on Friday afternoon offered a chance to welcome new representatives from the TCU Senate, the Schools’ faculties, and the alumni to the Academic Affairs, Administration and Finance, and University Advancement Committees:

  • The Academic Affairs Committee discussed a range of issues including the policy framework for faculty development and retention across the university. The Committee approved the establishment of a new academic department at the Cummings School that will advance the School’s important work on integrated global health and infectious disease. It also approved a new Sackler School master’s program in pharmacology and drug development, which will admit its first students next fall.
  • Reviewing projects discussed the preceding day by the Buildings and Grounds Committee, the Administration and Finance Committee approved the start of renovations to the university primary data center in the Tufts Administration Building and a new biosafety laboratory in the Arnold Building downtown to support the work of the Microbiology Department.
  • Topics for discussion in University Advancement included volunteer engagement in alumni and advancement efforts. The Committee also reviewed the university’s comprehensive new Policy to Protect Children and Prevent Abuse, which, in conjunction with a new Code of Conduct Involving Interactions with Minors, ensures that we have strong protocols in place to protect minors in their interactions with the Tufts community.

The Board’s business meeting on Saturday, which took place in Medford, was its formal annual meeting. Members welcomed newly elected Alumni Trustee John de Jong and voted to elect as Charter Trustees former Alumni Trustee Thomas Alperin and first-time Trustees Michael Gordon and Diane Hessan. This represented the final meeting for four trustees who had served two five-year terms, Alumni Trustee Ed Swan and Charter Trustees A. Dana Callow, Fares Fares, and Dan Kraft. As usual, the Board heard updates and reports from all its committees. The Audit Committee reported that the university’s auditors had approved Tufts’ financial statements for the last fiscal year with an unqualified opinion.

On the recommendation of the Honorary Degree Committee, the Board unanimously voted to rescind the honorary degree awarded to Lance Armstrong at Commencement in 2006. While continuing to respect the significant work of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, the board concluded that, in the wake of the recent report of the United States Anti-Doping Agency and its acceptance by the International Cycling Union, Mr. Armstrong’s actions as an athlete are inconsistent with the values of Tufts University.

The major topical presentation at the Board meeting concerned plans to take a comprehensive look at effectiveness in administrative management at Tufts, which had also been discussed with the Administration and Finance Committee the preceding day. This effort is intended to position the university to meet existing and future programmatic needs while using resources as effectively as possible and will be closely aligned with the current strategic planning process. Executive Vice President Patricia Campbell reviewed plans to begin discussing this initiative with faculty, managers, and staff in a series of campus meetings in the weeks immediately following the Board meeting. To provide context for the initiative, Vice President for Finance and Treasurer Thomas McGurty reviewed a range of long-term financial models that highlighted how important it is for Tufts to build on its current sound financial position to ensure its continuing strength in an economic environment that is likely to remain challenging.

Tufts is fortunate to benefit from the engagement and counsel of an exceptional group of trustees. The wide-ranging discussions over this most recent Board weekend demonstrated both their commitment to Tufts and the great value of their advice to the Administration. It is a privilege to work with them.

Best wishes,

Tony Monaco