This past weekend saw the first meeting of our Board of Trustees since approving the T10 strategic plan in November; the meeting was both productive and energizing.
One of the Board’s central responsibilities is to steward the university’s assets in support of our academic mission. Since early last year, our community has engaged in substantive and thoughtful deliberations about the university’s role in helping to mitigate climate change and whether Tufts should divest from investments in fossil fuel companies. Last April, I established the Tufts Divestment Working Group, comprising students, faculty, trustees, and administration to review these issues. At its meeting on February 8, the full Board of Trustees discussed and approved the report of the working group, which made three primary recommendations for Tufts:
Refrain from divestment at this time, primarily because of the significant anticipated negative impact on Tufts’ endowment, and therefore our operating budget.
Pursue the establishment of a Sustainability Fund supporting Tufts to which donors could direct contributions.
Pursue other courses of action to address climate change such as expanding curriculum and research on these issues.
I encourage you to read a message to the community in which I discuss in more detail the issues raised by divestment, and the working group’s recommendations. I am deeply grateful to the entire Divestment Working Group for their commitment to these issues and the careful thought that went into their recommendations.
We are committed to meeting ambitious sustainability goals for Tufts’ operations and took a major step in this direction during the Board meetings, when the Trustee Buildings and Grounds Committee approved in concept an energy master plan for the Medford/Somerville campus. The plan calls for strategic investments in projects such as building energy metering and cogeneration technology which will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and have short-term payback to recover their costs.
This weekend offered a number of opportunities for the Board and its committees to discuss next steps as the university implements the T10 strategic plan. Major topics in these discussions included not only T10 initiatives spearheaded by the Provost’s Office but also the development of strategic plans in the individual schools and plans for fundraising to support our academic priorities. Meeting our goals will require us to engage even more creatively with our generous alumni, parents and friends in the years ahead.
Access to a Tufts education is a key element of T10, and the members of the Board’s Academic Affairs and Administration and Finance committees engaged in substantive conversations about the relationship between the university’s operating budget and trends in tuition rates. Given the increasingly challenging economic environment for higher education, meeting our goals for access requires that we use our resources as effectively as possible; the weekend also featured updates on the work of the Tufts Effectiveness in Administrative Management (TEAM) initiative, focusing on the ongoing discussions and deliberations within the Tufts community as we move into implementation.
At lunch on Friday, the Board met with students from across the university who are making an impact on society through community service, research, and social entrepreneurship. In committee meetings that afternoon, the Board heard student presentations on significant issues affecting the undergraduate experience: career services, study abroad, and the experiences of first-generation students. These annual presentations are a highlight of the February meetings, providing an important opportunity for trustees to hear directly from students.
The weekend also featured a meeting of the Council of the Boards of Advisors – bringing together alumni and friends engaged with each of our schools, our international activities, and our athletics program – as well as the annual orientation for new trustees, who bring to their work both great enthusiasm and fresh perspectives.
The Board began its business meeting on Saturday with recognition of the untimely passing of trustee Alison “Sunny” Breed, a tireless advocate for Tufts whose commitment exemplified the dedication shared by all our trustees. This weekend’s meetings provided important feedback and guidance for our efforts to advance Tufts, and the university is fortunate to be so well served by an energetic and engaged Board.