The most recent regular meeting of the Board of Trustees and its committees took place on November 7–8 on the Medford/Somerville campus. Major topics for the trustees’ review and action included initiatives to support our strategic plan, the budget outlook for upcoming years, the pace of change required to address mismatches between resources and operations, and the university’s commitment to sustainability.
A year ago at this time, the Board formally approved the university-wide T10 Strategic Plan. In its meeting, the Academic Affairs Committee reviewed progress in implementing T10 initiatives. In a plenary session that looked ahead to Tufts’ next comprehensive fundraising campaign, the full Board discussed how the university and the schools can frame compelling campaign priorities that will advance Tufts’ mission and the priorities identified in the T10 plan. On Saturday, the Board reviewed key current issues affecting undergraduate admissions, tuition, and financial aid at the schools of Arts and Sciences and Engineering. Our trustees are committed to maintaining academic momentum and supporting a diverse group of outstanding students while restraining growth in tuition costs.
The Administration and Finance Committee reviewed the university’s financial results for fiscal year 2014, which ended on June 30. Despite the sluggish economic recovery since the downturn in 2008–09 and constraints on revenue growth, Tufts remains committed to funding its strategic initiatives. We ended last year with a modest surplus, as we did the previous year; however, an operating deficit is projected for the current fiscal year. The trustees discussed the imperative for the Tufts Effectiveness in Administrative Management (TEAM) initiative to increase operational efficiencies as part of a broader plan to avoid future budget deficits. Through the efforts of Tufts Support Services and savings in the procurement of contracts and services, we anticipate a balanced budget in fiscal year 2016, with increased operating margins in years beyond. Such margins are critical for generating the funds required for future capital projects. The trustees also discussed the effect of change in administrative processes and structures on faculty and staff. Although they understand that the pace and trajectory of change may be unsettling, the Board fully supported the direction, scope and intent of the changes.
A joint session of the University Advancement and Administration and Finance committees focused on our endowment and financial assets and their role in the university’s budget. Success in achieving our financial goals will continue to rely on maintaining a diversified investment strategy appropriate to the university’s long-term time horizon.
The Board also acted to advance Tufts’ continued commitment to sustainability, formally approving the establishment of a sustainability investment fund as recommended to the Board earlier this year. The Tufts University Sustainability Fund (TUSF) will provide donors to the university an opportunity to designate that endowment gifts be invested in accordance with what is known as the Environmental, Social, and Governance approach. Tufts will launch the new TUSF with seed funding from the university.
The establishment of the TUSF gives us an opportunity to learn more about the feasibility and effectiveness of sustainability investments in a manner that aligns with our fiduciary responsibilities. Ideally, this investment will provide funds to support sustainability programming at Tufts in both the academic and operational arenas.
Additionally, the Administration and Finance Committee authorized the university to pursue the replacement of the 60-year-old central heating plant on the Medford/Somerville campus with a new Campus Energy Plant that will advance the goals outlined in our 2013 Comprehensive Energy Plan, which calls for a range of strategic investments that also include building energy metering. By replacing this aging facility, we can reduce energy costs and cut the university’s greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent. The plant will leverage the latest cogeneration technologies by using heat that otherwise would be wasted to produce electricity.
The new facility, which will serve Tufts for generations, will pay for itself in approximately a dozen years through anticipated energy savings. It will supply the energy needs of new facilities, including the Science and Engineering Complex, which is scheduled to open in 2017. I anticipate the energy plant, tentatively planned for a site next to Dowling Hall on Boston Avenue, will also provide a unique teaching resource for students taking courses in engineering, the environment and sustainability. The university will be working closely with the community during the plant development and permitting process.
You can read more about both the Sustainability Fund and the new central energy plant in Tufts Now. These initiatives are among an array of projects under way across the university, including new or planned solar-power installations on both the Medford/Somerville and Grafton campuses, that are putting into practice the principles articulated by the Campus Sustainability Council.
On Friday, the Academic Affairs, Administration and Finance, and University Advancement committees all welcomed new representatives from the TCU Senate, school faculties, and alumni. On Saturday, at the Board’s annual meeting, the trustees welcomed Alumni Trustee Diana Lopez, J78, elected to fill an unexpired term, and recognized 1982 graduate Seth Merrin’s 10 years of service as a Charter Trustee by electing him Emeritus Trustee. The Board also elected two new trustees, E. Michael Fung, A79, A12P, and Peter H. Kamin, A84, A16P. We are fortunate to benefit from the continued dedication and service of the Board, whose members serve the university not only as trustees but also as donors, advisors, advocates, and enthusiastic friends.