The most recent regular meeting of the Board of Trustees and many of its committees took place on the Medford/Somerville campus in the days leading up to graduation. Before participating in the Commencement exercises on May 22, the trustees took part in many special events celebrating our graduates and alumni, including Tufts Nights at Pops, the Baccalaureate service, dinner with this year’s honorary degree recipients, and many reunion activities.
The trustees are committed to Tufts achieving its aspirations in teaching and research while moderating the growth in the cost of education and laying a solid foundation for the future. The university’s finances and budget were major topics for discussion and action this May, including approval of our operating and capital budgets for FY17. Next year’s budget projects that we will achieve a modest surplus from operations, equivalent to approximately 1% of operating revenue. Such an operating surplus is essential to our ability to invest in needed capital projects and faculty support. The Board also heard an update on the challenging environment for research funding and its impact on operating budgets at the Medical School.
In order to insure the endowment’s value is not eroded in an environment of lower expected market returns, and to protect the endowment’s power to provide its important contribution to annual operating budgets, the trustees voted to phase in a reduced spending rate beginning in FY18. While that will affect our future budgets, we all believe it balances our short-term needs with prudent long-term financial management.
The Provost presented preliminary recommendations from the Residential Strategy Working Group, which has been assessing how we can enhance undergraduate housing and residential life both on and off campus. Among the recommendations were comprehensive renovations of Miller and Houston Halls, and the trustees approved funding for design work on that project, with the expectation that both of these residence halls will be renovated in phases during the summers of 2017 and 2018. Other capital expenditures approved included a new turf field at Field “E,” which will serve the varsity field hockey team, club sports and general recreational activities starting this fall.
The Academic Affairs Committee heard a report on the work of the Career Center in the Schools of Arts and Sciences and Engineering, highlighting all-time highs for student satisfaction, student and alumni usage, and students’ post-graduate success, and Provost Harris reported on the appointments of two outstanding members of the faculty—Lisa Lowe of the School of Arts and Sciences and Jeswald Salacuse of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy—as Distinguished Professors. The Committee for University Advancement reviewed issues including the role of the Annual Fund in our upcoming comprehensive campaign, crisis communications planning, and the vision for Tufts Magazine in the evolving media environment.
The May Board of Trustees meetings were extremely productive. I would like to express my gratitude to all of our Board members: the university benefits from their active and engaged service as trustees and in a host of other volunteer leadership roles that support our community. We look forward to welcoming to the Board Kalahn Taylor-Clark, Ph.D., J99, MG01, who was recently elected to trusteeship by our alumni; her term begins next winter.