Regular meetings of the Board of Trustees and its committees took place on Friday and Saturday, November 6 and 7, 2020 virtually. In addition to those regularly scheduled meetings, the trustees held many special sessions over the summer and earlier this fall in order to offer their expertise, guidance and support during these most challenging times.
During the Board’s plenary sessions on Friday, November 6 members of the board engaged in a vigorous discussion on “Student Life During COVID-19” with Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences Jim Glaser and the Dean of the School of Engineering Jianmin Qu along with members of our undergraduate student-facing and student affairs staff. Specifically, I was pleased to include in the conversation Kirsten Behling, Associate Dean of Student Accessibility and Academic Resources, Michelle Bowdler, Executive Director of Health and Wellness Services, Nandi Bynoe, Associate Dean of Diversity and Inclusion, Josh Hartman, Director Residential Life and Learning, Camille Lizarríbar, Dean of Student Affairs and Chief Student Affairs Officer, and John Morris, Director of Athletics. Each brought first-hand experience in dealing with the many challenges that our undergraduates are facing due to the pandemic. The trustees were impressed to hear the creative solutions this group delivered to ease the burdens of student wellness and enhance the academic and co-curricular experience.
Much of the Board’s work is accomplished through its standing committees and each addressed many pressing topics. The agenda for the Academic Affairs Committee included a report from Provost Nadine Aubry on the survey sent to faculty and staff this fall on the impact of COVID-19. The Student Affairs Committee discussed the results of the Mental Health Needs Assessment survey, which was conducted last spring and the ongoing work of the President’s Mental Health Steering Committee, which aligns with the outcomes from the survey.
The Committee for University Advancement received updates on the Brighter World campaign. While fundraising has been impacted by the worldwide lockdown, the campaign exceeded the $1B mark this spring and the School of Medicine recently surpassed its fundraising goal as have five of our nine schools. The Tufts Alumni Council Strategic Planning Committee Co-Chairs presented highlights of the recently completed strategic planning process, which culminated in recommendations for reimagining the Tufts alumni volunteer experience and reforming the Council itself. The trustees also approved the new University Gift Policy Statement, which includes new Guiding Principles for Gift Acceptance and the charge to a new University Gift Advisory Committee that was formed over the summer.
Since last spring, the Administration and Finance Committee met on numerous occasions to discuss the university’s finances and to advise on mitigating measures the university should take. As a result of swift and appropriate measures the university took in the spring, our financial position at the end of FY20 generated a modest positive margin of 1% of our operating budget. The university has been able to absorb some COVID-related revenue shortfalls and expenses. However, much uncertainty remains and will likely impact the FY21 projections although we are currently projecting a balanced budget. The Buildings and Grounds Committee, a subcommittee of the Administration and Finance Committee reported that the Joyce Cummings Center construction has fully resumed after a brief halt last spring and is scheduled to be completed in January 2022.
Tufts benefits from the service of thoughtful and deeply committed trustees who lend their experience and perspective to advance the university’s goals. On Saturday, the Board recognized the service of three retiring trustees David Rone, Janice Savin Williams and Tina Surh all of whom were recognized with the title of trustee emeritus. The Board elected two new trustees who have long records of dedicated engagement with Tufts: Eileen A. Aptman, J90 and Ancy Verdier, D.M.D., A96, D03, DG06. In addition, Doug Harris, A81 was elected by the members of the Alumni Association in the spring and began his term as an alumni trustee.