The university’s Board of Trustees gathered virtually in April and May for committee and full board plenary sessions focused on a range of critical issues not the least of which was the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on academics, research and operations.
Just over a year ago, I wrote to you and committed to being transparent about the challenging circumstances that the university was facing and the mitigating actions we needed to take to withstand decreased revenue streams compounded by extraordinary Covid-related expenses. And I am pleased to report that at the meeting of the Administration and Finance Committee, the administration reported a modest surplus for FY2021that reflects the strict adherence to the fiscal controls that we put into place last year, and which enabled us to put into place merit increases for this year. In addition, the committee approved an FY2022 budget that will continue to ensure the long-term health of the institution. The budget also reflects the university’s commitment to investments in financial aid, faculty recruitment, and the anti-racist institution workstreams. In addition, the committee endorsed a ten-year plan for capital investments on all three campuses.
The Academic Affairs Committee reviewed the results of a survey administered in the Spring semester for students and faculty regarding their level of satisfaction with remote modalities of learning due to COVID-19 restrictions. The response revealed that students and faculty are feeling exhausted and stressed, but hopeful for a fully in-person learning experience in the Fall. The faculty have done a commendable job adapting their courses to hybrid and remote instructional modalities and generally feel supported by the university in adapting instruction to on-line, remote formats.
The Student Affairs Committee met with the directors of the Division of Student Diversity & Inclusion (DSDI) along with the Director of the Career Center to better understand the challenges that underrepresented students in the undergraduate population in particular are facing with regards to career and internship placement. The committee members, which includes an undergraduate and a graduate student, are developing a framework for a set of recommendations to be presented to the administration in the future.
The Committee for University Advancement reviewed the progress made over the past 2 ½ years towards the university’s goal of implementing a modern communication strategy. You may have already noticed a shift from print production to “digital first, content everywhere” approach. There has been a substantial increase in video content, with stories featuring Tufts expertise including two podcasts, Tell Me More and Bookish. I encourage you to check out both of those features.
And we were very pleased to report on three major gifts to the university. Jack Derby, who served as the Director of the Tufts Entrepreneurship Center (TEC), pledged $10m to help secure the future of the center, which will be named in his honor. His gift will also name the lobby of the new Joyce Cummings Center, where TEC will be housed. The committee was delighted to learn of a new gift to establish a Generous Listening and Dialogue Center at Tisch College.The third gift presented to the committee will enable us to upgrade Tufts’ football field significantly with environmentally-friendly synthetic turf, new LED lighting, and a video scoreboard. These upgrades will increase usage of the field among campus groups and youth in the City of Somerville. Both these generous gifts were made possible by donors who wish to remain anonymous.
In plenary session the full board heard reports from Fletcher School dean Rachel Kyte about progress at the Fletcher School with enthusiastic interest in new programs, an enhanced curriculum, and the launch of new executive education programs. Provost Nadine Aubry and Dean of admissions and enrollment management JT Duck spoke about changing demographics among high school graduates, the increasing diversity of our applicant pool and students, and the gap between the diversity of our students and that of our faculty.
Finally, as you now know, the Board of Trustees approved the appointment of Dayna Cunningham as the next Pierre and Pamela Omidyar Dean of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, effective July 1, 2021. She will succeed Alan D. Solomont, A70, A08P, who will retire on June 30 after nearly seven years as Dean. I join the trustees in expressing my gratitude to Alan for his leadership and for his service to his alma mater. The trustees have also recently approved the appointment of Dr. Helen W. Boucher as Dean ad interim of the Tufts University School of Medicine (TUSM) and as Chief Academic Officer of Wellforce, the parent health system of the School of Medicine’s principal teaching affiliate, Tufts Medical Center. I am deeply appreciative of Dean ad interim Peter Bates who led TUSM admirably over the past year and a half.
Throughout the pandemic, the trustees have been especially generous with their counsel and time and responded with zeal to see Tufts through these difficult times. Their commitment to Tufts is boundless and for that I am extremely appreciative.