Dec. 5 BOT meeting: renewal of charter, updates and East Campus comments

The last Oakland University Board of Trustees (BOT) meeting of the semester took place on Dec. 5, with topics discussed being East Campus, updates from alumni boards, Fall 2022 commencement numbers, civic engagement initiatives and renewal of charters for three academies.

First on the agenda were three different alumni board chairs who talked about the progress of each of their boards. The groups who spoke were the Oakland University Alumni Association (OUAA) Board of Directors, the Young Alumni Chapter and the Black Alumni Chapter.

Each chair talked about the purpose of each board, how many are on each board and some goals and accomplishments of each board. Some goals were wanting to diversify the board by both the Board of Directors and Young Alumni Chapter, while one of the Black Alumni Chapter’s goals is to promote alumni relations and diversity equity and inclusion (DEI).

“Through these efforts, we hope to heal and to enhance the relationships between the Black Alumni and the university and I put an emphasis on heal,” Sharman Davenport, chair of the Black Alumni Chapter, said.

President’s report

President Pescovitz mainly recapped some events which took place this semester such as the sustainability rally, OU-Pontiac townhall and the Varner renovations

She also highlighted the State of the University address before talking about upcoming commencements. As reported at the meeting, the Fall 2022 commencement ceremony will have 1,834 graduates attend.

Next to speak was Chuck Pierce, dean of the School of Business Administration who began his tenure on Aug. 1 of this year. He introduced some values he has, such as student success, elevation of the business school’s brand as well as (DEI).

He discussed the expansion of the school by offering online programs as well as advertising the faculty’s research by creating new research groups. In addition to these, he mentioned getting more involved with local businesses to build a portfolio.

“Looking at this position during the interview process, it became very apparent to me that my experience at University of Memphis and Montana State could be used here to help the school of business,” Pierce said.

Lastly for the President’s report, Dave Dulio talked about some projects the Center for Civic Engagement has done this year. Some of these projects include hosting Civility Day alongside The Civility Project and hosting three candidate debates.

The first two were the Democratic primary for the 11th Congressional District and a Republican gubernatorial debate. Most recently they held the Michigan gubernatorial debate between Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Tudor Dixon.

“Anything we can do to increase civility, particularly in a political environment, today’s world is certainly incredibly welcome. Civility in that environment has almost become an oxymoron,” board member Dave Tull said. “I applaud the efforts. I know how hard you’ve worked, trying to bring everybody together and it’s really, really important.” 

Renewal of charters

Judeen Bartos, executive director of the office of public school academies, introduced three academies up for reauthorization of their charter contracts. The schools were Four Corners Montessori Academy, Universal Academy and Weston Preparatory Academy.

Both Four Corners and Weston have had a decrease in enrollment due to COVID-19 while Universal has rebounded to almost pre-COVID-19 numbers. Each school engages in extracurricular events outside of school like clothing drives, raising salmon eggs and the Clinton Water festival.

Each school was suggested for a five-year extension, and each school was approved by the board.

“No matter how you think about these kinds of schools or whatever, they certainly have a place and it certainly can be very important to those communities that they serve. I didn’t really know back when I started but I have a greater appreciation and it’s a hard job, keep up the hard work,” Tull said.

Community comments

Andrew Romano, president of Oakland University Student Congress, and Jeffrey Insko, professor and member of Campus Alliance for Sustainability & the Environment (CASE-OU), each spoke to the board about East Campus.

Romano spoke more about the handling of the project and emphasizing the importance of community support for the project. Insko spoke about the difference in the word “sustainability” between groups, stating no matter what gets built, the project will not be sustainable.

“So in our view, a genuine commitment to sustainability has to mean letting go of some old ways of thinking and acting, like unlearning the ideas that land is a resource that exists to be used, that economic development is progress, and that unending growth is desirable or even good,” Insko said.

“I think the debate we’ve been having about East Campus development is only partly about budget crises and enrollment declines and new revenue streams, and I’d be happy to talk about those at some point. But the debate is really about competing visions of the future,” he added.

BOT chair Robert Schostak ended the meeting by providing an update on East Campus from the perspective of the board. Schostak spoke for about 10 minutes on the topic, saying the development began by seeking out possibilities for the land and proposals have just arrived and being viewed.

He said within the next month, hopefully information will be provided to articulate conversations about East Campus not about hypotheticals.

“I really want to emphasize that those that are speaking up, are being heard. We’re taking their concerns very, very seriously and sincerely. We’re not going to just run a process and share the outcome. I assure you that,” Schostak said.

“It will be deliberate, it will be thoughtful, it will be real. It will be with a great deal of care and concern for the long term. Not the eight-year term of a board member, not the term of a president’s contract, not the term of a graduate student who has been here four, six or eight years. But what’s in the long run the best outcome for the university at large,” he added.