April 16, 2010
CONTACT: K.E. Schwab
SRU trustees present resolutions, hear new direction plan
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - A list of congratulatory resolutions, reports, introductions and University business highlighted today's meeting of the Slippery Rock University Council of Trustees.
In addition, Robert Smith, SRU president, provided trustees with his vision of the University, seeking to "Change the Equation" as a way of helping meet pending budget difficulties.
Smith told trustees that SRU must begin looking at new ways to establish economic independence for the institution. He delivered a similar message earlier in the week to faculty as part of his annual "State of the University" address.
Smith, president since 2004, said change could be achieved by examining "how we approach our work."
"One benefit of our enrollment and performance success in recent years has been that others have begun to take notice of us," he said, "Another is that I have spent the past seven years working to shrink the psychological distance between those in Pittsburgh and our campus and opening doors to the corporate world of southwest Pennsylvania. We are poised to take advantage of new partnerships and collaborative opportunities in our region."
Smith said the University is anticipating a $9 million budget shortfall for the coming year and change will be necessary to meet that challenge. "This is a serious crisis for our campus," he said.
In the past, Smith said, the University was able to grow itself out of budget difficulties, but that is no longer an option. "Our growth will be small and very strategic. We're committed to quality not quantity."
"As a result of the challenges we faced several years ago, we now have the most robust, responsive enrollment plans in the country - not just Pennsylvania. We have benefitted in amazing ways from our collective actions. This would not have been possible without the full commitment of the entire campus. It would not have been possible without the willingness to change. But, we did it. We avoided layoffs. We actually built new programs. Change was clearly for the better. What also emerged from that crisis was a three-part operational plan that is still in place today. The goals of that plan were - and still are: to be the premier regional residential university; to increase the value of the SRU degree; and to strive to be in control of our own financial destiny," Smith said.
"We made a full commitment of the entire campus that we would become one of the best performing universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. Since 2004, we have been among the top three every single year because we were willing to change."
"Now the absence of state financial support, and the lack of control over our revenue sources such as our appropriation and tuition, have created an even more severe challenge than we faced before," Smith said. "We must consider other options and other solutions."
"New enterprises can open up revenue opportunities, student learning experiences and research and public service consistent with our strengths," he said.
To respond like leading entrepreneurial institutions such as Carnegie-Mellon and Drexel, the University must engage allies to invest in our successes and draw from our intellectual capacity, Smith said.
He presented three examples. "Our College of Business, Information and Social Sciences is the academic home for the new Innovation Center which will be built just off campus on property owned by the Slippery Rock University Foundation. We know this has great promise to provide help to small- and family-owned businesses. Close to 70 percent of all businesses in western Pennsylvania have fewer than 20 employees. Most of the economic recovery will be from entrepreneurial enterprises," he said.
Smith has long touted creation of a business incubator to help entrepreneurs launch new businesses. He said the new facility would provide for intellectual property development.
"We convened a group of business and community leaders in October to brainstorm
collaborative ideas for launching the Innovation Center," he said. "They are excited to get going."
Citing another example, Smith said, "The College of Health, Environment and Science could be the home for a new think tank on energy usage and a resource center for better understanding the intelligent use of energy sources in this region. The energy economy in southeast Pennsylvania is a $13.5 billion enterprise. There are now more than 700 companies in the region involved in some dimension of energy supporting 105,000 jobs."
More than $1 billion is invested in energy research by government, universities and corporations, Smith said.
"In May, I will convene a group of faculty and community and business leaders to hear ideas for how SRU can take a leadership role in this market," he said.
Pointing to SRU's College of Education, Smith said, "This area could be the home for important research and pedagogical development to help with autism."
"Based on statistics from the U.S. Department of Education and other governmental agencies, autism is growing at a rate of 10 to 17 percent per year. At this rate, it is estimated the prevalence of autism could reach 4 million Americans in the next decade," he said.
"In the coming months, I want to work with those who are willing to step up to the challenge," Smith said. "I think it is exciting and absolutely possible. The challenges we face are real. They are the creation of circumstances we can't control. How we choose to attack them is entirely controlled by us. We could choose to wallow in self-pity or engage in blaming others for our plight, or we can rise up and change the equation to our betterment. I believe we have consistently proven we can do amazing things when we work together."
"I made a statement at the beginning of this year that 'A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.' I believe we have the capacity to meet this challenge as well as destiny on our side. Now is our moment. I hope you will engage your ideas for how we continue to realize our dreams," Smith said.
Smith also provided preliminary information about an economic impact study that will soon be released. The report details how important SRU is to the regional economy and provides a positive economic impact on tax dollars invested at the University.
The initial report shows the SRU Service Area receives approximately $334.4 million in added income each year due to the activity of the University and its alumni. Smith said when the plan is released in a few weeks, it would document "how Slippery Rock University is an economic engine for the region."
Trustees presented a resolution honoring Josh Rizzo, a communication major from Irwin and editor of The Rocket, the SRU weekly student newspaper, for his recent recognition as the Arthur Barlow National Student Journalist of the Year as selected by the Society of Collegiate Journalists, the national journalism honorary. The award was presented last month at the society's annual convention.
Council commended Rizzo for his exemplary leadership at the newspaper. The resolution was read by Trustee Eric Holmes.
Jessica Cosme, a political science major from Butler, was honored with a resolution citing her work as a student member of the council.
The resolution noted that, "Cosme is a visible student leader both on and off the Slippery Rock University campus engaging in a multitude of activities and initiatives and has completed an internship with the speaker of the Pennsylvania House. She has been an active voice and engaged leader with the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, promoting events and engaging in campus activities on behalf of the student led organization and involved in a number of other campus organizations in addition to her council work." The resolution was read by Trustee Grace Hawkins.
She was named to the trustee board in 2008 and will serve until graduation May 8.
Barbara Massella, administrative assistant in the President's Office, was presented a resolution, honoring her 29 years of service. She has served in the School of Education, the College of Education and Human Service Professions, the College of Health and Human Services and in her current post. The resolution was read by Trustee John Hicks.
Nick Barcio, president of the SRU Student Government Association, addressed the trustees thanking them for their support. He also introduced Jeremiah Rosser, a senior from McDonald, who will be sworn in as SGA president April 29.
Trustees voted their annual approval to a statement certifying to the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education board of governors, per board policy, that the Slippery Rock University Foundation Inc. and the Slippery Rock University Alumni Association make financial contributions to the University on a regular basis.
Trustees approved the submitted meal plan fees for 2010-11. The new plan follows the recent award of SRU's food service contract to AVI Food Systems Inc. The new contract with AVI provides for a completely new meal structure. Students are being informed of the new options.
Deb Pincek, assistant to the vice president for student life, told trustees that in preparing for bids for the food service contract, students indicated they wanted a number of new options, including a plan that allows students to eat in the campus dining halls up to four times per day. "The new plan structure is less restrictive, incorporates more flex funds and more options for our students," Pincek said.
The 19-meal-per-week plan will cost $1,460 next fall and the 14-meal-per-week plan will cost $1,387. Plans for 10 meals per week and a variety of other options are available.
Council also approved an increase in the Student Health Fee from $208 to $275 per year. Beginning next fall the fee will be 4.8 percent of tuition. A $50 increase in the Student Union Fee was also approved.
In routine action, trustees accepted the submitted reports covering contracts, fixed assets, service and supply purchase orders and the minutes of the Feb. 12 meeting.
Trustees were presented the annual audit report from ParenteBeard LLC for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2009. The report was listed as a "clean report" with no findings for recovery.
Trustees were told of 19 appointments, including 12 persons appointed through the AmeriCorps Program administered by SRU's Institute for Community, Service-Learning and Nonprofit Leadership.
The retirements of Dayne Irwin, a 17-year maintenance repairman 2, and Vicki McCalla, a 38-year custodial worker 2, both in facilities and planning, and Dorthyann Negley, a 32-year library assistant 2 in Bailey Library.
Council's next regularly scheduled meeting is June 3-4.
Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.