SRU trustees honor late administrator Rita Abent; pass music program fee


Old Main

Slippery Rock University’s council of trustees conducted its quarterly meeting, March 25, via a Zoom meeting.

March 26, 2021

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. — Slippery Rock University's council of trustees passed two executive actions and honored a former member of the SRU president's cabinet with a memorial resolution at its quarterly meeting, March 25, via a Zoom meeting.

The trustees honored Rita Abent, SRU's late chief communication and public affairs officer, who worked at the University since 2006 before passing way Jan. 11.

"Rita was much loved and respected by her family, friends, coworkers and the many students she inspired throughout her more than 45 years in higher education," said Matthew Lautman, chair of the trustees. "(She) promoted the reputation of the University and was a strong, strategic thinker and an innovative planner. She was a wise, trusted and valued adviser to the University president and her colleagues on the executive leadership team.

"She exemplified the highest standards of professionalism and was steadfast in her loyalty to all University interests. (...) She expressed strong and abiding interest in all aspects of the University, demonstrating a genuine concern for the welfare of the entire community. We miss her terribly and know that her true legacy lives on in the profound impact she made on all of us."

A native of Owosso, Michigan, Abent had previously worked at Eastern Michigan University and Wichita State University, as well as an editor at two newspapers in Florida.

In other actions by the trustees, a fee increase was approved, by an 8-3 vote, for students enrolled in undergraduate music programs that will help sustain the programs and offset costs associated with individualized instruction. The fee increase, at $700 per academic year starting in the fall 2021 semester, affects students in the Bachelor of Music in Music Education, Bachelor of Music in Music Therapy and the Bachelor of Arts in Music degree programs.

"This is one small way that we can offset (costs)," said William McCarrier, a trustee who spoke on behalf of the fee increase. "In the Music Department, there's a lot of one-on-one education going on, and even with this (fee increase), it's only going to run the student about $25 an hour, which is far less than any other private organization would (charge for) music lessons."

Even with this fee, SRU's cost for tuition and fees remains lower than peer and aspirational institutions in the region, many of whom charge a program fee that SRU does not currently charge.

The trustees second action was approving, by a vote of 9-2, a capital budget that will be forwarded to the board of governors of Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education for consideration at its July meeting. The capital budget requests were previously approved by the trustees but had to renewed. They include three renovation projects: Morrow Field House, the McKay Education Building and the Eisenberg Classroom Building. Cost estimates for each project are $27.2 million, $20 million and $18.4 million, respectively, but, if approved by the board of governors, they will not be tentatively funded until the 2025-26 and 2026-27 fiscal years.

Rita Abent


The council tabled action on guidelines and procedures for the naming of facilities and endowments at the University until its next quarterly meeting.

Also during the public session, the trustees received a report from SRU President William Behre, as well as a presentation from Terrence Mitchell, special assistant to the president for diversity and inclusion, who provided an update about the University's forthcoming diversity and inclusion strategic plan.

Through its standing committee meetings earlier in the day, the trustees received:

  • Updates on Black History Month Zoom bombings and COVID mass testing from David Wilmes, chief student affairs officer.
  • An enrollment update from Amanda Yale, chief enrollment management officer.
  • Updates on the proposed restructuring of the College of Health, Engineering and Science from Michael Zieg, interim dean for the College of Health, Engineering and Science, and John Bonaguro, dean of SRU's proposed new College of Health Professions.
  • An update on the University's 2021 reaffirmation of accreditation with the Middle States Commission on Higher Education from Abbey Zink, provost.
  • An update on the Pennsylvania Association of Councils of Trustees from Jeff Smith, SRU trustee.
  • The annual evaluation process of the president.
  • A review of COT bylaws.
  • The COT slate of officers for the 2021-22 academic year that will be voted on at the next quarterly meeting.
  • An update on administrative affairs from Amir Mohammadi, senior vice president for administration, global engagement and economic development.
  • A financial review from Carrie Birckbichler, chief financial and data officer.
  • A review of personnel items from Lynne Motyl, chief human resources officer.
  • A review of contracts, fixed assets and service and supply purchase orders; the quarterly financial report; and the facilities and planning project list.
  • Updates from Dennis Washington, vice president for University advancement, regarding guidelines and procedures for the naming of facilities and endowments at the University.
  • A review of best practices for the University's fundraising campaign from Dennis Prescott, senior vice president of Bentz Whaley Flessner.
  • Quarterly reports from the Slippery Rock University Foundation, Inc., and Slippery Rock University Alumni Association.

The council's next meeting is June 3-4, 2021, on SRU's campus.

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