6/11/2020 Board of Trustees measures

The Board of Trustees approved new coronavirus-related measures in planning for students to return to campus this fall during its Thursday afternoon meeting.

The Board of Trustees did not discuss the University’s contracting with Aramark during its Thursday meeting, though the Indiana Commission of Higher Education approved the $25 million contracted renovation between Purdue and the company during its meeting on the same day.

Aramark is giving Purdue $25 million to renovate the basement of the Purdue Memorial Union, according to the information provided at the CHE meeting Thursday afternoon. The Union basement will consist of entirely food-based shops, with the University Spirit Store moving to a renovated space in Stewart Center.

In an interview after the meeting, chair Mike Berghoff said the deal had not yet been approved by the Board of Trustees, but did not confirm or deny any details.

Discussion touched on COVID-19 measures for the fall semester, fiscal planning and the Black Lives Matter movement during this afternoon’s Board of Trustees meeting.

The board approved four measures relating to the fall semester with little further discussion, as Purdue President Mitch Daniels mentioned that board members have already met with task force members planning possible safety measures. He asked the board to approve the plans it has already seen in preparing for the fall, though no detailed explanation of those plans was presented during the meeting.

The four key areas are as follows:

  • De-densifying dining operations to meet campus needs
  • Developing and offering resilient pedagogy
  • Testing and contact-tracing protocols and implementation
  • Return to campus plans

Daniels said that board members have had chances to observe updates and progress reports delivered by key people in these preparations.

During an update from the University Senate, chair Deb Nichols reported the results of a survey sent out to Purdue faculty, staff and grad students earlier this week.

Nichols said that about 7,200 people took the survey, and the biggest question respondents brought up was the idea of a “behavior change,” the kind that Daniels and other administrators have referenced when talking about students in the fall. That needed culture shift and reliance on student altruism for keeping others safe amid mask and hygiene requirements was also questioned during a recent town hall hosted by the senate.

She said the goal with the surveys is to release them in waves, to continuously check in with what people on campus are worried about.

The pandemic and sudden need for emergency measures necessitated a rewriting of the entire budget, board members said, leading to the board approving a new operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year. In a letter to the campus community earlier this week, Provost Jay Akridge noted that the University estimates it will spend about $50 million on protective measures for this fall.

Eva Nodine, associate vice president, finance, said during the fiscal portion of the meeting that they still aren’t sure how many students will be on campus this fall.

The University's financial goal is to "break even" at the end of the fiscal year due to revenue uncertainties, she added.

Later, a presentation slide noted that one of the major drivers for the upcoming fiscal year’s revenue will count on about 34,000 undergraduates, with 30,000 residential and 4,000 online. The deadline for students to choose the fully online fall semester option is July 1.

In a Washington Post op-ed, Daniels said the University had "about 45,000 students waiting and the financial wherewithal to do what's necessary in terms of what's necessary" to reopen in the fall.

Beyond addressing the global health crisis, a few board members also spoke on the protests still going on around the world.

Student trustee Noah Scott took a moment to reflect on the movement, taking care to note that whatever he was about to say would be inscribed in the minutes of the Board of Trustees for years to come.

“Black lives matter. Black lives matter. Black lives matter,” he said.

Daniels remarked on Scott’s words, and said he had never been so proud of the student board member.

“I don’t know that anyone could have said it any better, so I won’t try,” he said, “I’ll just endorse it.”

The one black member of the Board of Trustees, Don Thompson, also spoke on the movement that started in Minneapolis and sparked protests worldwide.

“The reality is, we have to learn to talk to one another and communicate,” he said. “The protesters are protesting because they want their voice heard.”

Thompson said he didn’t need all of the board members to go around and say “Black lives matter,” and emphasized the importance of actions over words.

“We got a long way to go,” like many other institutions, Thompson said. “You don’t get that by putting out some doggone little statement.”

In an effort to promote action, Berghoff said the University was looking at forming a committee, logistically similar to the Safe Campus Task Force, to afford all students equal opportunity at Purdue. He said the University wants to find if there are any obstacles in the way of students and dismantle them.

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