Board reviews financial operations, construction

by Dax Tejera | 6/23/05 5:00am

Before participating in commencement activities honoring the Class of 2005, the Dartmouth Board of Trustees met to conduct its annual summer business, including approval of capital and operating budgets, the allocation of facility planning funds and reelection of several charter trustees.

The bulk of the Board's work that began June 9 concerned a review of future and current building projects. Considerable attention was focused on the ongoing renovation of Alumni Gymnasium, slated for completion in February 2006.

According to College President James Wright, the gymnasium enhancements will make possible an expanded fitness center, infrastructure improvements, additional recreation spaces and improved accessibility to the building.

"These were long-standing matters that were part of an ongoing renovation program," he said, adding that the project was expedited in recent months.

Wright said that the recent focus on athletic improvements at the College comes in the aftermath of professional consulting in 2000 and conversations with recently appointed football coach Buddy Teevens '79.

The emphasis on renovating the campus's athletics facilities first surfaced when the Board announced expansion plans for the Kresge Fitness Center last June. The announcement was made amidst undergraduate dissension organized by the Student Assembly. While acknowledging the efforts of the Assembly and widespread negative sentiment with the facility, Wright clarified that the College had long intended to address the issue.

"I don't want to suggest we have never thought of doing this, and the students raised this, and we said 'whoops, let's invest several million dollars in the fitness center,'" Wright said.

Instead, Wright said growing student discontent "encouraged" the administration and trustees to "think about the way [they] were scheduling this."

The Board also accepted progress reports on the various academic and residential building projects that began construction last winter.

A multi-year capital budget of $325.2 million was approved at the meeting. The allocation includes planning funds for a new varsity athletic building, which will alter Memorial Field's spectator seating area at the south end of Alumni Gymnasium.

During fiscal year 2006, which begins July 1, the trustees budgeted $355.9 million in expenditures. Coupled with professional school budgets, the Board anticipates Dartmouth will spend $629.4 million in operating costs.

The trustees also addressed issues raised by the College's Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility, which recommended that the Board take formal action against corporations doing business in Sudan so as to pressure the Sudanese government to discontinue genocide in the Darfur region.

The trustees asked that the committee issue a report that would prescribe an appropriate institutional response. The student-led Darfur Action Group is leading the charge for divestment of Dartmouth assets in the region. Thus far, Harvard University and Stanford University are the only major shareholders to have taken such action.

Other Trustee business included reports from its working groups on academic excellence and alumni relations. The working groups are the first under a new Board structure implemented during William Neukom's first term as chairman.

Wright said that the alumni relations group is "trying to think of ways in which we could more effectively have alumni relations work in a day and age when alumni are changing and means of communications are changing."

The alumni relations office will undergo change itself soon as its chief Stan Colla '66 Tu '86 steps down after 12 years. A search committee led by Provost Barry Scherr has been assembled to replace Colla, yet Wright said no short list has emerged. Wright said he hopes to review a recommendation by the end of the summer.

Concerning the academic excellence group, Wright said the trustees are seeking greater understanding of academics within the arts and sciences, while acknowledging the current academic program.

The Board also approved a recommendation from Dean of the College James Larimore to lift the moratorium on additional single-sex, selective and residential organizations. The Board issued the moratorium as part of its controversial Student Life Initiative in 2001.

In a largely ceremonial function, William Neukom '64 was reelected to a second term as Chairman of the Board, and trustees Michael Chu '68 and Karen Francis '84 were both reelected from within the trustee body.