Highlights of the May Board of Trustees Meeting
On May 7 and 8, due to COVID-19, the Board of Trustees held its first-ever virtual meeting via Zoom.
Academic Affairs and Student Life
At a joint meeting of the Academic Affairs and Student Life Committees, the three academic deans presented on the spring transitions to online learning. Dean of the College of Arts and Bruce Suttmeier reported on the faculty approval of the new minors in Entrepreneurial Leadership and Innovation and Health Studies, as well as on the success of the virtual Festival of Scholars. Dean of Equity and Associate Vice President for Institutional Research and Planning Mark Figueroa reported on the results from a survey of undergraduates that was administered in April after the switch to online instruction. Responses to the survey showed general satisfaction with our communication and efforts to continue all learning remotely. Student Life presented on new efforts to engage students and support the physical and mental health of those who left campus in March, as well as the smaller number who remained in residence.
Vice President of Admissions and Financial Aid Eric Staab reported on the challenges of the current enrollment and recruiting environment for first-year undergraduates, who have until June 1 to accept our offer of admission. Even in a normal year, a large percentage of admitted students delay making or notifying us of a decision until a day or two before the decision deadline. Dean Jennifer Johnson reported that the law school had exceeded its targeted enrollment, and Dean Scott Fletcher reported that the Graduate School enrollment outlook depended on the program. Increased deposits in School Psychology; Marriage, Couple and Family Therapy; and Art Therapy programs were reported, but there is a significant decline anticipated in the MAT program. The expectation is that final enrollments in all three schools will depend on the course of the COVID-19 pandemic and comfort levels with what form of instruction is actually delivered in the fall.
The board approved a fiscal year 2020-21 budget, but with assumptions that do not reflect the impact of coronavirus on enrollment or expenditures. This budget sets a baseline that will be revisited in a series of committee meetings over the summer as enrollment and net tuition revenue, particularly in the College of Arts and Sciences, becomes clearer. A resolution was approved to use a portion of recent debt funding for capital projects in Templeton Student Center, including a new elevator to better serve those with disabilities as well as planning for more significant renovations. The board also approved an amendment to the 403(b) defined contribution retirement plan, delegating the setting of contribution rate to the president, as are other compensation matters. There is no current plan to modify the contribution rate, which is currently fixed at nine percent. However, this resolution gives flexibility to change the contribution rate if required to balance the budget.
The Investments Committee reviewed the performance of the endowment, whose value on May 6 was approximately $230 million, a rebound from March 24 lows. Lewis & Clark’s investment policy was developed in consideration of bear markets, and recent returns were aided by our relative and decreasing lack of exposure to fossil fuels. Cambridge Associates, our outsourced chief investment officer, reported that our performance for the year ending December 31, 2019, was 17.2 percent and placed us in the top decile of our peer group. The board approved a resolution to amend the endowment draw policy from twice a year to quarterly.
Vice President for Institutional Advancement Josh Walter presented on how fundraising has changed in the time of COVID-19. While the campaign totals are on target, with just over $70 million in fundraising commitments, giving has slowed some. Additionally, the public launch of the campaign will be delayed at least until next spring or summer, possibly to coincide with Alumni Weekend. The board reviewed planned work in progress by consultants Campbell & Company on campaign messaging and branding. Alumni and Parent Programs has hosted a slate of virtual events, including lectures, films, and very popular happy hour reunions for classes and overseas programs. The Annual Giving team has adjusted tactics and, as of the board meeting, more than $75,000 had been raised for emergency funds for students.
President Wiewel reported on planning efforts for the fall semester, as well as the good news that Lewis & Clark is no longer operating under Conditional Use Master Plan zoning, as our transportation impact plan has been approved by the City of Portland for 10 years. Helen Hitz BA ’20, the president of Associated Students of Lewis & Clark, shared with the board her observations as she prepared to graduate. She emphasized the critical work being done on matters of equity and inclusion, and talked about the care she felt from faculty and staff as COVID-19 began to alter everyone’s plans for spring semester.
Before the plenary adjourned for an executive session, the board expressed its thankfulness and best wishes to Executive Assistant/Board Relations and Assistant Secretary Moira Domann, who is retiring this summer.