BOV Roundup: U.Va. Makes Progress in Diversity; Health Insurance Benefits Increase

October 08, 2007
Oct. 8, 2007 -- In her Oct. 5 report to the Board of Visitors' Educational Policy Committee, Gertrude Fraser, the vice provost for faculty advancement, said that the University has an opportunity to make a major leap in increasing the number of female and minority faculty members in the coming years, but only if it seizes the moment.

The board held its fall quarterly meeting Oct. 5 and 6 in the Rotunda.

Fraser presented data that shows the University has made progress in its faculty diversification efforts — particularly in hiring African-American and female faculty — but still has a long way to go.

A 2005 national survey showed that among the 61 schools in U.Va.'s peer group with the American Association of Universities, the University ranked 12th in its percentage of black faculty and 48th in the number of female faculty members. It ranked 59th in the percentage of Hispanic Americans and Asian Americans, and was one of 15 institutions with no Native American faculty members.

The good news is that the situation is improving. In 2006-07, 35 percent of U.Va.’s new faculty hires were women. Four new Hispanic faculty were hired — compared with one the previous year — and four African-American faculty members joined the University, Fraser reported.

Prompted by a question from board member Glynn Key, Fraser said an expected wave of retirements among senior faculty might provide an opportunity for diversification if faculty search committees commit to giving minority candidates serious consideration. She cautioned, however, that once the wave crests, such an opportunity may be gone for a while.

Board member Warren Thompson, who heads the University’s Special Committee on Diversity, noted that in the business world, once minorities break through a glass ceiling, huge leaps are often possible. "The problem is that our ceiling is not glass. It's made of concrete," he lamented.

Fraser plans to survey candidates who decline U.Va. faculty positions to ask about the factors in their decisions, including the quality of competing offers and their interview experiences. She also outlined strategies for attracting more female and minority faculty, including better and earlier identification and cultivation of potential faculty candidates, improved diversity training and support for search committees, providing additional financial resources for recruitment and retention, making strategic hires of faculty spouses, and improving mentoring.

If current trends continue, Fraser expects the University's rankings among its peers to improve within the next 10 years.

Board member Gordon F. Rainey, U.Va.’s former rector who is in the last year of his board tenure, took time to laud Fraser for her efforts.

"The data proves that a lot of things we were told were impossible to accomplish were not impossible to accomplish," he said, crediting Fraser's "strong leadership" for the improvements being made. He urged the board to continue its efforts.

The Educational Policy Committee then turned its attention to student economic diversity. Milton Adams, vice provost for academic programs, said this is another area in which progress has been made, but room for improvement remains.

In 2004-05 — the nadir in recent history in terms of the student body's economic diversity — only 8 percent of U.Va. students were recipients of Pell Grants, one indicator of low-income status. That percentage trailed most peers, including UCLA (37.2 percent), Cal-Berkeley (31.3 percent), Cornell (15.6 percent), North Carolina (15.1 percent), Michigan (13.6 percent), Vanderbilt (11.6 percent), Duke (11.1 percent) and Penn (10.6 percent).

U.Va. has since established initiatives aimed at recruiting more low-income students, the most significant being the AccessUVA financial-aid program, which provides grants to meet 100 percent of the demonstrated need of those students whose family incomes are at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

The AccessUVA program is making a difference, said Yvonne Hubbard, director of Student Financial Services.

Comparing figures from the 2004-05 admission cycle to this year, Hubbard reported that applications from low-income students are up by 36 percent. Offers of admission to students from low-income backgrounds are 14 percent higher, and acceptances are 36 percent higher. The percentage of first-time, first-year, low-income students in the student body has increased from 4.3 percent to 5.6 percent.

"Our students understand AccessUVA," Hubbard said. "They understand it, and they count on it. And their parents understand and count on it."

Health insurance benefits increased

Annual changes to the University’s health insurance plan were presented before a board committee on Oct. 4, and the news for employees was good: benefits are being expanded, while premiums are rising only modestly for most — and are, in fact, decreasing for some.

“My first report to the board is good news,” Susan Carkeek, U.Va.’s vice president and chief human resources officer, told members of the Finance Committee.

Carkeek said that 93.5 percent of employees choose to enroll in the high-premium plan, which features lower out-of-pocket expenses, as opposed to a plan that offers lower premiums with potentially higher out-of-pocket expenses. The lower-premium plan affords significant savings on premiums for families and individuals who remain healthy, and one of the goals for 2008 will be to increase participation in the low-premium plan while also increasing benefits for wellness and preventive services and controlling pharmacy costs.

Highlights of the plan changes include:

• Decrease in premiums for the low-premium plan. For instance, the family rate drops from $129 per month to $116 per month.

• Modest increase in premiums for the high-premium plan. For instance, the family rate will rise just $9 from $290 month to $299.

• The low-premium plan will add 100 percent coverage of immunization costs.

• A family out-of-pocket maximum for co-insurance has been added for the low-premium plan ($7,000 for in-network expenses and $14,000 for out-of-network).

• Preventative services will be covered at 100 percent for both low-premium and high-premium plans, thus removing the current maximums of $150 for low-premium and $300 for high-premium.

• Genetic testing will be covered as long as it “meets specific medical necessity criteria.”

• Smoking-cessation medications will be covered for the first time.

• Co-payments for generic drugs will remain unchanged, but those for brand-name medications (tiers two and three) will increase. A new fourth tier, covering the most expensive “specialty medications,” will be added, with higher co-payments.

All of U.Va.’s health plan changes go into effect Jan. 1. There will be an open enrollment period next month, from Nov. 5 through Nov. 26, and an employee benefit fair is scheduled for Nov. 15. More information will be posted beforehand on UVA Today and published in Inside UVA.

Building Plans

Thomas Jefferson was famous for his constant “putting up and taking down” at Monticello, as he constantly revised his plans and rebuilt his home. His spirit lives on at U.Va., where construction is a way of life.

The Buildings and Grounds Committee approved plans for several new projects, including a major science initiative aimed at increasing laboratory research space. Two planned buildings will be greatly enlarged, and a third one constructed — adding a total of 190,000 additional square feet of science and research capacity.

The planned $56.7 million Information Technology Engineering Building will be expanded from 73,000 square feet to 100,000, at an additional cost of $19.6 million. Likewise, the planned $35 million Ivy Translational Research Center will more than double, from 41,000 square feet to 110,000, at an added cost of $58.3 million.

The board also approved an entirely new Physical/Life Sciences Building, which will provide an additional 100,000 square feet of research space. The building, to be located behind the Chemistry Building expansion and fronting on Whitehead Road, is projected to cost $88.9 million.

The added space will primarily boost research in the schools of Engineering, Arts & Sciences and Medicine, said Leonard W. Sandridge, executive vice president and chief operating officer. If the state comes through with the requested funding, all three buildings could be constructed in 18 to 24 months, he said.

U.Va.’s board approved another project that would renovate the former faculty apartment building located on Rugby Road, just north of Beta Bridge, at a cost of between $16 million and $20 million. The building would be used to consolidate the University’s administrative functions, said David J. Neuman, the University architect.

In the athletic precinct, the board approved expansions of Klöckner Stadium and the baseball stadium at Davenport Field.

At Klöckner, a new two- or three-story building will be added across the field from the existing grandstand and press box. It will house new game-day locker rooms for the Cavalier men’s and women’s soccer and lacrosse teams, a training room and a coaches’ room on field level. A new entrance from Massie Road will feature a hall of fame facility.

A second level would include a limited-access club facility, outdoor viewing terrace and premium box seating. If fundraising permits, a third level may be added with suites and additional premium box seating. The project, with a price tag of between $10.5 million and $13 million, will be paid from private funds.

The baseball stadium expansion, with a $3.3 million cost, will expand the grandstand down the left- and right-field lines. It also will expand the concourse and upper deck areas, and will add concessions and rest rooms. For the teams, there will be enhanced dugouts, bullpens and a batting cage.

Further down Old Ivy Road near its intersection with the U.S. 29 bypass, the University’s Printing and Copying Services will receive a $2.6 million expansion and renovation of its print shop, while Information Technology and Communication will build a new $13.1 million data center.  Though the data center will require a large power capacity to run the servers and keep them cool, the building will meet guidelines for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, Neuman said.

BOV News and Notes

• The Special Committee on Diversity heard a report on this year's entering class of undergraduates, which has been hailed as the most diverse in U.Va. history. Outlining several of the University's recruitment efforts, Valerie Gregory, director of outreach in the Office of Admission, said, "We really feel like this is the first year we've seen the results of that outreach. ... It takes a while for that pot to boil."

• The board approved several requests for state operating budget support in advance of the General Assembly. The top priority was the Higher Education Research Initiative, which seeks $2 million in the next biennium for cancer research and an additional $11.5 million in undesignated research funds. Further down the list is another $10 million targeted specifically for cancer research.

• Faculty salaries continue to be competitive among peer institutions, according to data presented to the Finance Committee. In 2006-07, the University's average faculty salary of $92,677 ranked 14th among peer institutions assigned by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, unchanged from the year before. In the same year, total faculty compensation, valued at $99,000 per faculty member, was tied for 20th among the 60 American Association of Universities schools in the United States, up two places from the previous year.

• The value of the University's endowments stood at $4.34 billion as of the end of the 2007 fiscal year, said Christopher J. Brightman, chief executive officer of the University Investment Management Company. The funds in the long-term pool earned a one-year return of 25.2 percent; the 10-year return was 14.9 percent, which Brightman called "a really amazing result." The mean 10-year return among colleges with endowments of at least $1 billion was 11.1 percent.