Economic Gloom Overshadows Board of Visitors Quarterly Meeting

February 06, 2009

February 6, 2009 — As with many other things these days, economic uncertainty hovered over the University of Virginia's Board of Visitors as it held its regular quarterly meeting Thursday and Friday.

Most spending decisions — including 2009-10 tuition rates — remain on hold until the Virginia General Assembly hashes out a two-year budget. Board members also kept a hopeful eye trained on Washington and the prospect of the federal stimulus package working its way through Congress.

Building for the Future?

The Finance Committee approved the University's near-term (through June 2012) and long-term (through 2020) capital projects plan, prioritizing the near-term projects into three tiers: "growth scenario," which Vice President for Management and Budget Colette Sheehy described as what projects would have been brought before the board in a normal economy; "standard scenario," which she described as "a reasonable representation of what might be expected to happen"; and the "alternate scenario," mostly projects that could be financed through gifts or funds borrowed against future revenues.

The alternate scenario included 10 projects with a total price tag of between $180.2 million and $196.8 million, including three first-year dorms, a rehearsal hall for the marching band, a lab facility for the Anheuser-Busch Coast Research Center; renovations to Carr's Hill, Hotel A on the West Range, the School of Law and Newcomb Hall; and some maintenance reserve funding.

The standard scenario added five more projects, totaling between $119.2 million and $136.5 million. They included a retrofit to the Ivy Stacks library storage facility, an Ivy Foundation translational research facility, phase three of the Miller Center of Public Affairs plan, an addition to the drama building to add a thrust theater, and chiller replacements for the North Chiller Plant.

Finally, the growth scenario included 10 more projects which could range in cost from $134.9 million to $148.6 million. That list included the Fiske Kimball Fine Arts Library, the Millmont Collaborative Conservation and Objects Study Center, an expansion to the U.Va. Art Museum, two phases of the planned Rotunda restoration, renovations to Gilmer Hall and the Chemistry Building, a "practice bubble" for athletic teams, three utility projects and additional maintenance reserve funds.

The Medical Center classified all four of its projects under the "alternate scenario," including a clinical cancer education building, further development along West Main Street, a medical office building attached to the Primary Care Center, and funding for its 10-year deferred maintenance plan. The total costs are estimated to be between $243.2 million and $248 million.

The long-term plan included 32 more projects totaling more than $1.8 billion.

Each of the projects will have to be approved separately, Sheehy said, with the Board of Visitors reviewing their programmatic need, financing plan and design.

Four Building Projects Advance

The Buildings and Grounds Committee gave the go-ahead for concept, site and design guidelines for two new projects, a rehearsal facility for the Cavalier Marching Band and an expansion of the University Bookstore.

The rehearsal hall would be located along the north side of Culbreth Lane, between the new Arts Garage and Rugby Road, on the site of what is now a small surface-parking lot. To be designed by William Rawn Associates of Boston, the building is expected to cost between $10.7 million and $12.7 million, funded through private gifts, negotiations for which are in the final stages, Sheehy said.

The bookstore, located on the fourth level of the Central Grounds Parking Garage, was completed in 1994. The proposed $10.6 million expansion would add 19,300 square feet atop what is now an exposed parking deck. To comply with building codes, the structure's supports would have to be strengthened, resulting in the permanent loss of nine parking spaces, University Architect David Neuman said.

The new space, to be designed by Bowie Gridley Architects of Washington, D.C., and Middleburg, Va., would accommodate seating for readings and for the in-store cafe, plus additional retail space, according to documents.

Construction of the bookstore expansion may begin within the year, Sheehy said. Both the bookstore and the parking garage are expected to remain open during construction.

The committee gave final approval to a $69.4 million plan to raze three first-year dorms in the Alderman Road housing area and construct two six-story residence halls and a multi-purpose commons building.

Balz, Dobie and Maupin houses are scheduled to be torn down this summer. One of the new dorms and the commons building are slated to open before the fall 2011 semester, with the second dorm opening a year later, Sheehy said.

On an even faster track is a new focused ultrasound facility for the Medical Center. The modular building, being donated by General Electric, is expected to be in operation by September. It will be located on the current site of a temporary building, along the railroad tracks.

Capital Campaign Remains on Track

Despite the economic downturn, the $3 billion capital campaign is chugging along, officials reported. Overall, it has raised $1.85 billion in gifts and commitments through the end of 2008 — roughly 61.8 percent of the goal, with 62.6 percent of the campaign's time elapsed.

"Basically, we're on target," said A. MacDonald Caputo, who chairs the External Affairs Committee.

The total included $42 million raised just in December. University President John T. Casteen III called the results "exceptional," especially given the steady drumbeat of bad economic news.

But he cautioned, "I don't think that this pace can hold all the way through the recession.".

The next target is $2 billion by June 30, the end of the fiscal year.

Hispanic Faculty Face Challenges

Hispanics – defined by federal standards as people from Mexico, South America, the Caribbean and South American (minus Brazil) – make up 15 percent of the U.S. population. They are 4.7 percent of Virginia's population, 4.2 percent of the U.Va. undergraduate student body, 2.1 percent of U.Va.'s graduate students, and just 1.2 percent of U.Va.'s tenure-track faculty.

Those ever-dwindling percentages figured prominently in a report by Sharon Hostler, interim vice provost for faculty advancement.

With just 17 Hispanic tenure-track faculty, the University ranks 59th out of the 61 Association of American Universities member schools, she reported. (The University of California, Santa Barbara is first, with 48 Hispanics making up 6 percent of its tenure-track faculty, followed by schools concentrated in Southern California, the Southwest and Florida, Hostler said.)

The small numbers of Hispanic faculty can lead to feelings of isolation, she said, as well as "token overload" – meaning that they face increased pressure to serve on committees that are seeking to diversify their ranks, and to advise student service organizations.

In response, the University offers several support programs, including training opportunities, mentorships and fellowships, Hostler said.

They keys to boosting the ranks of Hispanic faculty are similar to those used to recruit any other minority – and even majority – faculty member: improving the search process, greater support for dual-career couples, providing more access to child care, providing more mentoring opportunities, fostering professional development and increasing resources. As Hispanic graduate students often graduate with above-average debt loads, financial assistance with housing is also helpful, she said.

Student-Athletes Making the Grade

All 25 of U.Va.'s intercollegiate athletics teams are exceeding the Academic Progress Rate standards set by the National Collegiate Athletics Association, and several women's teams rank among the national leaders, said Jim Booz, associate director of athletics for Academic Affairs.

The Academic Progress Rate measures the number of team members who remain at their schools and academically eligible to participate. Teams that score below 925 on a 1,000-point scale – a level that predicts a 60 percent graduation rate – face penalties including the loss of scholarships, the loss of television exposure and bans from postseason championships.

The NCAA recognized U.Va.'s women's soccer (996 points), softball (996) and volleyball (995) teams as ranking among the top 10 percent of their sports. In addition, the Cavalier women's lacrosse (995), rowing (994) and women's swimming (997) teams all ranked within the top 10 percent of all sports teams.

U.Va.'s two most visible sports, football (951) and men's basketball (941), exceeded the national averages of 934 for football and 928 for men's basketball. The Cavalier baseball team's score of 963 was well above the national average of 938.

Three Virginia teams fell below the national average: women's basketball (928 vs. the national average of 960), men's soccer (949 vs. 954), and women's tennis (952, vs. 971).

Representatives from several sports nationally have formed study groups and are recommending new measures to meet the NCAA standards, Booz reported.

Notes

• The board adopted memorial resolutions honoring Elsie Goodwyn Holland, the first minority woman to serve on the Board of Visitors; Gilbert J. Sullivan, former director of the U.Va. Alumni Association, and John A. "Jack" Blackburn, former dean of admission, all of whom died in recent months.

• The Finance Committee set tuition rates for a few programs whose terms begin in May or June, including the Darden School's executive MBA program; master's programs in information technology and systems engineering; the post-baccalaureate, pre-medicine certificate program; and the School of Medicine's new summer session program. Increases ranged from 2.6 percent for out-of-staters in systems engineering to 16 percent for Virginians in the pre-med certificate program.

• Two of the pavilions on the Lawn will get new faculty residents. Robert Pianta, dean of the Curry School of Education, and his family will move from Pavilion III to Pavilion I this fall. Meredith Jung-En Woo, dean of Arts & Sciences, and her family will move into Pavilion II this summer.

— By Dan Heuchert