Mold, construction and Title IX: 5 takeaways from Caboni’s meeting with the Herald

WKU president Dr. Timothy Caboni talks with the College Heights Herald editorial board on August 23, 2019.

Herald Staff

WKU President Timothy Caboni met with members of the Herald editorial board Friday morning to discuss the upcoming semester, in which he addressed a wide range of issues which have carried over from last year.

Here are five things to know.

Ballman’s new position is more of a sabbatical 

Former Provost Terry Ballman became a special assistant to the president after she stepped down from the provost’s position. She is still operating in that role, Caboni said, but she has no real responsibilities in that job

“That was an awful experience professionally for Provost Ballman, and one of the things that we do in higher education is we give her a chance to move on to the next thing,” Caboni said. “That’s what that position allows her to do, is to have … a landing spot, and an ability to move onto whatever’s next in the next year.”

With no responsibilities, Ballman also doesn’t have an office on campus this year. Ballman still makes the same salary she made as provost, which is $255,000, according to the appointment letter given to the Board of Regents when she was hired.

“It is a one-year appointment with, essentially, no responsibilities. It’s a one-year severance package.”

Read More on Ballman’s resignation:

Provost Terry Ballman resigns from position

Ballman’s resignation and the impact it has on WKU

What’s going on with construction? 

The ongoing First Year Village project began when the demolition of Bemis-Lawrence Hall started in July. 

The construction has forced closure of the two parking lots adjacent to the site: the Pearce Ford Tower lot and a portion of the gated Regents lot.

The project is meant to give first-year students a more engaged classroom experience, another effort to boost retention.

Background: Demolition begins on Bemis Lawrence.

Construction is underway on the WKU Commons project, intended to turn the Margie Helm Library into a modern studying and dining facility. 

Caboni said the project is expected to open in Spring 2021.

In Helm’s absence, Java City will be open in the Garrett Conference Center food court.

Background: Helm Library, WKU Commons construction continues

Minton has reopened after thorough cleaning

Minton has reopened to residents after an intensive mold clean up, Caboni said. Last fall, all Minton residents were relocated to other residence halls following several reports of mold

Originally Minton residents were told they could move back to their dorms in the spring semester. However, less than a week before classes started, WKU determined more work needed to be done before students could return. 

After the Minton “diaspora,” Caboni said WKU made organizational changes in handling complaints of mold. Responsibility for handling complaints of mold was passed from Housing and Residential Life to facility services. He said all records are now electronic rather than paper. 

Over the summer Caboni said employees were trained on handling complaints, and dorm rooms across campus went through a deep clean rather than a simple wipe down. Additionally, he said air handling in several dorms were fixed to prevent further mold development. 

Now with the mold situation behind him, Caboni said he does not regret the decision to relocate Minton residents. Retention rates for displaced Minton students were not impacted by the incident, he said. 

“Nobody wanted to do that, but it was the right thing to do,” Caboni said. 

Read more about campus mold here: 

More than 500 mold reports on campus in past year

Minton residents respond to mold issue and relocation

Kentucky universities plagued by mold problems

Caboni wishes for speedy Title IX resolution, waiting on presidential administration 

WKU’s Title IX committee has sent its recommendations to Caboni. However, the final action will have to wait for the current presidential administration to figure out what the federal guidelines for Title IX will be.

“What I don’t want to do is I don’t want to create one set of changes and then have to create a second set of changes,” Caboni said. 

The review of the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity, the Title IX Office and the Office of Student Conduct began after former student body president Andi Dahmer claimed that concerns that she raised over her alleged harassment were not properly dealt with.

Background: Caboni requests review of Title IX processes

Caboni said that he hopes to resolve the issue as soon as possible, but is comfortable with how WKU’s Title IX handling is currently operating. 

Retention rates at decade-long high 

Caboni said preliminary first-year-to-second-year retention rate figures are the highest they’ve been since 2009. He added the rates are 1/10 of a percentage point from the highest in university history.

Efforts such as an ISEC peer mentorship program and the WKU Summer Scholars Program were implemented to improve retention.

“We damn well better be over 70% this year with everything that we’ve done,” Caboni said. “I think we’re going to get there.”

Last year, the rates were around 68%, Caboni said. 

Features Editor Griffin Fletcher, Print Managing Editor Laurel Deppen, Digital Managing Editor Rebekah Alvey, Editor-in-Chief Jeremy Chisenhall, and News Editor Matt Stahl contributed to this story.