Board of Regents Notebook: Board approves property purchase and authorizes $37 million bond

Elliott Pratt

The Board of Regents met for the third quarterly meeting Friday where they authorized a $37 million bond in part to finance construction of the new Honors College and International Center.

The Honors College and International Center is estimated to cost $22 million. The remaining $15 million from the bonds will go toward the third phase of Downing Student Union, formerly known as DUC, renovations.

Along with that, SGA president Keyana Boka was sworn in as the student regent – succeeding former student regent Cory Dodds.

“It’s an honor to serve with the board now,” Boka said. “My ultimate goal is to always have the students in mind in any situation.”

Other items approved at the meeting were: approval of a kitchen and bath undergraduate certificate, approval of consolidation of three university college academic units into the School of Professional Studies, name change to The Graduate School, creation of a Center for Financial Success and Faculty Development separately, and revision of the WKU Mission Statement.

Property purchase approved for Honors College/International Center

The property at 1590 Normal Street, the former Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity house, was the final piece necessary for the project to build a $22 million International Center and Honors College.

The regents approved the proposal for the university to purchase the property on 1590 Normal Street for $950,000, the appraised value excluding closing costs and the final piece of the puzzle necessary for the construction of the Honors College and International Center building to begin.

“I opposed the purchase of the Sig Ep and Chi Omega house all for the same reason,” Faculty Regent Patricia Minter said. “This building that is apparently going to be put there is a want and not a need….my voting is pretty consistent on all three of those properties.”

The former Sig Ep house was demolished Wednesday as the beginning phase of the construction of the building. Temporary gravel parking for housing students will go where the house once stood for the fall semester.

President Ransdell said the Honors College and International Center building will aid in recruiting top-quality and international students in the university’s new strategy to raise academic quality.

“We have 3,000 students in between International students, the Honors College and Study Abroad, so that’s a significant portion of our student population,” Ransdell said. “Those are the very students we most want to attract.”

Regents hear proposed paradigm shift at retreat in Glasgow

Before the bond and other action items were approved, the regents met Thursday in Glasgow for their annual retreat.

The board met with the state demographer and learned that Kentucky high school students are not the driving force of growth for WKU any longer. Because of this, the university is making a paradigm shift to raise academic standards and accept fewer students.

Provost Gordon Emslie presented the statistics from 2011 to 2013 in the trends in enrollment and academic quality.

As of July 1, enrollment was down 5 percent compared to the same date in 2011, However, Emslie said a decrease in overall enrollment doesn’t mean certain colleges at WKU aren’t generating revenue. The Ogden College of Science and Engineering, Gordon Ford College of Business, and College of Health and Human Service saw significant revenue increases that made up a substantial difference for other colleges.

“A decrease in overall headcount does not necessarily imply a corresponding decrease in overall revenue,” Emslie said.

According to the presentation summary presented by Emslie, “Because of the difference tuition rates associated with such a changing student demographic, we can increase the overall quality of our student body, while maintaining financial stability.”

There will be an emphasis, Emslie said, on admitting more full-time, non-resident and international students.

Executive action items on basketball coaches contracts raises concern

Action items from the executive committee saw the most discussion of the day, particularly regarding the pay raises for men’s basketball coach Ray Harper and women’s basketball coach Michele Clark-Heard.

Minter raised concerns about where the money for coach Harper’s salary raise came from. Athletic director Todd Stewart said that money received from appearances in the NCAA tournament and private funds will take care of the new salaries.

“What we’ve done over the last five years is moved all our NCAA tournament revenues into a separate fund to use towards coaching salaries,” Stewart said. “…We are appraising private funds to replenish that NCAA tournament money. At the end of this fiscal year that NCAA tournament fund will be the same or hopefully greater than it is right now.”

Minter opposed the approval of addendum to Harper’s contract, but voted for the addendum to women’s coach Michele Clark-Heard.

“She doesn’t cost as much,” Minter said. “She’s widely considered to be a flight risk and gender equity issues in NCAA sports speaks the fact that she actually is a little underpaid. Her raise is also more solidly funded.”

Coach Heard’s pay raise will come from private funds only and not from revenue received by the NCAA for tournament appearances, according to Stewart. Heard’s new base salary will be $200,000, and coach Harper’s base salary will be $500,000.