Regents Notebook: Athletic coaches’ contracts and information items spark heavy interest in Regents meeting

Elliott Pratt

Although the proposed operating budget was the buzz around the Special Budget Approval Meeting for the Board of Regents Friday, another action item, the approval of raises to athletic coaches’ contracts, also sparked debate.

Along with the action items, information items in areas of student housing and Study Abroad allowed the respective committees to boast about WKU.

Basketball coaches receive raises

The university and men’s basketball coach Ray Harper and women’s basketball coach Michele Clark-Heard have negotiated a first addendum to their respective employment contracts.

Harper’s base salary will be $500,000 with a $750,000 buyout. Heard’s base salary will rise from $150,000 to $200,000 with a $400,000 buyout.

Athletics director Todd Stewart used the basketball term “fast-break” as the mentality he wants to instill in his staff moving forward.

“We will find a way for our athletic department to be successful,” Stewart said. “We need to take a fast break mentality and stop talking about what we want to do and make it happen. “

The concern from Faculty Regent Patti Minter was that the coaches are getting pay raises while the new budget will not allow across the board bonuses for university faculty and staff.

Stewart said there won’t be a conflict with the operating budget because the money will come from private funds and reserve funds from the NCAA tournament revenues.

“There is money there that will more than cover this,” Stewart said.

Construction to begin on new apartment buildings

A student housing report at the meeting showed that the WKU Student Life Foundation (SLF) is proposing the construction of a 127 unit, four story, apartment building on the 1500 block of Kentucky Street.

Executive director of Housing and Residence Life Brian Kuster and vice president of student affairs Howard Bailey presented the project that will cost $19.4 million.  SLF has already invested $2 million in land and site improvements on the property.

Kuster said the positive reaction from students at apartments built on Kentucky Street last year made the decision to expand off campus living an easy one.

“Students very much enjoyed their experience there,” Kuster said. “When we had the renewal process in the spring we had a 250 person waiting list, so we know there is a demand for apartment living. “

The building will hold 95 two bedroom, two bath units and 32 one bedroom, one bath units. Each apartment will have a full kitchen, living room and utility room. Construction is set to begin immediately and will be completed by August 2014.

Ransdell shoots for more Study Abroad participation

Ransdell has strived to make WKU a leading American university with international reach. In the Board of Regents meeting he emphasized how much he wanted students to become more involved in Study Abroad and Study Away programs.

Study Away is a new exchange program that began just last year where students can pay WKU tuition to spend a semester or year studying at one of over 183 universities across the United States, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

“In a nutshell, we’re attracting students from all over the world and we’re sending them out all over the world, including other places in the United States,” Provost Gordon Emslie said in his international enrollment report.

Along with sending students to other countries to study, Ransdell wants just as much for international students to come to WKU, saying in the meeting he wanted to bring more diversity to the university.

“We’re going to drive up our internationally enrollment and bring the world here,” Ransdell said. “So that students from our region sit next to students of other religions, other cultures, and get an international context on our own campus.”

Emslie’s international enrollment report showed that fall 2012 brought 356 directly admitted international students to WKU. 127 international students came to WKU through Navitas.

Ransdell said he still wants the involvement of students in Study Abroad to increase significantly.

“My long term vision is to get 90 percent or more of our Honors College in Study Abroad,” Ransdell said. “We want to get 10 percent of all other students in Study Abroad.”