Regents approve sabbaticals, new cybersecurity degree in first committee meeting of 2022


Jake Moore / Information from Board of Regents agenda

Twelve sabbaticals were approved by the Board of Regents on Friday, Jan. 21.

Jake Moore, Content Editor

The Board of Regents met Friday morning for its first committee meeting of 2022, approving sabbaticals for certain faculty members, authorizing the creation of a new cybersecurity degree and receiving updates on the Kentucky House of Representatives’ budget proposal.

The end of the meeting featured a closed session provided by KRS 61.810(1). According to the meeting agenda, this was for discussion of “proposed or pending litigation against or on behalf of the University.”

President Caboni joined the Regents via Zoom due to his ongoing COVID-19 quarantine, but he appeared in good spirits. 

Academic Affairs Committee

The first item of business was the authorization of a masters of science in cybersecurity data analytics, a program to be housed in the Gordon Ford College of Business.

According to the meeting agenda, the degree is to be online-only and will consist of 30 total hours, 21 of which will come from core courses. The program will begin fall of 2022.

Provost Bud Fischer argued for the major due to the fact that many programs in WKU’s region, specifically in the Nashville area, offer certificates in this field but not many degrees.

“[Nashville] is a huge question right now,” Fischer said. “If you don’t know, there are certificates down there, there’s not a lot of degrees down there in this area, and people are looking to move forward down there. They’re the perfect group of adult workers that we can get on our side.”

Twelve faculty members were granted sabbatical leave, with Caboni taking time to emphasize why leave of this nature is so important.

“This is really an important part of what we do at the university,” Caboni said. “Rewarding faculty who have been with us and are performing at a high level, but even more importantly is helping them think about how they can do a deep dive on a project they couldn’t do otherwise because they won’t have the same kind of rigorous day-to-day schedule on campus.”

The Regents closed the academic affairs section of the meeting by approving the appointment of University Distinguished Professor of Music to John Cipolla. Cipolla specializes in woodwinds and has recorded or performed with the likes of the New York City Opera, Aretha Franklin, Dizzy Gillespie and others and is a tenured member of the Radio City Music Hall Orchestra.

Finance and Budget Committee

The Regents accepted respective auditor reports and financial statements for both WKU-TV and WKYU-FM Radio for the fiscal year ending June 31, 2021. According to the auditor’s reports, no material weaknesses or significant deficiencies were reported.

The Regents then approved WKU Athletics’ NCAA compliance report for the same fiscal year. The program received close to $13 million in institutional support in 2021 compared to the previous year’s total of $14.1 million.

According to the university’s quarterly report, revenues account for 71% of its fiscal year 2022 budget compared to 70% of the prior year. Tuition revenue is down slightly from $161,827,102 in 2021 to $159,446,260 in 2022.

Executive Committee

The lone action item from the executive committee was the approval of a utility easement for Chick-fil-A. The goal of the easement is to construct a drainage pipe underneath WKU property at the Center for Research and Development on Campbell Lane to keep stormwater flow on Chick-fil-A property underground. 

Finally, the Regents’ special budget approval and committees meeting on June 24 was moved to June 10.

“We have to report our finalized approved budget to the Council on Postsecondary Education for them to approve,” Caboni said. “Our meeting, which has historically been later in June, actually fell after the CPE meeting where they would approve our budget, so we have to actually get that done before their meeting.”

Executive Director of Government and External Relations Jessica Breiwa Smith provided the Regents with an update regarding the House of Representatives budget proposal that is making its way through the Kentucky legislature. 

Smith explained that the two-year budget, which still may be subject to changes from the Senate, added “$50 million each year into performance funding.” No change was made to the university’s base appropriation from the state.

Also included in the proposal is approximately $74.4 million in general fund dollars to be put towards the construction of a brand new building for the Gordon Ford College of Business.

“Now that the budget has been passed out of the House, they passed it off the floor last night, it has already been received in the Senate,” Smith said. “The Senate will now basically craft their own budget; we do not expect them to just pass this one as-is… we are one small step into the process of how this all works.”

Content Editor Jake Moore can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @Charles_JMoore.