7 things we learned from meeting with President Caboni


Genesis Malone

Members of the Herald speak with WKU president Timothy Caboni in the Craig Administrative Center on Feb. 1, 2022.

Herald staff

President Timothy Caboni met with Herald staff Tuesday afternoon for his regular semester meeting. Here’s what we learned:

Commons slotted for spring opening

The WKU Commons at Helm Library were originally scheduled to open in the fall of 2021. This date has since been pushed back, with the opening now planned for this semester. Construction continues on the project, but Caboni was very clear about the Commons’ spring opening.

“It will open this semester,” Caboni said, rapping on the table for emphasis. “It will open this semester, even if I’ve got to go in there and paint and throw the doors open. I can’t give you all a date, but it will open this semester.”

The president revealed that some of the issues facing the Commons’ construction, which began before the pandemic struck, are due to German parts necessary for the building’s completion. Supply chain issues have made it difficult to receive all necessary items.

“We started that project before anybody even knew what COVID was,” Caboni said. “There were things that we put in the building, at least in this design, that came from Germany, that were really important to the building. All of a sudden, COVID hits, and we can’t get the stuff from Germany.”

Caboni’s tornado experience

Caboni took time to share what he and his wife experienced when an F3 tornado ripped through Bowling Green on Dec. 11 of last year.

​​”I was preparing for commencement ceremonies the next day and watching the weather, and had fallen asleep for a little while – was back up about one o’clock in the morning and watching [the storm] on my phone,” Caboni said. 

When the tornado sirens kicked on, the president told his wife that it was time to go to the basement. 

“I’ve never heard the roar of the train before, but we heard it that evening,” Caboni said. “I was telling her it was gonna be okay. It was, thankfully, but we knew it was not just a storm passing over after the train sound. We could hear things breaking, and that’s when you are praying and hoping for the best.”

After the tornado passed, Caboni then hopped in his car to check on the state of campus. Once the grounds were assessed, the president turned his attention towards South Campus, but couldn’t access multiple roadways due to debris and sustained damage to his vehicle in the process. 

“I was going to go down Russellville road, and realized very quickly that I wasn’t going down Russellville road – well, that’s not good, let’s try Creason [street],” Caboni said. “So I came back down to try to go through Creason and realized we’re not going down Creason either. Managed to get two flat tires on my car by doing that.”

The president took time to express his appreciation for how WKU’s community responded in the face of tragedy.

“In those moments, and this is for all of us, you wonder how you’re going to respond,” Caboni said. “You want to make sure you do everything in your power. For me, what was most impressive was how the organization decided amongst ourselves that we’re going to do react in the way we did, which was: we’re going to take care of each other.”

In terms of coming back from the tragedy, the rebuilding process has entered a stage where help is needed in more specialized ways. 

“I would say that the work that we have to do now is more policy, economic and rebuilding work,” Caboni said. “That’s going to require swinging big checkbooks and not hammers […] But the reality is, we’re going to have to, as a community, decide how we reinvest in different parts of the community. And so those conversations are ongoing.”

The president urged those affected by the storms to fill out a FEMA application in order to receive the best possible assistance.

Five years of the Caboni presidency

July will mark five years of Caboni’s time as president of WKU. He remarked on the love he and his wife, Kacy, have for the community. 

“We love Bowling Green,” Caboni said. “It’s just the right size, where you can have deep relationships and access to just about anything the community offers.”

Moving from Kansas to Bowling Green was an easy adjustment for the Cabonis, from city size to the overall essence of community. 

“We came from Lawrence, Kansas – which is similar in size, with a similar kind of downtown vibe,” Caboni said. “I just love communities that are focused on education, and as is Kacy, with all the assets of the nation’s hottest city [Nashville] 45 minutes to our south.”

The only real adjustments he has seen are the social adjustments for Kacy because, as the president puts it, “there is a southern code of politeness that, if you’re not from here, can be odd as you adjust.”

Caboni is proud of what he’s accomplished during his time on the Hill and is excited for what lies ahead for WKU.

“I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished,” Caboni said. “We are almost four years into our strategic plan, six more to go. But if you look at the metrics, we are moving in the right direction.”

COVID-19 on campus

From Jan. 25 to Jan. 27, there were 86 positive COVID-19 cases reported, according to the WKU COVID-19 dashboard. Since Jan. 14, there have been a total of 405 positive cases reported within the WKU community. 

Caboni encouraged the community to get vaccinated, boosted and to continue to wear masks in classroom settings. 

“I think that what we’ve demonstrated is an ability to meet our mission while still navigating living beside the virus,” Caboni said. “I encourage the community to continue doing what we’ve done for almost two years now.”

As of Jan. 27, the self-reported vaccination rate is 87% of the 8,578 students, faculty and staff that responded.

“I think that in Warren County, probably the safest place to be is on our campus, with a higher vaccination rate than the general population surrounding us and with the mitigation activities that we have,” Caboni said.

When asked about the possibility of classes returning online, Caboni said departments and professors are expected to handle moving classes online on an individual basis, should the need arise. 

Caboni recently returned from quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19 and working from home. He shared that he was glad his case was mild and that he is able to smell and taste fine.

“I was pleased that it was a mild case,” Caboni said. “My symptoms were not awful and I credit that to being vaccinated and boosted. If you have not yet been vaccinated and or boosted, I encourage you to do that. It’s the way forward and the way through and the way out of this pandemic.”

Residence hall complaints

A petition recently made rounds among WKU students expressing aggravation about living conditions in newly-constructed Regents Hall. The petition requests housing refunds for residents due to the “many inconveniences” students have endured during their stay.

“We the students that live in Regents Hall want to show our voice for the inconveniences we have dealt with while living in Regents Hall,” the petition states. “We pay over $7400 per year to live here. We want the public to know our problems and how they have been swept under the rug.”

According to the petition, problems include excessive fire alarms caused by dust, air conditioners leaking, broken washers and dryers and unreliable hot water.

Caboni said many of the issues brought up are gradually being addressed.

“Our Housing and Residence Life staff have been working hand-in-glove with the students who led that petition effort,” Caboni said.

The president said he isn’t surprised with the issues as they’re to be expected from a new building.

“If a washing machine breaks, sure we’re going to fix it,” Caboni said. “It’s a new building, things break, and we are going to be as aggressive as we can [in fixing things].”

Caboni said issues with hot water resulted from the building’s hot water mixer breaking down, and supply chain issues have delayed its replacement.

“Typically you’d say ‘great, please replace that and make sure people have hot water,’” Caboni said. “Sure, we can replace that, but it’ll be about six months before you can get a hot water mixer. We had to find a workaround.”

According to Caboni, hot water from the boiler is being mixed with cold water until the system is repaired.

Caboni also shared that there has been a meeting between staff and concerned residents that ended very well.

“It is my understanding from the outcome of that meeting that the folks were heard and pleased with the resolutions that have been put in place, and the ones that hadn’t yet been accomplished, they know they will be soon,” Caboni said.

Title IX

As of Nov. 29, former General Counsel Deborah Wilkins is no longer listed as WKU’s Title IX coordinator and her phone number has been removed from WKU’s campus directory. 

The university did not comment on this in the fall, and Caboni was not able to offer clarity on the situation as it was “a personnel issue”. 

Andrea Anderson is serving as interim General Counsel, and Caboni expressed his confidence in her ability to fulfill that role.

“It’s an important position to the university, but the community should be comfortable and confident because Andrea Anderson was the Title IX coordinator before she became general counsel,” Caboni said. “We want to move as expeditiously as possible to refill that position, it’s important – but in the interim, Andrea and the group of folks who do investigations who have not changed are continuing to be responsive, to be aggressive and making sure that we’re taking care of any of those complaints.

Upcoming announcement regarding Innovation Campus partnership

WKU’s Central Research and Development Innovation Campus partners with companies and businesses across the region to provide students with professional and educational opportunities.

Caboni said he’ll soon be announcing a new partnership within the campus.

“We’ve been working hard to develop a partnership that would move a corporate entity into that space that’s good for campus,” Caboni said. “We’re just about ready to announce that in the coming weeks, so that’s been terrific.”

In recent weeks, the campus’ former call center has been used as an “incubation” space for numerous local businesses impacted by the Dec. 11 tornado.

“We actually have made that available at very low cost, it’s $1 a month to any local businesses who have been affected by the storm so that they can move their operations in there,” Caboni said.