Board of Trustees Approve Capital Budget, Discuss Mental Health

Daniel Nesbitt ’22

News Editor

The Trinity College Board of Trustees recently held a meeting on Saturday Feb. 8, 2020, during which the Board voted on a number of important subjects including the capital budget for fiscal year 2021 (FY21) and the refinancing of existing debt to better finance upcoming capital projects. In addition, the Board discussed various other topics, including Trinity’s engagement with Hartford, and the Task Force on the Status of Women at Trinity, among other things.

Courtesy of The Trinity Tripod

The Board approved the promotion of multiple professors. Professor Reo Matsuzaki of the Political Science department was promoted to associate professor with tenure. Also, professors Shafqat Hussain and Todd Ryan of the Anthropology and Philosophy departments, respectively, were promoted to full professor. In addition, the Board approved a revised conflict-of-interest policy for trustees and senior management employees.

In the most significant vote by the Board, the finalized capital budget for FY21 was approved. The capital budget allocated a total of $5.6 million, distributed mainly among four different infrastructure projects. For classroom upgrades and cyclical information technology replacements, $1.6 million was allocated, and $1.5 million was allocated for accessibility/accommodation projects and residence hall upgrades. In addition, $1.1 million was allocated for mechanical and equipment replacements and another $1.265 million for safety and regulatory compliance. An additional $135,000 was allocated as a contingency. The graph shown to the left depicts the FY21 budget allocation figures described above.

According to President Berger-Sweeney’s campus-wide email, the Board voted “to take advantage of historically low interest rates to refinance a large portion (more than $90 million) of [Trinity’s] current debt and smooth out [Trinity’s] future debt repayments.” The email indicated that this increased debt capacity will allow for easier financing of large infrastructure projects that are not likely to be supported by fundraising such as projects involving the heating and cooling systems. 

The Board also approved phase one of a series of extensive renovations to Jessee/Miller Field (football field) and Robin L. Sheppard Field (field hockey). Phase one includes the construction of a three-story press box and support buildings for both fields, as well as new spectator stands. Constructions is set to begin this spring with the hope that the renovations will be complete in time for the fall football and field hockey seasons. Phase two of the renovations would reconfigure visitor seating on the west side of Jessee/Miller Field, add new entrances to the fields, and furnish additional restrooms. 

Though no formal actions or plans have been announced, President Berger-Sweeney’s email indicated that the Board discussed student life and student housing with the Student Life Subcommittee and the Student Government Association’s Student Life Committee. 

In addition, the Board met with Randy Lee, director of the Counseling and Wellness Center, and members of the Dean of Students Office to discuss “the national issue of student mental health, as well as Trinity-specific issues related to mental health and well-being,” per Berger-Sweeney’s email. Speaking to the Tripod, Chief of Staff to the President Jason Rojas, on behalf of Berger-Sweeney’s office, indicated that “the Dean of Students Office has presented to academic department chairs to share information and to discuss the needs of students.” The President’s office added that “individual academic department[s] that request a presentation to discuss data about student mental health needs and how to best respond to student needs” will be followed-up with in the coming weeks. “There is ongoing work to provide information to student life personnel to build greater awareness while engaging in continuous training for staff as they respond to student needs,” the President’s office concluded.

There were also faculty-led discussions regarding first-generation and low-income student experiences at Trinity. Finally, students, faculty, and staff spoke to the Board about “the myriad ways they and the college are engaged with the city of Hartford.” 

Members of the Task Force on the Status of Women at Trinity spoke to the Board about the Task Force’s proposed recommendations generated over the course of its work during the fall semester. The Task Force is expected to finalize its report and share its findings with the public in the upcoming weeks. Berger-Sweeney’s email also indicated that the Task Force will continue its work “to address issues of gender equity and inclusion in the Trinity community” in the upcoming semesters. 

The Board was also updated with the findings of the fall semester’s employee engagement survey and Trinity’s efforts surrounding this topic. Included among these efforts were six focus groups in early February and virtual focus groups spanning from Feb. 4-18. In addition, an employee engagement email has been set up to allow for written feedback and suggestions to the HR team. 

President Berger-Sweeney’s email also highlighted positive data obtained by Trinity’s Center for Student Success and Career Development through a survey of the Class of 2019. The survey, garnering an 87% response rate, indicated that 96.6% of respondents achieved positive outcomes since graduation, where positive outcomes include full-time or part-time employment, graduate school, military or other service, or pursuing fellowships/other opportunities. There is little information available regarding the precise question phrasing and methodology. Of those respondents employed, more than 40% work in the “Business/Finance” industry, with the second most frequent industry being “Science/Technology/Engineering” at just below 20%.

The next Board of Trustees meeting will be held in April, at which, according to President Berger-Sweeney’s email, “trustees will focus on the operating budget for FY21.” The President’s office added, “As we look to the April Board of Trustees meeting, the Planning & Budget Council…will continue to determine budget priorities that align with the strategic plan” as outlined in President Berger Sweeney’s email. Between now and the April meeting, “[the Planning & Budget Council] will continue to monitor revenue and spending projections so that the most up to date information is available when final action is taken,” the President’s office indicated. 

Finally, looking ahead to the College’s bicentennial celebration, the President’s office indicated that though no board action has been taken regarding this matter, “senior administrators continue to engage in planning discussions.”

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