The senior staff gave a briefing to the Knox community following the February Board of Trustees meeting.
President Teresa Amott began the briefing by reminding the attendees about the Alumni Achievement Awards that Knox gives as part of the Founders Day celebrations. She noted that beyond the four alumni honored, the announced Provost and Dean of the College Garikai Campbell was also in attendance. He also met with the Board during their meetings.
Amott and the senior staff then gave a quick overview of what the Board had voted on and passed in their session. The go-ahead was given for the BETA house renovations once the full $1.6 million was secured, with construction planned to start this summer and the brothers expected to move back in next January.
Two further renovations were discussed towards SMC and Prats Field. The Construction Design Phase, which gives the school approval to request construction blueprints and documents from the architects, were approved for both. Actual construction will need a further approval.
The Board also approved a 6.5 percent endowment draw for the 2019 financial year, minor by-law edits, the yearly renewal of hiring an independent auditor, the 2018 honorary degree recipients and a small acquisition on Monmouth Boulevard.
During their meeting, the Board received various presentations on the development of the new academic program, alumni engagement and the SMC A-Core renovations.
They also met with students and faculty to discuss the meaning of liberal arts and the impact of those ideas on Knox. Interim Dean of the College Michael Schneider said that the students had brought in perspectives that would likely have otherwise been absent and that it was good to see the discussion between the various campus groups.
Amott gave an explanation of the budget as well. Knox currently has a $2.2 million deficit, which has been brought down from $2.7 million earlier this year. The fall enrollment was better than expected, which has helped ease some of the deficit. However, Amott said they still needed to find ways to continue to cut costs, saying some projects might be deferred until more funding is obtained.
The use of reserved funds for facilities was also discussed and Amott brought up the possibility of using the Budget Contingency Reserve, which would come out of the endowment. The endowment currently sits at $155 million, including a couple recent bequests from the Galesburg community to support scholarship funds.
“We will balance the budget at the end of the year, we don’t have an option on that,” Amott said.
The 2019 planned budget includes raises for faculty – Amott noted that because of the difficulty with funding, those raises would mean cuts would have to be made elsewhere.
“Everybody recognizes the cumulative effect of salary freezes,” Amott said.
Committee reports included discussions of faculty diversity in the Academic Affairs committee and international student recruitment in the Admissions and Financial Aid committee.
Admissions and Financial Aid also gave an update on current applications and admissions for the class of 2022. Admissions are down 17 percent, largely due to a decrease in students from the city of Chicago. Vice President for Enrollment and Dean of Admissions Paul Steenis attributed this to a decline in the bandwagon effect of large numbers of students who are not really interested in Knox applying from the same Chicago high schools.
At the same time, Knox is up for deposits, with 57 submitted as of Tuesday. This time last year there were 53 and only 19 two years ago.
Other committee discussions included the relationship between trustees and alumni engagement, the transition to the new athletic director Daniella Irle, and a discussion on the process of creating a new campus master plan.
Some questions from the audience focused on faculty diversity and whether progress had been made in bringing in professors from underrepresented groups. In response, Amott said that the college’s strategic plan included faculty and staff diversity goals, but that more progress had been made in staff than faculty. She attributed part of the problem to competitive salaries and Knox’s current inability to offer a competitive salary.