Board of Trustees optimistic for University’s future

By Albert Chang-Yoo and Mercer Stauch

In an open session on Friday, February 24, members of the Board of Trustees reaffirmed their commitment to a collaborative process, and also expressed eagerness to increase student awareness of changes brought along by A Sound Future. The mood was overall optimistic that the University will rebound despite its financial woes. The meeting held in Thomas Hall followed a weeklong process of committee, subcommittee, and administrative meetings with trustees and administrators.

Reports regarding increasing application rates contributed to this optimism. Admissions reported that application volume has increased for the incoming class of 2027, and that Early Decision applications in particular have more than doubled, exceeding pre-COVID levels. Admissions also looks forward to reinstating admitted student events in Honolulu, Minneapolis, and Denver, and stated a goal of increasing the University’s student retention rate.

During the meeting, Faculty Senate Chair Elise Richman expressed hope about the ongoing program review process. Gray Associates, the data analytics firm brought in to oversee the process, has been reviewing internal data provided by each office across campus. According to Richman, faculty must stay engaged with the work Gray Associate is doing: “the ethical application of the data and metrics they provide is contingent upon members of our campus community collaborating well and centering our mission as we determine how to implement curricular and programmatic changes.”

President of the Associated Students of the University of Puget Sound Nate Sansone expressed gratitude in his final report to the board of trustees in his position. He updated the board on the results of the ASUPS elections — including the passage of the Senator Stipend Proposal and the election of Chloé Pargmann and Bella Sanchez to the presidency and vice presidency, respectively — and shared his confidence that his successors will carry on the institution’s value of respectful, collaborative discourse, and that the University’s antiracism work will continue into the new administration.

An additional topic touched upon by the Trustees was the importance of communicating to students. Members repeatedly stressed that achieving all points of A Sound Future was imperative to the success of the University. This includes goals such as maintaining financial viability — which means fewer tuition increases — being able to pay out scholarships, and preserving educational rigor and stability for future generations.

The board approved President Crawford’s initial budget recommendation for 2023-24 and expressed appreciation for the Budget Task Force’s continued work to advance the president’s final recommendation to the board at the May meeting.

Throughout the week, there were two official events held to foster student engagement with trustees: a wine-tasting night for Seniors and a lunch with Posse Scholars. Several professors also invited trustees into their classroom. However, most of the Board’s work involves closed-session committee meetings revolving around financial affairs, which are subsequently summarized in reports.

Friday’s meeting was marked by two contrasting themes: acknowledging that the University is experiencing marked decline, and a firm belief that the future is bright. It was also marked by a lack of attendance from students. Budget cuts, retention rates, recruitment efforts, tuition increases, and student success were all issues discussed by the Board of Trustees during their campus visit. The question now is how the University will bring the campus community into the conversational fold.