Board of Trustees September 2023 Meeting

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College Community: 

The Harvey Mudd College Board of Trustees held its September meeting on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 22–23. Several trustees also were on campus Thursday, Sept. 21, for new trustee orientation and the chance to celebrate the wonderful accomplishments of our students during the Summer Research Poster Session. They enjoyed opportunities to meet with students, faculty and staff through joint receptions and meals on Friday. In reconnecting with our community, the board appreciated being able to catch up on what has been happening so far this semester on campus. 

On Friday morning, Vice President for Admission and Financial Aid Thyra Briggs provided trustees with an overview of four key issues impacting college and university admission this year:

  1. The recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard University and Students For Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina. 
  2. The simplification of the Federal Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and launch of a new form. 
  3. ChatGPT and similar services and how they can and should be used in the admission and application process. 
  4. The future of legacy admission policies and other groupings of prospective students such as those who are athletes or who have connections to donors. 

We thank Thyra and the staff in the Office of Admission and Financial Aid for their efforts to conscientiously review and adapt to these changes. This year brings significant disruption to their efforts, and we appreciate their hard work, dedication and flexibility in helping our students and families navigate these changes. 

During the board’s discussions on Friday and Saturday, the Board took a broader approach to discussing the College’s diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts this year. In December 2020 the board shared four goals around DEI. Those included:  

  • diversifying the board by actively recruiting people of color; 
  • continuing to support the College’s efforts to lead the national discussion regarding DEI in STEM; 
  • ensuring the College has the resources to accomplish priority programming identified to further its goals for DEI; and 
  • discussing a summary of the DEI programs and progress each September. 

Vice-chair Laura Larson shared a review of the Board’s demographics over the previous 20 years. President Harriet Nembhard shared her perspectives in a Saturday plenary session about how she and the Cabinet are beginning to think about the College’s goals in this area. The trustees join her in the desire to seek productive ways that our work can be expanded and refined as we look ahead to community discussions on possible future goals and strategic priorities. We remain committed to building a community centered on access, inclusion and belonging and to challenging ourselves to think more broadly about what it means to live and thrive in a diverse community.  

In addition to these important conversations, the Board also made some key decisions during our meetings, including: 

Campus Improvements 

  • The Physical Plant and Campus Planning Committee (PPCPC) received an update on work to improve safety on campus, in particular, the efforts by the College’s Faculty Safety Committee to develop a Stop-Work Policy. The policy has been approved, and we encourage faculty, staff and students to review it so that you can help ensure the safety of our community. 
  • The PPCPC received an update on the completion of several projects this summer, including the Kingston Hall air handler replacement project, the South and Linde Residence Hall roof replacements, the Keck Science Center waterproofing project, and the dishwasher replacement in the dining hall. Projectors and other AV equipment were replaced throughout Shanahan by the CIS team, and Wi-Fi systems were stabilized.  Reports from the start of the semester were good. Each of these projects were completed and came in under budget, freeing funds to go back into the College’s Renewal and Replacement Reserve (RRR) fund to help cover upcoming work. 
  • PPCPC approved using the RRR fund to complete the design and engineering to replace the air conditioning units at the Linde Activities Center and to clean the air handlers and ducts in the Jacobs-Keck Science Center. The PPCPC also recommended and the board approved allocating $1.3 million from the RRR fund to replace the transformers and electrical infrastructure in East, North, South and West residence halls. 

Trustee Actions 

  • The board recognized Michael Blasgen ’63 for his many years of service as a trustee and named him trustee emeritus. We thank him for his outstanding contributions to the board and to the College. 
  • Sergio Monsalve P25 has taken a one-year leave of absence and Uma Rajesh P24 has stepped down from the board. We thank them both for their service. 

Other Board Actions 

Upon recommendation of the Advancement and Budget and Financial Planning committees, the board approved the allocation of $1.017 million from a gift received through the Rae trusts toward implementation of the Advancement Growth Plan approved previously. The plan calls for gradually increasing the size of the Office of College Advancement staff to ensure that they are well-positioned for the upcoming comprehensive fundraising campaign as well as to meet increasing fundraising goals. John B. Rae was an outstanding faculty member who joined Harvey Mudd College in 1959 and who taught courses on the history of technology and industry after having served as a professor at MIT. While he retired from HMC in 1976, he continued to teach at Claremont Graduate University and to research and write. He was named both professor emeritus and honorary alumnus by the College. He died in 1988. The trustees are incredibly grateful for the generosity of John and his wife, Florence, in making estate gifts to the College. We will consider how best to invest the remaining portion of the family’s bequest when we meet in January with the goal of identifying ways to create a lasting memorial to John, Florence, and the entire Rae family for their support and many years of service. 

In closing, the board discussed initial plans for our Saddle Rock retreat this November. We are anticipating smaller attendance from students, faculty and staff as we would like to focus our time this year on getting to know President Nembhard better, exchanging perspectives on the process map developed with the Presidential Transition Task Force, and on discussing the campus and community relationships we can build through this spring’s presidential inauguration celebration. We hope you will reserve Thursday, Feb. 29, and Friday, March 1, on your calendars and make plans to attend the inauguration activities. More information will be shared in the coming months. We look forward to celebrating the investiture of our sixth president and beginning to think about how our community will envision the future of Harvey Mudd College. 

Finally, on a more personal note, I’d like to thank Vice Chair Laura Larson P20 for chairing in my absence and doing such a great job leading our meetings.  

Sincerely, 

Jim Bean ’77 
Chair, Harvey Mudd College Board of Trustees