The Covenant College Board of Trustees—looking to reevaluate the college's policy on Admissions, Federal Funding & Human Sexuality, Strategic Plan, and more—returns to Lookout Mountain Oct. 7 for its fall meeting.
Twenty-four trustees, nine trustee advisers, and four officers will spend Thursday and Friday revising the college's policies on several issues such as finance, admissions, academics, athletics, and federal funding.
Most board members, some with their spouses or families, arrive Wednesday evening. The meeting itself will commence Thursday morning with an opening plenary (all-member) session held at Grace Presbyterian Church.
The opening session will begin with devotions and prayer by Rev. Lance Lewis, followed by opening remarks from both Chairman Dick Bowser and President Derek Halvorson. New faculty and staff will also be introduced at the opening session.
Immediately following the opening session on Thursday morning, the Board of Trustees separate into seven committees, which meet on and near campus from 9:45 a.m.-12:45 p.m. Students are welcomed to sit in on committee meetings.
The Academic Affairs committee meet in Carter 118 to approve significant changes in academic programs, interview and recommend new faculty members, and review the Academic Affairs annual assessment report and the goals of the academic department for the year.
The Admissions committee meet at Grace Presbyterian Church to review and evaluate the College’s admissions marketing plan and all other admissions functions, go over the Director of Admissions’ report, and analyze the Admissions annual assessment report.
The Advancement/Investment committee will meet at Grace Presbyterian Church to discuss fiscal responsibility and integrity, approve the receipt of select contributions, review plans and policies related to receipt of gifts to the college, and analyze the Advancement/Investment annual assessment report.
The Campus Planning committee meet in Carter 131 this year to oversee college policy relating to use and maintenance of college space, insure the maintenance and repairs of all properties in accord with allocated resources, make recommendations to the board on campus planning, and review the Facilities and Management annual assessment report.
The Finance/Investment committee meet in Carter 131 to review CFO Dan Wykoff’s report, revise the annual college budget and other financial goals, review and approve personnel policies, review and revise financial aid policies and effectiveness, and go over the annual Financial report.
The Student Development Committee meet in Kresge 201 to review reports from the Chaplain and the Vice President for Student Development, establish and review policy that governs the student body, approve changes to the student handbook, oversee athletic policies, and review the Student Development annual assessment report.
The Trustee Development/Spiritual Life committee meet in Brock 221 to discuss issues, policies, and personnel within the Board itself.
A plenary session will take place on Thursday afternoon to discuss items for full board discussion. Issues of sexual orientation, government funding, and government regulation—three widely anticipated topics this year—are expected to be covered at this session.
A board-appointed special task force charged with researching potential legal and governmental threats related to issues of human sexuality provide a report at the plenary session. Chairman Dick Bowser told the Board in a recent memo that he expects that “a significant amount of time that afternoon will be devoted to discussing together the issues that are raised by what we will hear [from the report].”
Early in October, Dr. Halvorson addressed this issue in the President’s Report to the Board of Trustees. “Perhaps the most dire threat to the college (though it’s not the only one) is the potential loss of access to federal financial aid for our students ... If our students were denied access to federal aid because of our positions on human sexuality, it would mean a loss of around $7 million in revenue to the college.”
This threat comes at a time when finances for the college are tight—Financial Year 2015 saw a mid-year budget adjustment of approximately $1 million—and when admission and retention rates are already down.
The President’s report addressed enrollment, which is down 5% from last year. The fall-to-fall retention rate dropped from 88.5% to 86.3%, though Halvorson says it is “still strong by national standards.”
The “significant negative impact” on the budget caused by these shortfalls will be addressed in both the Finance committee meeting and the executive session on Friday.
The Board will meet Friday morning at Grace Presbyterian Church to hear standing committee reports and recommendations, followed by an executive session meeting. Executive session covers long-range planning, public relations issues, budget items, amendments to board policies and procedures, and more.
Implementation of the college’s 2015-2017 strategic plan will be a key element of the Board of Trustees meeting. The overarching goal of the strategic plan is to “strengthen the total Covenant experience and increase its availability and sustainability.” The President’s report cited several initiatives targeted toward carrying out the strategic plan, and said that planning committees are working on implementation of the objectives in the plan.
In a recent interview with the Bagpipe, Joel Belz ’62 echoed the mindset demonstrated in the strategic plan. “We discuss at every board meeting how to reduce the cost of the education to students and their families, and yet preserve the quality of the education those students are receiving. I want students and families to know that we discuss that at every board meeting,” Mr. Belz, who has been on the Board for 35 years, is on the Admissions committee and plans to urge Covenant’s Office of Admissions to “continue building enrollment with intentional students.”
The Board of Trustees will also have the chance to interact with students over the course of the week. Student Senate members will arrange groups of students to eat with board members Thursday night, and board members will attend alumni chapel on Friday.