The Covenant College Board of Trustees, a group of 41 men and women approved by the Presbyterian Church in America and tasked with overseeing the college, met last month to make decisions on issues ranging from campus development to acceptance of federal funding.
In addition to a plenary session and committee meetings—attended by representatives from the student senate—on Thursday, March 16, the board gathered for a private executive session. Although board members were asked not to reveal what was discussed in the closed-door executive session, the truth is remarkably simple, according to Chairman Dick Bowser.
“There are no particular items scheduled to be discussed during that time,” Bowser said in a memo to the board before the gathering. “It will give the President and any of us the opportunity to bring any item before the body.”
One topic that likely arose in executive session is student athletes kneeling for the national anthem, which college administration and even students came under scrutiny for last semester. President Derek Halvorson addressed the issue by forming a task force, according to his March 2017 report to the board.
“In response to student-athletes kneeling during the national anthem, I appointed a task force to design and host events on campus that would foster healthy dialogue around the multiple issues raised by those protests,” said Halvorson. “[Among those issues are] racial injustice, patriotism, protest, and disagreement among Christians.”
Separately, Halvorson also discussed recent budget overages and how the college could avoid such complications in the future. Covenant awarded $800,000 more in financial aid than the school originally budgeted, said the President’s Report. An unforeseen windfall from historic tax credits for restoration work to Carter Hall, however, will allow the college the finish the fiscal year within budget.
“Due to additional work being done on Carter Hall that is outside of the scope of the original $19.4 million project and is paid for out of normal operations, we expect to receive a total of $4.8-$5.3 million in cash from tax credits, rather than the $4.0-4.5 that was originally projected,” said Halvorson.
“We are thankful for this blessing, even as we recognize that we need to address some of our budgeting and awarding practices and prepare for three more years with a class that has a higher-than-originally-projected discount rate.”
Despite the additional work on Carter that Halvorson mentioned, the massive project remains on track for completion by the time students move in this August.
The President also updated the board on the college’s reaccreditation status, a rigorous process that rolls around every ten years. A team from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges visited campus in February. The team made only two recommendations, a report Halvorson called “remarkably clean.”
The Academic Affairs committee met on March 16 to discuss the reaccreditation process and one new addition to the faculty, Dr. David Saiki of California State University at Bakersfield. Saiki will replace Professor Mehne, who is retiring, as associate professor of chemistry this fall.
Board materials distributed by the President’s office before the meeting devoted some 608 pages to the Academic Affairs committee—astronomically more than was written on other committees, which ranged from 6-18 each.