The Southern Arkansas University Board of Trustees met on June 20, 2013, during which the Board unanimously approved the 2013-14 budgets for SAU and SAU Tech and opted out of the concealed weapon legislation.
SAU’s approved budget includes a tuition and fee increase of 3.35%, while SAU Tech’s budget calls for a 10% tuition boost. As this is the main budget meeting of the year, SAU President Dr. David Rankin presented a SAU System budget of more than $67 million with more than 500 employees serving more than 5,500 students.
“Budget preparations this year have been very challenging with the University facing additional costs of operations, combined with static state funding,” said Rankin. “However, I do not want to complain because many states have faced cuts in state funding. So we are fortunate. In fact, that was probably our best case scenario when we went to Little Rock that we would have no cut in state funding.”
Tuition will increase at SAU from $196 to $204 per credit-hour, and from $98 to $108 per credit-hour at SAU Tech. Rankin pointed out that the larger tuition increase at SAU Tech is primarily enabling the funding for the new student center there, construction of which should begin this fall, and to meet additional operating expenses.
Upon recommendations from the SAU Faculty Senate, Staff Senate, and administration, the Board unanimously voted for SAU to opt out of legislation that would allow faculty and staff members with concealed weapons permits to carry handguns on campus. Opting out will be revisited annually, per the legislation.
Other items presented by Dr. Rankin at the board meeting include:
- SAU is getting a lot of attention for the new Computer Game and Animation Design program, which is the first of its kind in the Arkansas.
- SAU is also working on a new Chemical and Mechanical option for the current engineering program in the College of Science and Technology. SAU hopes to propose it to the Arkansas Higher Education Board in the fall. Rankin said that business and industry leaders are interested and supportive, so this would help with economic development in the area.
- The SAU Natural Resource Research Center is very active, and is one of only three certified labs in the state. The NRRC has secured a number of municipal and corporate contracts.
- The University recently won the National Community Engagement Award from NCAA Division II. It recognizes the work of SAU Athletics in engaging coaches and student athletes with the community.
- SAU Tech has pioneered the addition of online courses, and the Magnolia campus has followed suit in pursuing additional online offerings.
- The SAU Tech Student Center will allow graduation ceremonies on the Tech campus for the first time in many years. It will also add assembly space and parking, and will host the campus bookstore.
- The final phase of the Story Arena is underway, and SAU hopes to complete it in time to have the SAU spring rodeo on campus. The Arena will add tremendous value to the area and region.
- A new water well was just completed at SAU, which will supply a new horticulture facility near the Agriculture Center. Bids will go out next week for the horticulture structures.
- The new University Hall is on schedule to open in the fall. It will house 60 students.
- The last connecting walking trail has been completed, and lights are currently being installed on the trail and farm road. This trail serves the campus and community.
- A new parking lot is being constructed west of the Ronnie Ribble Strength Training Center. It will add parking not only for that facility, but also for softball, basketball, and baseball games.
Other actions taken during the meeting included:
- A resolution was passed honoring retiring SAU board member Ronnie Ribble. He served SAU on the Board from July 2009 to May 2013, and held positions of secretary, vice chairman and chairman of the board.
- Cledis Stuart, assoc. dean for multiculturalism and diversity at SAU, presented the Interim Report of the Diversity Initiative Task Force for SAU. Stuart outlined this campus-wide initiative and the effort to become more inclusive as a University to show that SAU has an appreciation for diversity on our campus. He reported that the action started with creation of a diversity mission statement for the University, and was followed with creation of five committees to work on areas of diversity at SAU.
- Roger Giles, SAU vice president for administration and general counsel, brought several items in front of the Board, including a motion that was carried for adoption of national standards and adaptation to the SAU Faculty Handbook with regards to codes of ethics, as requested by the SAU Faculty Senate and administration. Giles also outlined SAU’s proposed 2013-14 budget.
- Dr. Lisa Toms provided an interim report of the Strategic Planning Task Force.
- The Board approved requests by SAU Tech’s Vice Chancellor for Academics Robert Gunnels for approval of the following programs: Certificate of Proficiency in Engineering Technology, Technical Certificate in Engineering Technology, Technical Certificate in Wildlife and Fisheries Enforcement, Associate of Professional Studies: Wildlife and Fisheries Enforcement, Technical Certificate in Simulation and Game Design, and Associate of Applied Science in Multimedia Technology: Simulation and Game Design.
- A motion was carried by the Board for SAU Tech to pursue construction of an apartment building to house 24 students on campus in East Camden.
- Dr. Terrye Stinson, professor of accounting at SAU, shared with the Board the journey she, Dr. Denise Moseley, and countless others at SAU have gone through before officially submitting the systems portfolio on June 1. There will be a visit from AQIP representatives on November 13 this fall, but she and the committees feel good about the report and the upcoming visit. She also discussed the positive impact Live Text will have on tracking and improving student learning.
- Stinson was surprised with the final item on the agenda, as she was given the honor of being named a Distinguished Professor. In addition, Emeritus Status was granted to retired faculty members Dr. Don Nelson and Dr. James Rasmussen. Rankin’s contract was also renewed for another year.