By Ben Kleppinger
Three hours before the Western game on Saturday, the Eastern Board of Regents held its quarterly meeting, which many members of the board agreed should be short and sweet.Board chair Hunter Bates reminded those in attendance that the meeting needed to be short in order to make it to President Doug Whitlock’s pre-game reception in time for some “heavy snacking.”
Whitlock agreed, and said he was looking forward to the pre-game “munchies.”
After a closed executive session, Whitlock gave his report to the board.
Whitlock said black student enrollment has risen by 15 percent this year, but new student enrollment overall is down one percent.
Whitlock also outlined a plan Eastern has to overhaul the structure of the university. Departments will have input on the best possible ways to reorganize, Whitlock said.
The reorganization may move some people around, but no one will be laid off, he added.
Following Whitlock’s report, various committees gave their reports, and the board approved several changes to policies at Eastern.
Admissions policy revised
The board approved a change in Eastern’s admissions policy that raises the minimum ACT scores for full admission to the university. Beginning next year, students will need to score an 18 in English, a 19 in math and a 21 in reading. Students scoring between 18 and 20 in reading will have to take a remedial course.
The new standards were fast-tracked in order to comply with new admissions requirements set by the state Council on Postsecondary Education.
Siemens contract finalized
The board approved a lease with Suntrust Equipment Financing and Leasing Corp. that will provide the majority of the money for Eastern’s $27 million environmental partnership with Siemens. The university begins paying Suntrust in February of 2010.
James Street, Eastern’s director of capital planning and facilities management, updated the board on all of the major construction projects at Eastern.
Rising construction costs are forcing Eastern to downgrade the construction plans for the new science building and the second phase of the business and technology center, Street said.
Due to a total discrepancy of over $24 million between available funds and the lowest bidders’ estimates for construction, Street said Eastern will be looking into “value engineering,” as well as postponing some elements for later construction.
Street said Eastern is looking into postponing parts of the new science building until the second phase. The lowest bidder’s cost for the new science building was more than $17 million more than Eastern’s available funds. In a document summarizing the financial situation of the new science building project, Street showed that based on current construction costs, the size of the new science building would have to be reduced by more than 57,000 sq. ft. to be affordable.
Street also said Eastern was looking into material downgrades that could make construction cheaper.
Street said Eastern has asked an architect to draw new plans for the second phase of the BTC which exclude a conferencing area previously included.
The cost for the smaller addition is expected to more closely match Eastern’s available funds. Street said bids on the new plans are expected in November.
Street said the renovation of the intramural fields is nearing completion despite delays, and he expects them to be ready for use in November.
The Manchester Postsecondary Education Center-Eastern’s new extended campus in Manchester-is also almost complete, Street said. “It’s easily the most handsome building in Manchester,” he added.
The board approved a list of six people for reception of honorary degrees, including George Clooney. When the meeting had adjourned, the regents all announced a prediction for the score of the Western game and submitted them to Eastern’s Director of Equal Opportunity, Virginia Underwood. Underwood said the closest regent would receive a prize at the next meeting.