Board of Trustees convenes to discuss University finances, academic policies

The board also discussed the ongoing reaccreditation process, Making History campaign goals

· February 20, 2012, 12:57 am   ·  Updated February 22, 2012, 11:01 pm

Tuition, construction projects and global engagement opportunities were on the minds of members of Penn’s Board of Trustees last week.

Penn’s 57-member Board of Trustees convened at the Inn at Penn on Thursday and Friday — along with Penn President Amy Gutmann and other members of the administration — to discuss and approve University finances, academic policies and numerous other initiatives for the coming year.

On Thursday, the Budget and Finance Committee approved a 3.9-percent increase in undergraduate tuition for 2012-13, as well as a 7.7-percent increase in the financial aid budget. Both changes were formalized at the trustees’ stated meeting on Friday.

In light of a decline in federal research grants, the committee also explored potential alternative sources of funding, such as creating start-up companies and forming industry partnerships with companies like AstraZeneca .

In response to a discussion about the expansion of technology transfers at Penn, Gutmann said she thinks “we’ve gone from bad to good and now we need to go from good to great.” She added that the University “should examine how to move tech transfer and do commercialization at the highest level.”

Vice President for Information Systems and Computing Robin Beck also discussed plans for the creation of a new University data center on the South Bank in order to meet “the need for a next generation of student systems” for computational-based research and classroom technology use.

The Facilities and Campus Planning Committee approved an $18.5-million addition to Steinberg-Dietrich Hall, a $22.2-million renovation to Hutchinson Gymnasium and a $2.2-million urban park on Spruce Street between 33rd and 34th streets.

The committee also reviewed the progress on Van Pelt Library’s special collections center.

The Student Life Committee discussed the role of peer-to-peer mentoring and education — through programs like New Student Orientation and the freshman pre-orientation program PennCAP — in the experience of first-year and incoming students.

The Local, National and Global Engagement Committee spoke of expanding international opportunities for students and marketing Penn’s brand overseas. The committee heard a presentation from Vice Provost for Global Initiatives and newly appointed Penn Integrates Knowledge professor Zeke Emanuel.

At the Academic Policy Committee meeting, Wharton School Dean Thomas Robertson spoke of creating a department of Business Economics and Public Policy — a merger between the Business and Public Policy and Insurance and Risk Management departments — which was later approved at Friday’s stated meeting.

The committee also addressed the University’s ongoing reaccreditation process, which will include presenting a plan for self-study to the Middle States Commission on Higher Education this spring.

At Friday’s stated meeting, Gutmann reported that the Making History campaign had reached $3.68 billion, exceeding its original $3.5-billion goal. The Trustees also approved new faculty appointments and reported on the University’s finances this year.

Sarah Smith, Aditi Srinivas, Jennifer Sun and Huizhong Wu contributed reporting to this article.

This article has been updated from a prior version to reflect the building that will have an addition added to it is “Steinberg-Dietrich Hall” not “Steinhardt-Dietrich Hall.”

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