Board receives tearful thanks from Mount Ida student at first meeting

Framingham State’s Board of Trustees discussed new student programs and the University budget at their first meeting of the academic year on Wednesday, Sept. 10.

As part of the “Student Spotlight,” professor Brian Wilson and senior John C. Lines, previously of Mount Ida College in Newton, Massachusetts, presented on FSU’s new commercial photography program.

Wilson and Lines were members of the commercial photography program at Mount Ida College, which closed abruptly last year due to funding problems. The closing left many students concerned about their next steps. Wilson said the commercial photography program at Mount Ida was unique as one of few in the area and “the only one for six hours around.”

FSU invited Wilson to teach courses from the program at the University. He brought some of his students, including Lines, with him to finish out their degrees.

Lines shared examples of his work and described the ways the commercial photography program had prepared him for career success. He teared up throughout the presentation, but particularly when recalling the closing of Mount Ida and what it meant to come to FSU with his classmates.

He addressed the board directly at the end of his presentation, saying, “Thank you for allowing us to come because we can all be together and finish it all up.”

Also at the meeting, Chair Kevin Foley announced two trustees – Brendon Giblin and Sonia Diaz – had resigned over the summer due to conflicting commitments. He said he hopes the board can fill the positions within the next 60 to 90 days.

During his report, President F. Javier Cevallos shared that FSU was ranked among the top 10 in the nation in terms of equity for black students by the University of Southern California’s Race and Equity Center.

“It is great to know that we are so highly ranked in that particular measure – and we got some really nice publicity from that,” said Cevallos.

Foley agreed, remarking the report was a “great marketing opportunity.”

Trustee Fernando Quezada praised the diversity efforts instituted by faculty and students on campus. “What has not been clear to me is … ‘Are disabled student populations and faculty populations – are they included in the diversity effort?’”

Cevallos said, “It is in the diversity effort, but it is not in the statistics I quoted to you.” 

Following Cevallos’ report, Eric Gustafson, executive director of development and alumni relations, briefed the board on University donations and fundraising.

He said fiscal year 2018 was “wonderful” in terms of fundraising, as the University raised “just under” $2.9 million.

He also highlighted the many donations and gifts, some of which prompted the University to rename rooms across campus after various donors. “Donors continue to want to support students through endowed scholarship funds,” he said.

During his Capital Spending Plan Update, Trustee Michael Grilli described a five-year spending plan aimed at addressing “critical repairs” – a term for necessary building maintenance such as electrical repairs and roofing projects – for University properties.

Grilli said, “We had ambitions for an appropriation from the state for several of the projects – Crocker Hall and the library – but they disappointed us and simply came up with a modest commitment that we are going to use for mitigating any of the deferred maintenance costs.”

The anticipated cost of the overall projects exceeds $7 million, approximately $2 million of which the University will be directly responsible for, said Grilli.

Grilli and Dale Hamel, executive vice president, also discussed strategies for balancing the budget given faltering student enrollment.

Grilli said, “The finance committee has struggled with the budget this past year as we face enrollment issues.”

He added they’ve adopted a new “attitude” for the coming years. “Rather than succumb to the trend that shows huge deficits in the future and just continued declining enrollment, we’ve decided that we’re going to try to project with a little more optimistic outlook.”

He said on that note, he was happy to announce the University was not running a deficit in its budget for the upcoming year. 

He added, “The behemoth among us, Dale, has crunched it up and got us here where we are so that we’re going forward without debt.” 

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