Board of Trustees holds first meeting of the academic year: Members discuss finances, diversity, and WiFi connectivity issues

Caroline Gordon / THE GATEPOST

By Evan Lee

Asst. News Editor

By Leighah Beausoleil

Interim Asst. News Editor

Framingham State’s Board of Trustees held its first meeting of the academic year Sept. 25 in the Alumni Room. 

They discussed an array of topics ranging from the University’s financial and marketing strategies to bias incidents and diversity on campus. 

Eric Gustafson, vice president of development and alumni relations, discussed the University’s fundraising efforts as well as endowments it received during fiscal year 2019.

“As of June 30th, we closed the fiscal year with just over 4 million dollars in private fundraising,” Gustafson said. 

He also highlighted several gifts and pledges the University received, including three $25,000 gifts to create “endowment scholarship funds” for students who are campus leaders majoring in elementary education and business, respectively. 

“Donors have been very responsive in making sure we have the funds available for the future to make sure students receive the support they need,” Gustafson said. 

He added his office had a “busy summer” hosting many local and regional events, which brought FSU’s alumni together. 

“Really, the root of our fundraising success is getting alumni engaged and connected,” he added. 

Trustee Michael Grilli, chair of the board’s finance committee, also reported on FSU’s finances – specifically its investments and budgets. 

“We feel good about the budget you all allowed us, the finance committee, to execute,” he said.

Grilli added, “The budget is not a deficit budget.”

He said, “Investments have been exceeding their benchmarks, bumping up against 10%.

“All we hear about is what a great economy we have and we’re riding that wave successfully, rather than being left behind,” he added.

Constanza Cabello, vice president of diversity, inclusion, and community engagement, discussed the division’s Bias Education Response Team. 

“Given our history of racial incidents on campus, I’m paying a lot of attention to that group,” she said. “We’re trying to ramp up our presence on bias education response.”

The group will be split into two committees, according to Cabello. One will focus on “prevention and education,” while the other will focus on “communications.”

The first committee will work to spread FSU’s community values to students “the moment they enroll,” and the second will work to engage the campus in conversations about hate crimes and other incidents, she explained. 

Cabello highlighted that “Framingham State is now an emerging Hispanic-Serving Institution [HSI].” 

She explained FSU’s student body is “likely going to land around 17% Latino or Hispanic students,” which classifies the University as an “emerging HIS,” according to “Excelencia in Education,” a D.C.-based nonprofit. 

“To be an HSI by distinction from the federal government, we need to hit 25%, which I think we will do in the coming decade,” she added.

Becoming a fully recognized HSI will allow FSU to receive educational grants from the federal government’s Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions program. 

“We are not concerned with simply being Hispanic-enrolling – we want to be Hispanic-serving,” Cabello added. 

Lorretta Holloway, vice president for enrollment and student development, brought up some highlighted some things from her division’s report. 

“EAB [Education Advisory Board] pipeline analytics and financial aid optimization implementations are near completion,” she said.

EAB is a “best practices firm” that uses research, technology, and 

consulting to address challenges within the education system, according to its website.

Its pipeline analytics can be used to predict and track student enrollment outcomes, as well as compositions of the student body. 

The division will use these analytics when looking at the structure of financial aid to “make changes based upon the kinds of students that we’re getting,” Holloway said.

She also highlighted a new “cable commercial and marketing campaign” the University will be starting up soon and announced the office of International Education has been moved into her division. 

Holloway then introduced the “comprehensive enrollment update” before handing the floor to Jeremy Spencer, dean of enrollment management.

Spencer pointed out one part of the report that detailed an increase in enrollment over the summer, specifically during the month of August. 

“We took a look strategically at where we were in enrollment on August 5th, where you see that there’s a headcount of 4,092. And you can see that between August 5th and to the day after add-drop, we were seeing 5,207,” Spencer said. 

He added, “I’m pleasantly able to say that our new entering student registration targets are higher than anticipated.”

Virginia Rutter, a sociology professor and vice president of the Framingham chapter of the Massachusetts State College Association (MSCA), had three letters to share with the Board of Trustees. 

The MSCA is a union comprised of faculty and librarians at the eight Massachusetts state colleges and universities.

The first was “a statement about part-time retroactive pay,” which took the form of an open letter to President F. Javier Cevallos signed by “118 members of the faculty and librarians.” 

This letter was published in the Sept. 13 issue of The Gatepost.

“We have a situation where our part-time faculty, on September 28th, will have gone 1,000 days without receiving their raises. Although full-time faculty have received our retroactive pay, our part-time faculty have not,” Rutter explained. 

She added, “This is not the creation of Framingham State, but we, together, are responsible for it.”

The second letter addressed a “bizarre argument” over the holdup of retroactive pay, Rutter said.

She called it “a petty fight over 13,000 dollars statewide in order to hold up paying our part-time faculty.” 

The third letter discussed “concerns about potential restructuring of the University,” according to Rutter – specifically, a restructuring proposal for Academic Affairs offered by President Cevallos and Angela Salas, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. 

“We have been enormously puzzled by the fact that this process has nearly completely excluded our academic deans,” Rutter said. 

Those deans receive the thoughts and concerns of faculty over how best to advocate for students and community values, so the MSCA is “very troubled” by their lack of involvement in restructuring, Rutter explained. 

Olivia Beverlie, student trustee and a new member of the board, discussed a “frustrating issue” regarding how difficult it is to connect to FSU’s WiFi network. 

“One of the main issues that’s been brought up at our SGA meetings is WiFi connection issues across campus – not only for students, but also for administrators, faculty, and staff,” she said.

SGA is currently reaching out to the IT department to see what’s being done about the issue, according to Beverlie.

She also said one of her goals for SGA is to increase the diversity of its members. 

“It’s something we’re consistently trying to improve on, considering that we’re the voice for students on campus,” she said. “We need to represent our students well.”

During his report, Cevallos gave the floor to Desmond McCarthy, chair of the English Department, to introduce the board’s Student-in-the-Spotlight, senior Nadira Wicaksana, editor-in-chief of The Gatepost.

Wicaksana, a DACA recipient who came to the U.S. from Indonesia at the age of 2, spoke about the path that led her to FSU from her home state of North Carolina. 

She said because of her DACA status, she was unable to receive financial aid for college and could only afford to attend the community college in her home town.

After she finished community college, she was encouraged by her parents to further her education at a university where out-of-state tuition was cheaper than in North Carolina.

One of those institutions was Framingham State University. 

“I knew nothing about Framingham State or what I would encounter when I got there,” she said.

After arriving and meeting McCarthy, she was encouraged by him to consider majoring in English and joining The Gatepost.

“The mentorship I received from Desmond and many other members of the English department is unlike anything I’d ever encountered,” she said.

Wicaksana also told the trustees that joining The Gatepost was one of the best decisions she ever made.

“I would not trade my long late Thursday nights and early Friday mornings with The Gatepost for anything,” she said. 

“The feelings of camaraderie that permeate The Gatepost office and the supportive culture we and previous generations have worked hard to cultivate are irreplaceable,” she said.

Due to financial difficulties, Wicaksana said she didn’t think she’d be able to return to FSU for her senior year and would therefore lose the opportunity to serve as editor-in-chief of the University’s student newspaper.

She explained, “I was entirely ready to accept the fate my financial instability decreed for me, but Desmond was not willing to let that happen, and for that, I am entirely, endlessly grateful to him.

“I do not know if this would happen at any other university,” she added.

After the meeting, Cevallos praised Wicaksana’s presentation, saying it was the “highlight” of the evening.

[Editor’s note: Nadira Wicaksana is editor-in-chief of The Gatepost. Dr. Desmond McCarthy is advisor of The Gatepost.]