October 22, 2007

Trustees Return to Campus for Weekend Meetings

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This weekend brought not only fall colors but also trustees from around the world to Ithaca for the 57th annual Trustee/Council Meeting, a three-day event culminating in the Joint Annual Meeting, where President David Skorton delivered the State of the University Address.
A variety of events filled the schedule, with a large portion of the time devoted to informing trustees and alumni about Cornell with its diversity of divisions and updating the visitors about its various projects. The weekend also hosted several collaborative meetings between trustees, administration, alumni and student representatives. Yet, among the several meetings held during the weekend by the University Council and various committees of the Board of Trustees, most of the Trustee meetings were closed to the public.
The Board of Trustees’ website states the board’s privileges and responsibilities, saying, “Pursuant to the university bylaws, The Board of Trustees is vested with ‘supreme control’ over the University, including all of its colleges and other units. Trustees have a fiduciary responsibility to the University as a whole.”
The Cornell University Council is described on its website as “an organization of alumni and friends who are leaders in service to the University.”
It’s mission, as further stated on the website, is “to provide an opportunity to exchange information between the University and the communities represented by its members, to mobilize alumni in focused efforts that benefit the University, and to provide the University with a source of expertise.”
Events began early Thursday morning, for both the council and the board, and continued throughout the weekend with meetings of various Trustee Board committees such as those on student life, academic affairs, buildings and properties and governmental relations. The University Council held committee meetings on the arts, admissions and financial aid, governmental relations, international programs, public relations and student and academic services.
It was not all business for alumni and trustee — events of the weekend also included tours of current construction projects and intensive tours of some of the more prominent buildings on campus. Attendees of the weekend events also celebrated Ezra Cornell’s 200th birthday and student scholarship.
The University Council held additional meetings, similar to those of the day previous, on Friday. These meetings, as opposed to those of the Board, required no previous registration.
Students interacted with University Council members and Trustee Board members in various ways, from social events at several fraternities and sororities to a reception allowing both donors and student recipients, assisted by these donations, to meet.
Opportunities for student involvement in the weekend were also available in several meetings entitled, “Your Opinion Please!” described on the Trustee-Council Annual Meeting’s website as “small group discussions revolving around key topics from Skorton’s State of the University Address.”
Student trustee Mao Ye grad described the particular focus of the Trustee/Council weekend, saying, “According to … material from the University, it is renewing Cornell’s founding vision: the future of higher education.”
Ye presented to the student life committee of the Board of Trustees on a student health initiative, focusing especially on graduate students and students with family.
“Trustee/Council weekend provides Board members and Council members with a chance to meet, share ideas and revisit the Ithaca campus,” said Student Trustee Kate Duch ’09.
According to Duch, she was responsible for updating the Board on a number of campus issues, including the status of the Campus Code of Conduct, undergoing a final review by the Codes and Judicial Committee before the committee submits a final report to the University Assembly next month.
Friday’s Joint Annual Meeting of both the Board of Trustees and the University Council, where Skorton delivered his State of the University Address, was the central event of the weekend.
According to the Cornell Chronicle, Statler Auditorium was filled to capacity during Skorton’s University Address.
Skorton highlighted Cornell’s recent achievements, citing a record-making year for the Cornell Annual Fund, which raised $18.4 million, a 29 percent increase over last year. Additionally, Cornell has had an unprecedented year in terms of donations, with a total of $61.5 million according to the Chronicle. These donations contributed to the Ithaca campus portion of the capital campaign breaching the $1 billion mark just this past week.
According to the Chronicle, in addition to monetary achievements, Skorton mentioned progress of the W. Campus Residential Initiative, the increasing success of international partnerships, and individual successes of students and faculty.
Yet, the address did not focus entirely on Cornell’s successes. Instead, Skorton also addressed the challenges the University faces for the future.
He stressed diversity in the face of recent race-related incidents in the Ithaca community, faculty recruitment in the face of 600 members retiring within the next 10 years, and, as stated in the Chronicle, maintaining “breadth and depth … to increase diversity and enter new areas of intellectual opportunity.”
Skorton concluded by stating Cornell’s commitment to addressing issues related to sustainability, including managing energy use, environmental impact, and economic development.
“President Skorton’s State of the University address was wonderful, emphasizing both the strengths of our University and the challenges that the University face in the coming years,” Duch said.
She continued, “The weekend was certainly successful, informative and engaging.”
The weekend’s events concluded on Sunday with individual meeting of the Board of Trustees, cheering on The Red at Cornell’s football game and a farewell reception.
Skorton left the visiting members of the Board of Trustees and the University Council with this message from his University Address: “Since its founding in 1865, Cornell has shaped the character and scope of higher education and transformed countess individual lives,” Skorton said in an article in the Ithaca Journal covering his address. “We now have the opportunity to achieve a significantly higher level of academic distinction and global impact.”