As many Kenyon students were braving the weather in Gambier, the Board of Trustees met in Naples, Fla. on Feb. 6 and 7 for their annual winter meeting. The Board’s agenda for the meeting focused mainly on the large-scale administrative issues—primarily approving a 2020-21 operating budget and working towards a new strategic plan.
Entering the weekend, President Sean Decatur gave everyone a reading assignment, The Road Ahead for America’s Colleges and Universities, by economists Robert Archibald and David Feldman ’78. The meeting commenced with Decatur giving an assessment of the College before he turned the floor over to Feldman, who talked more about the work in his book and how it would potentially relate to Kenyon and their upcoming plan.
With the Kenyon 2020 plan set to conclude at the end of the year, the school will seek to replace it with a new strategic plan to take us into Kenyon’s third century. Barrett Toan ’69, a member of the Board, will serve as chair on a committee for strategic planning, which will include four other trustees and four members of the College’s senior staff.
The most important task completed over the weekend was the approval of the $162,630,000 2020-21 fiscal year operating budget. The new budget includes a 7.7 percent increase in the financial aid budget, a two-percent increase in the general salary pool for College employees earning less than $100,000, a flat $2,000 increase for College employees making over $100,000 and a reworking of the healthcare options for employees that will result in a five-percent decrease in premiums.
However, the increase in the operating budget will come at a cost for students. Student tuition and fees will rise 3.9 percent to $73,930 for the 2020-21 academic year. The increase actually marks a reduction in the tuition and fees percentage increase, which had increased 3.95 percent in both the 2018-19 and 2019-20 academic years. However, the U.S. Labor Department’s most recent estimates have the United States’ 2020 inflation rate at 2.5 percent, continuing to make Kenyon more expensive in relation to inflation.
The Board also approved the College’s revised mission statement and school values presented by Provost Joseph Klesner and adopted a resolution honoring outgoing Chief Business Officer Mark Kohlman for his 12 years of service in senior staff. They also approved memorial resolutions for former Provost Bruce Haywood H’80, Professor Emeritus of Art Joseph F. Slate H’88 and Professor of Art History Kristen Van Ausdall.
To conclude the events, Board members were briefed on the successes of the Our Path Forward campaign—which has raised $258 million—by the Vice President for Advancement Colleen Garland, the state of the endowment by the Investment Committee and potential changes to Title IX policy by the Title IX and Nondiscrimination Policies Committee.
The Board will meet again this spring, where they will finally attempt to tackle the long-running issue of Middle Path resurfacing.