Four takeaways from October 2019’s board of trustees meeting


Stephan Toljan/ The Vermont Cynic

Trustees gather for their Oct. 26, 2019 meeting. The board met virtually for their last meeting of the school year May 15.

The group that governs UVM met Oct. 25-26 on the University’s campus to discuss and vote on UVM’s future.

The group, the board of trustees, meets three times per academic year in October, February and May. This will be President Suresh Garimella’s first board meeting.

Here are four takeaways from this October’s meetings:

1. Multi-Purpose Center construction on track

The construction of the $90 million new Multi-Purpose Event Center is on schedule and set to be finished within the next three years, said the director of UVM Capital Planning and Management.

At the board of trustees meeting, Robert Vaughan, the director, revealed updates to the project and showed a schedule, blueprints and pictures to highlight the progress of the project.

“We’ve got three years of work ahead of us to get all of this work done, and its been a number of months doing enabling projects,” Vaughan said.

The project, which was approved in May, consists of changes to UVM’s Patrick Gym, and will include a new basketball court and a renovation of Gutterson Fieldhouse.

Vaughan continued to tell the board updates, such as the mobilization of general contractors for the construction and the investment of materials for the construction.

2. Board discusses student mental health needs

A subcommittee of the board of trustees said the way UVM addresses student mental health needs to evolve.

The Educational Policy and Institutional Resources Committee said student mental health should be better addressed, following a shift in the way the nation understands mental health, said Annie Stevens, vice provost for Student Affairs.

“There’s an increased demand for student mental health service,” Stevens said.
She said that this is in part due to removing the stigma around seeking help.

According to the report on student mental health needs, the University has expanded access to health care providers by adding staff to meet increased demand.

Parent and family outreach will also be enhanced.

3. Trustees concerned over unpredictable financial market

Members of the board of trustees expressed concerns that an unpredictable financial market could stop UVM’s endowment from growing.

At 10:30 a.m. Oct. 25, members of the Budget, Finance and Investment Committee of the board met to discuss the performance of UVM’s $555 million endowment.

Member Donald McCree raised concerns about unstable numbers in the global market and how this could affect the endowment’s investments.

“As we look forward, we are concerned about the valuation of the markets,” McCree said. “Just read the newspapers of what’s going on. I would expect to see modest growth going forward if any.”

Other members, including board chair David Daigle, expressed concerns that unpredictable changes in global markets could mean that the value of UVM’s endowment will not generate the same interest.

4. Board says no to divestment

The board of trustees did not indicate that UVM would divest from fossil fuels, despite a student group’s plan to present a divestment proposal Oct. 26.

Chair member Robert Brennan Jr. said the board must stay committed to making sound financial investments when asked about students’ divestment concerns at the Budget, Finance and Investment Committee meeting Oct. 25.

“Our primary lens through which we invest is the fiduciary responsibility,” Brennan said. “So as we approach the topic of sustainability, we approach it through the prism of, ‘what’s the best way to make adjustments for the endowment?’”

He said the endowment is investing more money in renewable energy because they happen to be financially beneficial investments, and not for environmental reasons.

“It just so happens that there are some phenomenal investment opportunities in the sustainable space,” Brennan said.