The Budget & Finance and Executive committees of the Board of Trustees approved the design and renovation of the Office of Multicultural Affairs in a joint session on Monday, but not without some debate.
Trustee Richard J. Fox, namesake of the Fox School of Business, said he wished to examine how the office would affect efficiency with issues such as admissions and hiring.
“This adds another layer of complexities,” Fox said. “We should table this and wait to see if we need it.”
The discussion was not the first on the new office, President David Adamany said. OMCA was originally proposed two years ago, and was met with similar concerns, Adamany said. The debate was raised again during the summer of 2004, when the board decided to increase the office’s budget.
Adamany said he agreed that many of the office’s functions should be performed by other departments in the university, but those functions have not been done well in recent years. For instance, the university has been unsuccessful in soliciting business from minority-run vendors, Adamany said, only giving 12 percent of their business to such firms this year.
Despite the discussion, the trustees eventually passed the motion with only two votes of dissent, from Fox and trustee Joan Ballots. The proposed renovation, estimated to cost $408,948, will transform the basement of Mitten Hall into a walk-in office for faculty, staff and students to address concerns with multicultural affairs.
The 3,600 square feet space will house Associate Vice President of Multicultural Affairs Rhonda Brown’s office, in addition to seven new positions, Adamany said. Much of the space will be dedicated to a new mentoring service offered by OMCA. The service is available to all students, Adamany said, but is mainly used by minority students. That service will be run by graduate externs.
OMCA was created two years ago to succeed the Office of Affirmative Action. In addition to compliance involved with affirmative action, OMCA will monitor hiring to make sure women and minorities have equal opportunities, and handle complaints from students, faculty and staff.
The Board of Trustees also debated, and ultimately tabled, applications for up to $400 million in bonds to refund past bonds and finance the university’s major construction projects – Alter Hall, the new medical school, and a parking structure already under construction at the Health Sciences Center.
Alter Hall, part of the Fox School of Business, will require an estimated $25 million. The new medical school will involve $50 million in capital, and the Health Sciences Center parking garage is estimated to take up $11 million, which will be refunded through parking fees. An estimated $280 million will go toward refunding bonds the university has yet to pay back.
In their discussion, the board did not disagree on the necessity of the bonds, but the manner in which the university would finance them. The university stands to save almost $500,000 by using a “synthetic” fixed rate system, but takes on the added risk of being locked into a 30-plus year business partnership in a constantly fluctuating bond market.
Trustee Lacy H. Hunt, executive vice president at a company that manages more than $680 million in Temple investments, said, “A year ago, nobody would have thought [General Motors] would be close to bankruptcy.”
The board decided to table the motion so Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer Martin Dorph could explain further the details of the “synthetic” fixed rate.
“This could be one of the most significant votes this committee has ever made,” Hunt said.
Chris Reber can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.