University trustees unanimously approved a 2.9 and 2.1 percent increase in room and board costs respectively, along with construction for a indoor recreation, athletics and college of public health facility at a public Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday afternoon.
The board’s approval of increased room and board costs follows a 3.86 percent increase in housing last year. Currently, Temple is ninth out of 10 nearby universities, with an average room and board cost of $10,296 for the 2015-16 fiscal year.
The new indoor recreation, athletics and public health facility will cost up to $28.5 million to construct, which will take 26-28 months once the project is approved. The Temple News previously reported the board’s approval for design of the building, which will be built behind Pearson-McGonigle Hall, in May.
During the middle of the meeting, protesters could be faintly heard outside as students and community members continued to oppose a proposed on-campus stadium.
The trustees, however, did not discuss the stadium proposal during the meeting.
President Theobald led off his report to the board by discussing the findings of the Presidential Committee in Sexual Misconduct, and commending the work the team had done thus far.
“My number one priority is the safety of our students,” he said to the board..
Trustees also approved the reelection of trustee Dennis Alter, which was recommended by Mike Turzai, speaker of the state’s House of Representatives. Alter was sued by the FDIC in 2013 for $219 million for “gross negligence and breach of fiduciary duty” following the bankruptcy of Advanta in 2009, The Temple News previously reported.
The case was settled in 2015, where Alter and his company, Advanta Bank Corp. agreed to pay $23.5 million to the FDIC, according to court records.
Along with Alter, Ronald Donatucci was also reelected to the board, with Gov. Tom Wolf reappointing the 10-year trustee. Trustees also recognized the work of trustee Anthony Scirica, whose term ended Feb. 5, 2016. He had been a trustee since 1980.
During the meeting, Michele Masucci, vice president of research administration, presented to trustees how the university has grown as a research institution. In her speech, she noted how research spending reported to the National Science Foundation has increased from $147 million to $242 million from 2010-15.
An attendee questioned whether Temple’s commercialization in its research, particularly from the federal government, has led to gentrification in North Philadelphia.
Masucci responded by saying Temple reports all its spending is reported to the NSF, and that any information concerning the funding and grants the university receives is accessible online.
Student Body President Ryan Rinaldi closed out the meeting with concern about the state budget crisis.
“The state budget impasse has the potential to overshadow [university] accomplishments,” he said.
Following the meeting, Chairman of the Board Patrick O’Connor told The Temple News the proposed stadium is “feasible,” but that community outreach is still occurring.
“We’re not going to do anything that would be contrary to the community interest, that’s been embedded in the resolution from day one,” he said.
O’Connor admitted that the board is not going to get 100 percent of the community’s approval, but added that City Council President Darrell Clarke and Mayor Jim Kenney’s opinions also still need to be considered.
It’s still too soon for trustees to meet with community members, because administration are better-equipped to answer questions about the proposal thus far, O’Connor added.
Trustee Anthony McIntyre said community concerns are important in the process, adding that he remembers protests that happened as the university was planning to build the Liacouras Center. He still needs more time before he makes an ultimate decision, he said.
McIntyre said his main priority as a trustee is the welfare of students.
“The only reason I’m on the board is the student body,” he said. “You do what’s best for the students. We’re here as an academic institution, and I think it would enhance the lives of the students on campus.”
O’Connor said it’s possible trustees could hold a public forum in the future to address protesters’ concerns. He didn’t specify when that forum would be.
“I’m always happy to have a dialogue with anyone,” he said. “A civil dialogue to listen to what their concerns are and address what those concerns are. But it’s gotta be a dialogue, a civil discourse.”
Steve Bohnel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Steve_Bohnel.
Video by Abbie Lee and Harrison Brink