In June, all 36 of Temple’s Trustees met at a public meeting in which they voted to increase undergraduate tuition, among other decisions. The voting moved quickly, and the trustees pushed the hike through unanimously.
Many of the most important decisions affecting the university result from the work of Temple’s Board of Trustees, who meet over the course of each year to decide the direction the university will take in the future.
As important as their decisions are, the Board of Trustees tends to keep a low profile.
“I like to stay invisible,” said George Moore, secretary of the Board of Trustees, who manages correspondence between the board and the university administration.
Moore said the board’s decisions don’t always happen under the public spotlight. By the time the board is ready to move forward with a policy, he said, they have deliberated for weeks or months, often discussing it outside the public meetings. When it comes time to vote, they have settled most issues, and voting moves quickly.
“I don’t see conflicts arising,” Moore said. “The members usually have full faith and confidence in the committees to make the right decision. There is very seldom second guessing during the public meetings.”
Moore said the Board of Trustees are in charge of the university’s strategic direction, its financial well-being, and the fulfillment of the university’s mission. They rely on 16 committees to get the job done, each one comprised of at least five Trustees with expertise in a particular area.
“Because of how large the board is, it is very difficult to make decisions by the consideration of the whole. The committees make it a longer process, but not more difficult,” Moore said.
Moore said the committees do not divide the board members when it comes to decision making. “These are not different city-states developing policies. Every member wants to see Temple do well and provide a quality education for its students.”
Moore said the process to become a trustee is long and difficult, and the board hopes it will produce members who are faithful to Temple’s mission.
Of the 36 voting members on the board, 24 are elected by the existing trustees, and 12 are appointed by officials of the state. Among the appointees, the governor selects one, as does the Speaker of State House, and the president pro tempore of the State Senate.
Moore said most trustees are elected and appointed because they have an interest in higher education, strong ties to Temple or a personal relationship with members on the board and state officials. Though, Moore said, each person has different qualifications for who they want on the board.
“The governor is interested in fiscal responsibility, so his appointees reflect that,” Moore said.
Governor Tom Corbett also serves as a non-voting member on the board, along with Mayor Michael Nutter and the State Secretary of Education, a post that is currently vacant. Moore said the non-voting members rarely attend meetings, and usually designate a person to stand in their place.
Moore said the Board of Trustees has a good relationship with Corbett’s stand-in, Lieutenant Governor Jim Cawley. “He is very active in coming to board meetings and participating, and expressing his opinion,” Moore said.
A history with Temple is not required to serve on the board, Moore said, and some of the board’s longest standing chairmen have come onto the board without any experience with the university. Moore said the current chair, Patrick O’Connor was not a Temple graduate, but has grown into a strong supporter of the university.
“If they don’t already have strong ties to the university, once on the Board of Trustees, they develop them,” Moore said. “The board does not always look for a strong history, but more importantly, fresh ideas.”
Lew Gould, Chairman of the Budget and Finance committee, said the board is always looking for new ideas to help Temple achieve its mission for the future. Amid an economic slump in Pennsylvania and the world beyond, Temple’s budget has become a vital issue, as the board decides where to get the funds to continue Temple’s mission to improve and provide for students.
Gould said the changes made to the budget in the past five years have been hard, but necessary to keep the university operating efficiently. While funding from the state has steadily decreased over the past five years, Temple has reduced its operating cost by more than $100 million. Earlier this year, when the state refused to increase funding for the university again, the board decided to increase tuition by 4%.
In order to offset the rise in tuition, the board also approved a 12% increase in the financial aid budget, raising it to over $90 million.
In spite of the board’s efforts to aid students with the cost of education, the future may call for more hard decisions on the budget. Gould said the commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s revenues would have to increase by hundreds of millions of dollars to ensure Temple would get more funding from the state next year.
“Unless there is a dramatic increase in the economy, I’m convinced the best we can hope for is level funding,” Gould said. “If even the best of times were to return, I know from talking with the governor that he sees an even greater need for more funds in areas other than education. It’s not realistic for Temple to think they’re suddenly going to get more.”
Gould said the board is working hard to make sure stagnant funding from the state does not mean another rise in tuition for students.
“We have to find other revenue sources. We are aiming to increase revenue from research and alumni donations. Both these sources hit new highs this year, and we can anticipate they will grow in the future.”
Gould said the research effort has become the highest priority from both the Board of Trustees and President Theobald. In 2012, the board established a task force for research and the commercialization of the research enterprise.
Gould, the chair of the task force, said the board allocated $50 million to be spent on research projects over four to five years. The university already put in $10 million into the program last year, and will add another $10 million this year.
Gould said the goal of the program is to fund projects that will be commercially viable and bring in more research dollars.
The board wants to have a research revenue that is more comparable to the other large state-related institutions, Penn State and the University of Pittsburgh, Gould said. He added that while both Penn State and Pitt bring in more than $700 million each from their research, Temple only earns $180 million from research revenue.
Counting on the success of the program, Gould said, the board expects Temple’s research revenue to exceed $300 million
In the meantime, Gould and the Budget and Finance committee will get to work on next year’s budget, taking into consideration the needs of students and the university as a whole. The Board of Trustees will hold their next public meeting on Oct. 8.
Throughout the semester The Temple News will be profiling members of the Board of Trustees in its weekly issue, discussing with them important factors of their membership including history with the university, business interests, and their own views on how to steer the school.
Joseph Gilbride is The Temple News’ Board of Trustees beat writer, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter at @TempleNewsBOT.