Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Possible elimination of spring break announced during Board of Regents meeting

Friday, September 25, 2020

CORRECTION: Changes to the schedule were not finalized when we reported on them, the story has been updated to reflect this. The Arrow regrets the error.

During their first meeting since the fall semester began, the Southeast Board of Regents heard the president’s report, an update on Facilities Management projects and the Fall 2020 enrollment census report.

President Carlos Vargas reported to the board recent Southeast accomplishments along with the schedule for the Spring 2021 semester.

In an effort to limit an outbreak, Vargas announced to the board that the university officials are recommending the school eliminate Spring Break from the 2021 spring semester, along with beginning one week later than previously announced.

“We have heard from the students, they are certainly concerned about having some of these days off eliminated,” Vargas said. “We’re gonna be working with them to address those concerns to the extent that we are able.”

This recommendation was made by the emergency response team, a group made up of 25 individuals from different areas of the university including faculty, staff and students. Vargas said the team is still trying to finalize the plan.

Vargas also mentioned some of the university’s recent accomplishments including being awarded a $1.9 million TRIO Student Support Services grant from the U.S. Department of Education, being recognized by The Princeton Review and U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges in the Midwest and the Veteran’s Plaza dedication.

Vargas also provided an update on the COVID-19 data. Regent Phillip Britt and Board President Edward Gargas both appreciated Vargas, faculty and the students for the cooperation shown since returning this fall.

“To me, it reflects the passion and care that we've taken and that the students have taken and the seriousness with which they've taken this situation,” Britt said.

Southeast senior Lauren Kohn was sworn-in as the student representative to the board. Kohn was appointed by Gov. Michael Parson earlier this summer, replacing Luke LeGrand, whose term ended earlier this year.

The board voted to approve the proposed course fee effective for the Spring 2021 semester for the Masters of Science in Nursing students. The motion proposed a $16 fee for the recently renumbered course, NS627, and will take effect in the spring semester. An additional fee of $16 will be added to the NS649 course so students can have a consistent two full years of insurance purchased through the department.

Different representatives gave their reports including Vice President for Enrollment and Student Success Debbie Below about Fall 2020 enrollment rates.

Below reported that the first-time, full-time student fall-to-fall retention rate reached 80%, a goal set when Vargas first joined the university in 2015.

“It’s just wonderful news and a significant bright spot in what otherwise has been a challenging year for the university,” Below said.

She said the six-year graduation rate stayed at 50% but the overall headcount of the student body size decreased an overall 6%.

Board Treasurer Kathy Mangels gave a progress report on the Facilities Management projects.

She reported the completion of projects including the construction on the tunnels underneath Group Housing, conversion of convocation center into a dance studio and the Gateway Fountain was repaired and updated to match the university brand. Mangels said a major project for Facilities Management has been elevator maintenance.

“Our big project we have on-going right now is the elevator work in Towers West and North,” Mangels said. “We are doing those in phases, so prior to the start of the semester, we did one elevator in each tower. Now that school has started we’re repairing the other one, so one is offline in west and north.”

Both repairs will be done by the end of the fall semester.

Mangels also reported on the FY21 Operating Budget to Actual Report; FY20 Final Budget to Actual Report.

The university had to make specific adjustments to the budget to accommodate for the revenue not created from football and soccer games.

“Two things with the effect of COVID are the athletic revenue [and foundation support],” Mangels said. “Not having guaranteed games, not having tickets, games will have an impact on that designated operation. Those numbers will continue to be evident as we go throughout the fiscal year.”

The meeting went into a closed session to discuss Missouri Revised Statutes — RSMo — 610.021 considerations related to litigation; hiring, firing, disciplining or promotion of personnel; discussion of a public governmental body for negotiations with employee groups; contract negotiations; and personnel records and performance ratings.

Open session reconvened with the motion to consider to approve the appointment of Brad Sheriff as Treasurer of the Board of Regents. Sheriff replaces Mangels who is retiring from her position of vice president for business and finance at the university.

Sheriff is Mangel’s successor as the vice president for business and finance. This is to be effective as of Oct. 1.

The board approved a new freedom of expression policy statement to be added to the Administration of the Business Policy and Procedures Manual.

The general statement of policy states “the university affirms the right of all individuals to exercise the right of peaceful assembly, free speech and expressive activities consistent with the First Amendment of the United States.”

The complete agenda from the Friday Sept. 25 meeting can be found at https://semo.edu/board/2020-09-25-Open-Session-Materials.pdf.

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