In the regular session of its quarterly meeting on March 9, the University of the Virgin Islands Board of Trustees voted to request an appropriation of $27,417,712 from the Government of the Virgin Islands for fiscal year 2013-2014. In his presentation to the Board, Finance and Budget Committee Chairman Edward E. Thomas said that his committee was proposing the appropriation request "reluctantly," as it is $1.4 million less than UVI's current budget, but met the expenditure ceiling set by the VI Government's Office of Management and Budget.
"This, from my vantage point, is really a severe reduction for the University on the heels of a $3.5 million reduction last year and other reductions the year before," UVI President Dr. David Hall said at the meeting, held on UVI's Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix. "This really will have a tremendous impact on us," Dr. Hall continued. "The thing that makes this one more severe than any of the others is that we have been able to keep our classes on a regular schedule. We have not affected the teaching resources up until this time," Dr. Hall said. "There is no way, and I underscore no way, that we can address the $1.4 million without affecting our instructional resources; and I think that puts our students at jeopardy, that puts some of our academic programs at jeopardy and I just don't think it's in our best interest," he said. "This is not just about UVI, it is about the quality of the territory," Dr. Hall said, noting ripple economic and quality-of-life effects.
In a lengthy President's Report, Dr. Hall focused largely on enrollment and retention challenges at UVI. The two areas were discussed separately, with Dr. Hall explaining the institution's traditional approaches to recruitment, and new initiatives to increase enrollment. Those new initiatives include increased outreach to high school juniors and seniors in the territory and abroad through strategic mailing and calling programs, increased memorandums of understanding with eastern Caribbean countries, and open houses on both campuses. UVI will also begin administering an admitted student survey to gather data on why students choose to attend UVI or another institution.
Dr. Hall said the recently launched Center for Student Success (CSS) is UVI's main answer to student retention. The Center is the umbrella body for UVI's Freshman Development Seminar; Advisement, Registration and Rehabilitation; Learning Assistance; Summer Bridge; and University Bound (formerly Upward Bound).
Trustee Jennifer Nugent-Hill said that UVI's enrollment and recruitment challenges are directly linked to the territory's socio/economic issues. Nugent-Hill said she often hears parents say, "I am sending my children off-island to save them." The community can no longer deny the effects that crime is having, she said. "All of us are now being affected directly," she said.
The Board also approved:
- A memorandum of understanding between UVI and the Foundation for the University of the Virgin Islands (FUVI), in keeping with best practices between universities and their foundations, and also for financial benefits to UVI.
- Amendments to FUVI's articles of incorporation that were adopted by the FUVI Board in February.
- A policy for Retention, Archival and Disposal of documents for the Board's office.
The Board also ratified several actions taken by the Executive Committee, including a resolution authorizing a loan to the Research and Tech Park Corporation, the updated Human Resources Policy Manual and a resolution authorizing the execution of an agreement for the Solar Energy Project.
As customary in recognizing UVI employees, departments or groups that have performed exceptionally with the President's Appreciation Awards, Dr. Hall recognized Albert A. Sheen Campus Director of Campus Operations Nereida Washington for spearheading UVI's new Emergency Management Committee and her leadership in the development of UVI's first comprehensive Emergency Response Plan.
The Board also welcomed Trustee Oswin Sewer, Sr. to his first meeting and bid farewell to Alumni Trustee Marthious Clavier, whose term will expire.
A review of UVI's Key Performance Indicators included the profile for entering freshmen and compared UVI's retention rates with those of peer institutions.
In executive session, the Board's Executive Committee adopted a resolution to petition the governor of the Virgin Islands.