The Penn State Board of Trustees held its first meeting of the new year at Penn State Hershey Friday afternoon. The trustees powered through a packed agenda where they voted on construction projects, passed the long-awaited strategic plan, and heard some good news about the university’s credit.
On the construction front, the board unanimously approved $151 million in spending. That includes renovations to East Halls, a new building at North Halls, the third phase of Intramural Building renovations, and renovations of the Kostos Building on the Penn State Hazleton campus.
A small amount of the big total will go toward security upgrades at recreational facilities on campus that came with controversy when they were first brought before the board’s finance committee in November. The now-approved $7.5 million proposal follows with a Freeh Report recommendation to increase physical security and tighten access to these facilities. The proposed project will install turnstiles in Rec Hall, White Building, and McCoy Natatorium, while also paying for staff to work at those entrances.
The Penn State Strategic Plan was also adopted at Friday’s meeting, officially putting into place the written document that will guide the university’s mission through 2020. You can read the full plan here.
“It’s clear that a lot of people worked very hard, and though I am a very visual, metrics-oriented guy, I think that with the help of Provost Jones and others, I can see the plan more clearly, and I will be supporting the plan today,” Trustee Anthony Lubrano said, who voted against the initial strategic plan.
The proposal, which took two and a half years of work to reach today’s approval, centers on five thematic priorities: transforming education; enhancing health; stewarding the planet’s resources; advancing the arts and humanities; and driving digital innovation.
Eric Barron spoke at length during his report to the board, including plenty of negativity when it came to the subject of the state budget impasse, but he did have one piece of good news for the trustees. Barron announced that Moody’s has upgraded Penn State’s credit rating to Aa1, bumping it up a level from the previous year.
“This is a signal that this is an extraordinarily well-run university that’s fiscally been quite conservative, and this is a tremendous vote of confidence that this university is run well,” Barron said. “I am very proud of our vice presidents that are deeply involved and committed to making sure that we have a successful institution.”