The University of Nebraska Board of Regents approved a policy allowing NU campuses to lower student fees as well as the spring 2021 academic calendar at their meeting Thursday.
Fee variance proposals must state reasoning for the change and consider the university’s goals and objectives. At the end of each academic year, the changes and impacts of those changes will be reported to the regents, who will vote on the continuation of the policy.
The policy was amended to clarify it is in response to the coronavirus but also to provide flexibility and fairness in providing potential refunds to students. It was also amended to clarify it is a two-year pilot program.
Multiple regents expressed concern in the original wording of the policy, and District 4 regent Elizabeth O’Connor dissented the amended policy, citing the language would allow any fee to be adjusted downward without a check provided by the regents.
She said it would be a rare situation for fees to change in a way that could not be addressed at a regular board meeting.
“I am afraid that it is giving up authority that is supposed to belong to Nebraska’s elected officials,” O’Connor said.
University of Nebraska at Kearney Chancellor Douglas Kristensen spoke in favor of the policy and said it would provide the ability to reimburse students more efficiently.
The spring 2021 semester will now begin with a three-week session between Jan. 4-22. Regular classes will begin on Jan. 25, and College of Law classes will begin on Jan. 19.
This change eliminates spring break and sets the last day of classes for May 1, placing final exams between May 3-7 and finals preparations between April 29-May 1. Finals for the College of Law will run between April 26-May 5.
May 2021 commencements remain as scheduled on May 7 and May 8.
The regents also heard from four UNL students — Anna Krause, Kat Woerner, Brittni McGuire and Lucas Rief — who urged the regents to divest its approximate $91.3 million in fossil fuels by 2025. They said NU’s commitment to sustainability and UNL’s commitment to fighting interdisciplinary challenges is at odds with the investment.
In February, students testified before the regents and urged them to divest, including Woerner and McGuire, but the coronavirus put a pause in their campaign.
“As you can see, this isn’t just a few crazy students coming in here to testify — this is a movement,” McGuire said.
The regents also established a Master of Science in supply chain management in the College of Business at UNL and approved amendments to the University of Nebraska Student Code of Conduct regarding past Title IX policy changes.
In addition to legislation, NU President Ted Carter provided a systemwide update, applauding achievements across the NU system amid the coronavirus.
He encouraged students to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, reminded the NU community to mask up and wash their hands and emphasized his hope that the university will come out stronger on the other side of the pandemic.
“The virus is still here,” Carter said. “Clearly it’s part of our lives, but I think the chancellors will tell you that they are settled into a new rhythm and that we have every confidence we will complete the fall semester successfully.”
The next Board of Regents meeting is scheduled to take place on Friday, Dec. 4, in Varner Hall.