The University of Nebraska Board of Regents inducted Susan Fritz as interim president of the University of Nebraska System and passed four UNL-related proposals during its last meeting of the summer on Friday, Aug. 16.
Fritz is the first woman to hold the position of president of the University of Nebraska and is the ninth president of the system.
Fritz will serve as president until the presidential advisory committee selects a long-term president. She comes to the position following Hank Bounds’s resignation.
Vice chairman Jim Pillen gave an update on the presidential search advisory committee’s search process for a long-term president.
Following the first round of listening sessions on NU’s four campuses, he said the committee added two pillars to their pillars of leadership. The new pillars will help the committee look for a candidate who values diversity and inclusion, as well as valuing NU as a global leader.
Pillen said the search has officially begun and the committee started accepting applications on Aug. 1.
Additionally, he said there will be a second round of listening sessions during the first week of September.
Chairman of the Board of Regents Tim Clare presented Fritz with the presidential medallion and inducted her as president of the NU system.
“In this case, the best person for the job of interim president for the University of Nebraska was right under our nose, right here at Varner Hall,” Clare said. “Someone who [has] the skill set, the experience, someone who is intimately familiar with Nebraska and our university, someone who can guide the university on the upward trajectory needed to benefit all of Nebraska.”
Following Fritz’s installation ceremony, Lincoln's mayor, Leirion Gaylor Baird, addressed Fritz and the Board of Regents outlining the shared goals between the City of Lincoln and NU and support for the NU system.
Prior to her installation ceremony, Fritz introduced David Jackson as the interim executive vice president and provost. Jackson will hold Fritz’s, former position while she serves as interim president.
Jackson has worked in the NU system since 1989, starting as an assistant professor at UNL and moving toward NU Central Administration as associate vice president for academic affairs in 2015 and later as vice provost in 2016.
The regents voted to pass the University Consent Agenda without discussing items individually.
The Board of Regents also voted to update NU’s graduate assistant tuition remission program to exempt tuition for 12 credit hours per semester of instruction for all graduate students having appointments of one-third or more full-time equivalents.
Previously, the tuition remission program exempted nine credit hours per semester of instruction, which was decided upon in 1980. The update’s purpose is to keep NU competitive with other peer institutions, according to the agenda.
Additionally, the Board of Regents approved a report that monitored the Action Plan for the Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degree programs in geography at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
The Action Plan’s purpose is to increase the number of graduate students in the geography program at UNL, according to the proposal. The Board of Regents approved the plan on Aug. 3, 2018, but the plan requires the regents to monitor and report the progress of the goals to the Nebraska Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education by Sept. 30, 2019.
From the business affairs section, the Board of Regents approved the execution of a Standard Form Construction Agreement for construction renovations to the C.Y. Thompson Learning Commons at UNL.
The current policy gives the Board of Regents the authority to approve and execute construction contracts over $5 billion.
The approved budget for the learning commons originally included $16,477,000 for construction costs. However, the intermediate design approved on Dec. 20, 2018, increased the construction costs budget to $16,877,000.
From the NU’s administrative agenda, the Board of Regents approved a resolution affecting NU’s debt strategies.
Vice President for Business and Finance Chris Kabourek said the resolution is the start of a process to re-evaluate NU’s debt strategy, become more cost-effective and to save the system money. He referenced the economy’s historically low interest rates, which create an opportune time to issue bonds to refinance existing debts.
The resolution limits the issuance of University System Facilities Bonds to a principal amount of $130 million. These bonds finance various projects approved by the Board of Regents throughout the NU system, such as the Nebraska East Union renovations. Additionally, the resolution would refinance the amount necessary to facilities as needed for unpaid financial obligations.
Prior to the meeting, there were two consecutive 30-minute presentations on the Nebraska flood recovery and information security.
Dean of the Cooperative Extension Division Chuck Hibberd and University of Nebraska at Kearney Chancellor Douglas Kristensen updated the Board of Regents on the flood recovery efforts.
HIbberd said Nebraska Extension and UNL’s Agriculture and Natural Resources have been involved in the flood recovery effort, along with the University of Nebraska Medical Center and UNK. He specifically identified UNL’s effort to help with community redevelopment and mental health and wellbeing programs.
Additionally, Hibberd presented on Extension’s Read for Resilience program to help children mentally heal from the effects of flooding.
Hibberd additionally shared the story of UNL student Katelyn Petersen who raised money and awareness to help purchase feed for livestock in flood affected areas.
Bret Blackman, vice president of IT for the NU’s Information Technology Services, presented on information technology security, along with Rick Haugerud, assistant vice president of IT Security Services, and Matt Morton, executive director and chief information officer of IT Security Services.
Blackman said that in Fall 2016, ITS created the One IT Initiative to consolidate the four IT divisions at UNL, UNO, UNK and NU Central Administration to provide better service to the NU system.
Blackman, Haugerud and Morton provided statistics regarding the improvement in IT security across the NU system, preventing cyber attacks and phishing scams, as well as saving money since the four IT teams unified.
Two UNL students and one UNL alumna and employee addressed the Board of Regents addressing subjects not included on the meeting’s agenda. All three speakers represented DearUNL, an organization made up of UNL students, faculty, staff and alumni calling for reform of UNL’s Title IX department and sexual assault response policies.
The Board of Regents will meet again on Friday, Oct. 25 in the boardroom of Varner Hall.