The University of Nebraska Board of Regents committed to first steps toward divestment and granted approval for upcoming construction projects at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln during its final scheduled meeting of the year Friday.
Following students’ push for divestment, NU President Ted Carter said he and the regents will publish an annual report of Fund N holdings within the University of Nebraska Foundation and commit to continued sustainability discussions.
According to Carter, the regents and NU have direct control over Fund N, which has no direct investments in fossil fuel industries. However, he said the university does have $4.6 million in commingled assets that own shares in The Carbon Underground 200.
“It’s important to acknowledge that we’re listening, we hear their concerns, and we’re actively engaged on the issue,” Carter said. “Doing nothing about this is not an option.”
Chris Kabourek, NU’s vice president for business and finance and chief financial officer, will serve as the university system’s chief sustainability officer.
Though the university does not seek immediate change, Carter and District 7 regent Bob Phares said investments in fossil fuels continue to decrease, and the regents will continue to look at where it is profitable and sustainable to divest.
“I’m grateful that all the campuses have taken the big picture of sustainability in hand,” Phares said. “I think it’s a continuing process, and we’re committed to continuing to work on it.”
As a result of the pandemic, construction of the new $155 million North Stadium Expansion at UNL was halted, but approval of the project’s intermediate design will allow phase one of the construction to begin in April 2021 and be finished in July 2023, according to the meeting agenda.
The project was originally planned to occur as a set project, but the pandemic has forced the project to enter two phases.
Husker Athletics will be able to occupy the new building in August 2023, a year later than originally planned, according to the agenda.
The regents also approved a $6 million renovation to the College of Law Schmid Law Library, which will include all three floors of the library, the agenda states. Many law journals have been digitized since the library’s renovation in 2002, so this renovation will match the digitization and create more student-focused areas.
Construction is proposed to last a year, beginning in May 2021 and ending in May 2022. The project will be privately funded.
Multiple amendments to the Board’s policies related to tuition scholarships were approved. Tuition scholarships, like undergraduate Regents Scholarships, were clarified as being tuition remissions. This means no money is exchanged and the remissions are a discount of tuition rather than free money, according to the agenda.
An additional policy — one seeking to clarify that development of tuition remission strategies rests under the authority of each campus chancellor — was tabled until a future meeting after some regents expressed worry about seemingly taking the power of tuition and fees away from the regents.
Executive Vice President and Provost Susan Fritz said the chancellors already have the proposed authority to control tuition remissions, but instead of being reviewed by the regents each year, the University of Nebraska President reviews the remissions. The new policy would have clarified and provided an annual review of tuition remissions to the Board.
The policy will be sent back to the Board’s Academic Affairs Committee before a vote at a later date.
An additional $2 million, paid through state funds, was added to the budget for the Scott Engineering Center renovation and Link replacement project, which will cover window replacement needs discovered during construction. A licensing agreement with Collegiate Licensing Company, LLC was also granted the exclusive right to license Husker logos, which is expected to bring in $20 million, according to the agenda.
The Board members also expressed gratitude for District 2 regent Howard Hawks, who decided not to seek re-election and bestowed upon him the honorary title of “Regent Emeritus” following his 18 years of service as a regent.
Jack Stark won the election to the District 2 seat in November and will join the regents at their next meeting.
“Howard makes an outstanding regent not only because of his business acumen, but also because he is willing to work hard and is passionate about making life better for his fellow Nebraskans,” O’Connor said. “He challenges us, he’s patient with us, and he helps us be better versions of ourselves.”