The University of Nebraska Board of Regents met Friday for the first time in 2021 to discuss goals for the new year.
NU President Ted Carter reflected on the university system’s accomplishments in 2020 to adjust to the pandemic, and the resilience of everyone in the community despite setbacks. He gave praise on how the campuses responded and adjusted to the pandemic.
“There is a lot to look forward to as we go forward,” Carter said. “I am really proud to tell you that despite the challenges over the last year, Nebraska is coming into the next year in a position of strength.”
According to Carter, 2021 is when the university community will start to see the five-year strategic plan in action. Working on the maintenance of university facilities is a high priority to Carter, and he said he hopes to expand the Nebraska Promise and opportunities for students.
The regents discussed and approved a variety of items and amendments that will affect students and staff.
The regents also presented KUDOS awards to individuals from each NU campus. These awards are given as an appreciation for outstanding service to the university, according to Carter.
UNL’s Operations Safety and Preparedness Team, which includes Joel Webb, Gabriel Hampton, Larry Shippen and Jack Dohrman, received UNL’s KUDOS award.
The team was recognized for its hard work in creating a safe environment for the UNL community throughout the pandemic, according to District 1 regent Tim Clare.
The board also approved the establishment of the Center for Agricultural Profitability in the Department of Agricultural Economics in the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at UNL.
The center will allow the collaboration of departments such as natural resources, business and agronomy, according to the agenda.
Room and board rates at UNL for the 2021-22 academic year will be lowered by 2.2%. UNL plans on lowering rates, while the other universities will keep flat rates across the board, according to the agenda. UNL had planned to increase the rates for the next school year, but the reduction was presented to and accepted by the regents in response to the pandemic.
All other movements presented to the board were approved.
Vice chair Paul Kenney took the position of board chairman, which was previously held by District 3 regent Jim Pillen. The regents elected District 7 regent Bob Phares to serve as the 2021 vice chair, assuming the role of chair next year.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, members of the community shared their support of bylaw amendments affecting academic freedom.
Regina Werum, a UNL professor of sociology, expressed how changing organizational rules will help restore UNL’s reputation.
“We are the only Big Ten institution to be censured since the McCarthy era,” Werum said. “Censure is a stain on our reputation that these proposed bylaw changes will help remove.”
Nicole Buan, UNL’s Faculty Senate president and an associate professor of biochemistry, said she spoke on the behalf of the UNL faculty and supported Carter for his step towards changing the bylaws.
“The new bylaws provisions protect academic freedom to an extent that will allow our university to take the lead in issues that matter to Nebraskans,” Buan said. “All faculty need the freedom to pursue truth in their teaching and research that benefits us all.”
These amendments will be considered at the regents’ next scheduled meeting on April 9.