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Ohio State Trustees discuss construction projects, student safety

The Ohio State Board of Trustees met last week to discuss increasing President E. Gordon Gee’s salary, several campus construction projects, and student safety. But all of their discussions weren’t met with complete approval.
Students from the group United Students Against Sweatshops addressed Gee and the Board to express their disapproval that a possible single-source apparel contract with the Dallas Cowboys Silver Star Merchandising has yet to be denied.
Robert Battista, an OSU student protesting the deal and member of USAS, said Silver Star violated employees’ human rights.
Battista asked Gee to pledge that he would bar the proposed contract and any further negotiations with the company.
“Please understand that we will do what is in the best interest of the university as faculty, staff and students,” Gee said, noting that he has met with the student group to discuss the matter.
University spokesman Jim Lynch said in an email that “university leaders” have met with students concerned about labor rights issues “at least a dozen times over the past two years.”
Student safety and construction were some of the topics discussed at the Board Finance Committee meeting Thursday.
On- and off-campus crime is down, according to a Board report. The number of on-campus aggravated assaults and burglaries has declined, and the number of robberies and forcible sex offenses has stayed the same.
Jay Kasey, senior vice president of Administration and Planning, said they are “significantly exceeding” the 5 percent reduction goal in off-campus crime compared to last year.
According to a report presented, the number of crimes in the University District involving aggravated assault, burglary, robbery and sexual assault have all declined from 669 total crimes during March to September 2011, to 511 crimes from March to September 2012.
However, Kasey said data is still pending for the off-campus area because the University District that the Columbus Division of Police reports on was shifting its boundaries in March.
“Although we look very good on that comparison, we simply left it yellow because we don’t feel we have enough of a track record to give you a full reading comparison there,” said Kasey during the meeting.
Along with crime, construction was also a hot topic. According to a report, 75 percent of major projects (greater than $20 million) are on time and on budget.         
Two projects OSU officials are watching closely include the $30.6 million Sullivant Hall construction and the $171.6 million South High Rises Renovation and Addition.
Two of the five South Campus high rise buildings, Park and Stradley halls, have been completed as part of the South High Rise project expected to be completed in July 2013. The buildings were combined to be Park-Stradley Hall. Mary Lynn Readey, associate vice president for Facilities Operations and Development, said they are watching the other three towers’ construction, Smith, Steeb, and Siebert Halls, closely to make sure they are completed on time.
There is some concern over the execution of the three-story atrium within the existing historical two-story atrium at the High Street entrance for the Sullivant Hall construction project, which will house the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum. Difficulties might arise from installing new elevators in the building as well.
The Board Governance Committee met Thursday to review the implementation of a new “talent scorecard” program that provides a chance to look at different factors relating to OSU faculty and staff in order to evaluate where the university is at and what needs to change for the future.
The scorecard includes factors such as a “workplace culture index,” which is “more than employee satisfaction,” said Kathleen McCutcheon, vice president and chief human resources officer at OSU.
Other factors included on the scorecard are “time to fill,” which looks at what percentage of openings are filled by their target date, and “new hire quality,” which looks to further encourage that all new hires for faculty and staff are the best in their area.
“I will be very disappointed … if we haven’t filled those gaps with brilliant people,” Gee said.
Gee added that he feels the role of the Board is to come up with new ideas and refresh old ideas to prevent employee turnover from happening for the wrong reasons.
One major theme that was raised at the meeting was increasing faculty diversity.
“We need a strategy in place to come up with an even more diverse group of geniuses,” said Janet Reid, member of the OSU board and governance committee.
Gee agreed with this proposed focus on diversity, and thought that one of the most important steps to getting there is to evaluate what the university should prioritize in the hiring process.
The Governance Committee also looked over their charter, led by Alex Shumate, chair of the committee, and ratified the committee appointments.

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