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Finance committee discusses project updates, USG divestment proposal

Trustees discuss the university’s fiscal forecasts at a Board of Trustees Finance Committee meeting in Pomerene Hall back in Aug. 30, 2018. Thursday’s meeting was at the Longaberger Alumni House. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo Editor

The Board of Trustees Finance Committee met Thursday to discuss major project updates and vote on a divestment proposal by the Undergraduate Student Government.

Plans for a $24 million food production complex, which would make changes to the Waterman Agriculture and Natural Resources Laboratory on West Campus, are off schedule and over budget.

“This is a sort of a very complicated research greenhouse for food production,” Board member Mary Lynn Readey said. “And quite frankly, the early programming needs didn’t meet yearly budgets, and so that project is really kind of on pause now. It’s being retooled and we expect to bring it back in February.”

The Controlled Environment Food Production Research Complex would be “a new facility to house research and support learning in several approaches to food production,” including plants and fish according to Board materials.

Other research would include greenhouse engineering, pest management and plant breeding.

The Board also touched on a USG proposal to divest the university’s investment pool from fossil fuel companies, which was voted down.

“Ultimately the resolution states that we want to continue to move forward with our current investment strategy,” Michael Papadakis,  interim senior vice president for business and finance and chief financial officer, said.

The long-term investment pool was established to provide financial support to the university and its academic mission.  

“Every year we get just over $200 million of distributions from that fund,” Papadakis said. “We have 5,900 different endowed funds that fund a whole variety across the institution from our academic strategic priorities, financial aid, facilities, faculty support, the Wexner Medical Center research, all the things you would expect to see in the overall mission of Ohio state-funded distribution.”

The Office of Business and Finance conducted a study of the potential financial impact on the university’s investment portfolio and came to the conclusion that the divestment would cause a decline in future university funding available for student scholarships, faculty positions and other academic priorities, according to Board materials.

USG did not respond to request for comment by time of publication.

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