UK Board of Trustees meeting highlights campus expansions, endowment issues


File Photo by Eleanor Hasken l Staff

Patrick Brennan

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UK held its first Board of Trustees meeting of 2016 on Friday, and members had announcements about growth and achievement alongside a report about the UK endowment.

Campus is growing in many ways, and discussion for the Finance Committee Report included the remark that one can look outside the windows of Patterson Office Tower, where the meeting was held, to see the wide-ranging changes to campus.

Development Plans were approved for new student housing — Lewis Hall. This facility will house up to 346 UK Honors students and will also serve as home to UK’s Honors College.

The building is budgeted at $37.1 million, including a $7.7 million contribution from the university, and it is planned to be operational by August 2017.

Other plans for growth include a new partnership for the UK College of Medicine with Western Kentucky University and Morehead State University.

Kentucky ranks 36th in physicians per capita, and the new partnership should help address this issue. The partnership will increase the total class size by up to 30 percent.

It will include distance education and online didactic education, and the Morehead branch will graduate doctors in less than four years.

New developments also came from UK HealthCare; committee members celebrated the award of Magnet Status, which is the gold standard for nursing excellence.

Bill Farish of the Finance Committee presented the board with new obstacles facing the university, as the UK endowment has increased every year, except one, since 2008-2009, but it saw a 3.59 percent decrease in fiscal year 2015 ending on Dec. 31.

“We believe the issue was driven mainly by market losses in the international equity markets, as well as losses in the energy and commodity markets,” UK spokesman Jay Blanton wrote in an email to the Kernel. “However, it’s important to note the endowment has a long-term investment strategy, as it should.”

Regardless, Farish said the Finance Committee was not pleased with FY 2015’s performance. He also said they are responding to this issue by hiring a new investment consultant, and four candidates have already been interviewed.

In the President’s Report to the board, UK President Eli Capilouto mentioned some of the important efforts of UK employees, including their work on the Jan. 22 snow day.

“All these efforts … served to keep this campus safe,” Capilouto said.

Capilouto then gave the floor to Erica Shipley, chair of DanceBlue, to speak on the importance and achievements of the philanthropy event. The annual 24-hour dance marathon begins on Saturday, Feb. 27.

The success of the Step Up Challenge was presented by Jody Ensman, UK Health & Wellness program manager. Ensman said that UK Health & Wellness was “shocked and thrilled” to have 8,621 employees purchase a discounted Fitbit during the 6-week discount period early this year.

A new window to purchase Fitbits will open from March 1 and run to April 29, followed by a revamped Step Up Challenge in May.

Finally, Capilouto talked about his recent efforts in Frankfort to advocate against budget cuts to higher education. He spoke last week to the House Budget Review Subcommittee on Postsecondary Education, and he plans to testify next week before the Senate Standing Committee on Appropriations and Revenue about the state’s return on investment from UK.

Capilouto also announced the development of a new website — UK for KY — to promote the myriad ways that UK drives the state’s economy.