East Carolina University’s Board of Trustees (BOT) convened its regular session Thursday with updates from officials and approval of multiple motions to offer support to the athletics division after swim and dive and tennis team cuts.
The meeting began with the election of officers in the BOT, with each officer reprising their role within the board. Vern Davenport will serve as the chair, Fielding Miller will serve as the vice-chair and Vince Smith will serve as the secretary.
Interim Chancellor Ron Mitchelson read part of East Carolina’s creed, which urges students to be responsible, appreciate diversity and have integrity. He said students will be put to the test in August when the campus reopens during societal unrest.
“The challenges will be monumental as we stare into the uncertain face of COVID-19 and the very certain face of racism, misguided patriotism and the injustices that they produce. COVID-19 has forced all of us to act much more quickly and decisively than we would prefer,” Mitchelson said.
Students at ECU will be able to meet these challenges head on, Mitchelson said. He said he believes the university will become stronger because of its willingness to meet these obstacles and try to overcome them.
Tucker Robbins, the president of the Student Government Association (SGA), outlined his platform to the board, which emphasizes accessibility to campus, financial transparency and improvement of student and police relations.
“The final aspect of our platform is even more prominent today than it was when we ran for office in February,” Robbins said. “Improving relationships between students and first responders will continue to be the utmost priority as we face the challenges across our nation regarding racial unrest and tensions between citizens and police officers.”
SGA will collaborate with the Center for Counseling and Student Development (CCSD) in order to provide complete funding for its after-hours crisis hotline, Robbins said. This comes after an increase in the use of the hotline after the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Purificación Martínez, the chair of the faculty, said the faculty is ready and eager to teach while it has shown adaptability. She criticized the choice to move to a block schedule without any consultation with the faculty.
“We think we understand that this was related in part to financial challenges, but a complete picture of what those are has not been clearly articulated to us. This move and how it came about are still sitting undigested in our stomachs and our minds,” Martínez said.
Martínez urged the BOT to look for a suitable chancellor for the university, and to not settle for someone. She said she wants there to be an open dialogue about the search between members of the board and faculty, and the dialogue will allow for a chancellor that the faculty knows is the best fit for the university.
After a closed session, the Board of Trustees reconvened to vote on five motions: the approval of officers on the Board of Visitors, an employment agreement with a baseball coach, the appointment of two tenures and the approval of an utility easement. All were passed unanimously by the board.
Vern Davenport, the chair of the BOT, gave an update on the chancellor search. A committee meeting had to be moved to an unknown date due to health concerns since Davenport said he wants the meeting to be in-person.
“The only wildcard that has been injected into this the last couple weeks is the fact that we have a new incoming president of the system, Peter Hans, who is probably known to many of you as the Chair of the Board of Governors. Until he sits down for the first day, we aren’t going to have a conversation of his view of our search,” Davenport said.
Jason Poole, a member of the BOT, presented a resolution which offered support to the athletics department after the decision was made to cut four athletic teams at ECU. The teams, men’s and women’s Swim and Dive as well as men’s and women’s tennis, were cut on May 26.
Poole said the board recognizes it is a turbulent time, and regrets the difficult decision to cut the teams had to be made. The resolution recognizes the success of the women’s and men's swim and dive and tennis teams, and wants to honor the success of these teams throughout the years.
“The Board of Trustees commends and supports the leadership of Interim Chancellor Ron Mitchelson and Athletics Director Jon Gilbert,” Poole read from the resolution.
The resolution was passed unanimously by the board with no discussion. Leigh Fanning, Fielding Miller and Jim Seagrave abstained from the vote.