Regents discuss University investment policy, upcoming diversity initiative

Tuesday, August 11, 2015 - 10:57pm

Monday’s Board of Regents meeting touched upon a variety of University matters, including the final renovations and construction of West Quad and the Munger Graduate Residences, the launch of Mcity, a newly built transportation technology testing site on North Campus, and a debate over the administration’s current method of selecting financial investments.

President Schlissel said the renovations to West Quad and the construction of Munger Graduate Residences will greatly improve student life at the University.

“West Quad has been transformed into a facility that better supports living and learning for our students. It’s design encourages more student interaction and it adds study spaces and practice rooms,” Schlissel said.

According to Schlissel, Munger Graduate Residences, designed to house 630 students from more than 70 University graduate programs, fosters collaboration between students pursuing different graduate programs.

“The new facility combines sustainable living standards, attractive amenities and a design conducive to intellectual and social engagement across graduate and professional students across multiple disciplines,” Schlissel said.

Regents were also informed Monday will mark the launch of Mcity, the new test site for automated vehicles built on North Campus.

“Mcity has the potential to radically change transportation and how we interact with infrastructure,” Schlissel said. The project is a collaboration of automotive technology, urban planning and insurance industries, along with partners from government and education centers.

Schlissel said he plans to make diversity, equity and inclusion the focus of his presidency through his plan which he said is still unfinished. More than 30 campus units, including the 19 colleges, are identifying diversity climate leaders to coordinate with the overall effort.

“The process is taking shape. We’ve created a leadership team to guide the funding...process for the University. The team’s members include the executive officers and key personnel from areas including academic affairs, student life and the health system,” Schlissel said.

Schlissel described the plan as a massive undertaking for the University, and that the right programs would be crucial to moving forward the University community in a collaborative and integrative fashion.

Regents also heard a report from Central Student Government president Cooper Charlton, an LSA senior. Charlton mentioned CSG’s small-scale initiatives for the fall.

Charlton addressed the issue of students’ skepticism towards the inner workings of CSG. He proposed that CSG representatives run a free coffee cart in Mason Hall and Pierpont Commons on a monthly basis to give students the chance to interact with those active in CSG.

“Students have consistently stated that CSG is not as transparent as they would like, leading to a lack of trust and understanding,” Charlton said. “To begin changing this perception, we want to increase our visibility and enhance the access for a student to meet, interact and ask questions with our representatives.”

Charlton also proposed the University establish an International Association for domestic students, especially those interested in studying abroad, to form relationships with international students.

“International students make up close to 14 percent of our population. We want to work with these leaders in the international community to construct an association that unites people from similar cultures in addition to introducing people from different ones as well,” said Charlton.

According to Charlton, the program aims to help international students transition to life on campus as well as prepare students who intend to study abroad with opportunities to learn about their destination country.

The board later debated the University’s investment policy before passing an amendment regarding how the board handles the decisions to invest in new opportunities.

University executive vice president and chief financial officer Kevin Hegarty requested that the board exclusively delegate to him the authority to commit to new investment managers on occasions when the timing of the decision to commit makes waiting for the board’s approval inconvenient.

“Without this delegation, it is likely that the University will have to pass on these investment opportunities,” Hegarty said.

The delegation of responsibility would be limited to fewer than three investments in a fiscal year. Additionally, the investments entered without the board’s approval would be capped at the current financial limit of 1 percent for any individual commitment, which currently stands at $100 million dollars.

Hegarty said any new investment would be reported to the board as an item of information after the commitment was made.

“Thus far twice in the last year we have had opportunities to invest alongside or directly with a number of very well known investors that are also benefactors of the University,” Hegarty said.

When investors assemble their entire commitment of funds, they require an immediate answer from the University in order to proceed. The responsibility of investigating the funds is subject to the board itself, which, according to Hegarty, generally occurs within two weeks after an answer is required.

Hegarty said that the board, under the amendment to the University’s investment policy, would be notified of who the benefactors are, the terms of the deal and the relationship between them and the University as the information could be contained to the board.

“As long as we can keep it totally confidential, because these benefactors do not want the deal to reach the street — it will become competitive and they’ll raise the price,” Hegarty said.

The board agreed that if conflicts of interest arise according to state law, the board would retroactively negate the investment.

The board approved the amendment to the University’s investment policy unanimously.

The regents then heard a report from Dr. Glenn Green, University associate professor and pediatric otolaryngologist, in collaboration with Scott Hollister, professor of biomechanics and engineering at the University, on their medical research involving 3-D printing in complex airway reconstruction at Mott Children's Hospital.

In his presentation, Green addressed the difficulties of treating patients with damaged airways prior to his team’s innovative procedure.

“One of the things as a surgeon as the most frustrating thing is to have kids that have a disease that you cannot take care of, where you see these families where the kids are very very ill and you have nothing to offer them,” Green said.

In order to treat deformities in the airway, Green and Hollister utilize a 3-D graphic implant which works as scaffold or shell on the outside of the airway and would move it into its correct position, allowing it to grow and expand over time.

Eventually, once the airway has retained normal function, the implant dissolves naturally.