Council of Trustees convenes under Riley administration

The 2023-2024 budget passes

Published by James Cressman, Date: October 5, 2023
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The Slippery Rock University Council of Trustees convened for its quarterly meeting on Thursday, Sept. 28 and Friday, Sept. 29 at the Russell Wright Alumni House. Items on the agenda for the meeting included the 2023-2024 proposed budget request, committee presentations and divisional reports among other things. The live binder of all the presentations is available online.

This meeting marked the first of its kind for SRU President Karen Riley, who was welcomed by several of the trustees. While Riley has owned the position of SRU president for nearly six months, the presence of Behre’s administration loomed over the meeting.

When the 2023-2024 budget was called for discussion, Trustee Robert Taylor protested moving forward with the proposed budget. Taylor echoed concerns that he has continued to bring attention to regarding the allegations of financial impropriety brought upon by Amir Mohammadi.

Taylor’s objections to moving forward with the vote stem from the fact that the chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) has yet to release the findings of the investigation into Mohammadi’s allegations.

Domenic Ionta, the chair of the council of trustees was quick to respond, explaining that Chancellor Greenstein had assured him that no wrongdoing was found in the investigation.  The chancellor, however, had reasoned that the investigation findings report cannot be released due to being categorized as a “personnel matter.”

The council voted 8-2 in favor of passing the budget, with Taylor and Trustee Suzanne Vessella being the two holdouts. The budget will next be sent to the Pennsylvania Board of Governors for approval.

The Rocket had the opportunity to speak with Trustee Jeffery Smith, who during the trustees meeting raised some concerns regarding recent university changes. Smith shared that he learned about some of the key issues on campus this year through The Rocket. Two of those issues Smith spoke about centered around the overcrowded dorms and the freshly implemented two-year residence requirement.

At the start of the fall semester, SRU recorded 2,890 students living in on-campus housing. With the capacity for on-campus housing at 2,770, SRU had to creatively work to ensure everyone had a place to room.

In one instance, a group that has become known as the North Hall Six, six students were moved into a converted conference room with three sets of bunk beds. The Rocket covered their story in an article at the start of the semester. (At the time of the Council of Trustees meeting, David Wilmes announced that currently there are only four students remaining in the converted dorm.)

Smith raised concerns about the longtime outlook of the two-year residency requirement, fearing it could cause harm to upperclassmen who preferred living on-campus to off. Smith reasoned that some upperclassmen may feel safer living in on-campus housing. His worry is that with the two-year residency requirement, some students may get forced to move off-campus.

According to data offered during Wilmes’s presentation, with no action, it is expected that SRU could see as many as 3,285 students living on campus for the 2024-2025 academic year. This is an additional 476 students than the current on-campus occupancy.

While speaking with The Rocket, Smith praised the work being done by Karen Riley, Wilmes and others within the SRU administration. Smith explained that within his role as a trustee, his position is to offer suggestions, especially involving situations that affect the campus community.

The next Council of Trustees meeting will take place December 7-8.

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James is a senior Strategic Communication and Media major with concentrations in digital media production and multimedia journalism. He also minors in film & media studies. James serves as the News Editor at The Rocket and President of Lambda Pi Eta: the National Communication Association’s Honor Society. James is a movie enthusiast, a “Star Wars” fanatic and a fan of all things comedy. James previously served as the President of WSRU-TV (2022-2024).

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