At its regular quarterly meeting held today at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville, Va., the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors took action on several significant academic and administrative issues.

Effective July 1, 2006, Virginia Tech will begin operation with increased autonomy provided by the Higher Education Restructuring Act. Accordingly, the board adopted several policies governing human resource management and information technology in conjunction with the passage of the restructuring act.

All new staff employees hired effective July 1, 2006 will be designated “University Staff” and under the governance of the university board of visitors for most human resources policies (very similar to the current status of faculty). There will be no change in policy for current classified staff employees, whose human resources policies are controlled by state’s Department of Human Resources Management.

The board of visitors adopted “mirror image” personnel policies for University Staff until new policies can be developed, a process which is expected to take one to two years. Thus, in the interim, all human resources policies and benefits for University Staff will be identical to those for Classified Staff.

Under the Restructuring Act, all university employees under the province of the board (all except Classified Staff) are no longer covered by the Workforce Transition Act. Therefore, the board also adopted a new severance policy governing faculty and University Staff employees. This policy, which is essentially identical to the current policy, may be replaced by one or more severance policies as new human resource systems are developed. Classified Staff employees continue to be covered by the Virginia Personnel Act and the Workforce Transition Act.

Look for changes to be posted soon to the Faculty Handbook, the Office of Human Resources website, or view the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors website for further details.

The board formally reaffirmed its commitment to engage employees in appropriate discussions and receive employee input as the new systems are developed.

Additional information on Higher Education Restructuring Act and its impact on human resources policies will be shared with all university faculty and staff in a special campus newsletter to be published and distributed via campus mail the week of June 19. The same information will be posted to the university’s restructuring website.

New degree programs

The board approved two new academic degree programs including a new Bachelor of Science degree in Construction Engineering and Management (BSCEM). The course of study will integrate coursework from the departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Building Construction, and the Pamplin College of Business. Students will be admitted through the College of Engineering and the degree will be administered through the new Myers-Lawson School of Construction.

The university also will offer a new online Master of Agricultural and Life Sciences degree offered through the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. This program will offer broad, professional graduate training for individuals in agriculture and life science industries, government agencies, Extension, and environmental programs. The online program will be targeted to individuals who cannot leave their current positions and is expected to require 2.5 to four years for completion.

Both academic resolutions will now be forwarded to the State Council of Higher Education for review and final approval.

Revisions to tenure clock provisions

In order to help faculty members achieve a more manageable balance of work and family commitments, the board expanded the set of justifications for requesting tenure clock extensions and will automatically grant a one-year probationary period extension as a result of new born or adopted children. There will be cumulative two-year limit of tenure clock extensions.

“I am quite pleased to see the university adopting family friendly policies and commend the leaders of the AdvanceVT Program who helped develop this policy,” said Provost Mark McNamee. AdvanceVT is a five-year project supported by multi-million dollar grant from the National Science Foundation.

Look for changes to be posted soon to the Faculty Handbook or view the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors website for further details.

University budget

The board adopted the FY2006-07 fiscal year budget of $900.6 million based on certain assumptions related to passage of the Commonwealth of Virginia FY2006-07 budget. Current versions of the budget contain almost $7 million from the General Fund for special research operations (earlier reporter on Dec. 7 and Dec. 19 in Virginia Tech News). The university plans to increase the funds devoted to financial aid by about $2 million.

“We continue to make strategic and focused investments as guided by the university strategic plan,” said McNamee.

Strategic Plan

The board of visitors adopted the update to the University Strategic Plan 2006-12. The update to the plan provides an opportunity to assess the progress that has been made over the last five years, to identify continuing priorities and new directions, and to revise goals in light of changes external to the university.

“I commend the provost, the chief operating officer, the deans, the faculty, and all those who worked on the plan. They were able to develop a truly strategic document, yet embed concrete and specific direction within the ‘scholarship domains’ of learning, discovery, and engagement. Moreover, it is linked to foundational strategies such as budget, organizational development, campus infrastructure, and resource development,” said university President Charles Steger. The draft plan is posted on the Office of the Provost website and will be formally distributed during the fall semester.

Other board actions

The board formally adopted the 10 year Campus Master Plan which guides the physical development of campus buildings, infrastructure, and circulation. The board also requested that the Virginia Tech Foundation to acquire property in the National Capital Region for consolidating existing research program currently located in various leased spaces.

A resolution to establish a formal Research Committee of the board of visitors was approved. The board also approved term limits for chairs of standing board committees.

The board approved the designation of endowed professorships to three College of Engineering professors. Dushan Boroyevich was named the American Electric Power Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Roop Mahajan, the new director of Virginia Tech’s Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science (ICTAS), was named the James S. Tucker Professor of Engineering, and Anbo Wang was named the Clayton Ayre Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Eleven professors were honored with emeritus status.

The next regular quarterly meeting of the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors will be held August 27-28, 2006 on the Virginia Tech campus.

==> Please note: Board minutes, resolutions, and other background information may be found at the Office of the Provost website.

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