Texas Wesleyan President Frederick Slabach hosted his first town hall meeting of the semester Tuesday afternoon.
The meeting, held in the Baker Building, focused on construction projects on campus, degree plans, and student enrollment. The meeting finished earlier than usual and faculty and staff had fewer questions than at previous town hall meetings.
Jim Lewis, the vice president for university advancement, opened the meeting with updates on the Nick and Lou Martin University Center construction.
“We talked a lot about the fundraising and what’s in the building,” Lewis said, “what it looks like and the schedule and all that, but I think the really important thing is what the impact of the building is going to be.”
Lewis then directed the conversation to Dr. Dennis Hall, vice president and dean of students, to talk about the impact the center would have on student engagement.
“One of the most exciting things about this building is that many of the areas that Jim just highlighted are about student engagement and are potential areas for us to engage with students and for them to engage with the university,” Hall said.
Hall said the more students are engaged on campus the better they are in the classroom and the better the university is at carrying out its mission.
John Veilleux, vice president for enrollment, marketing and communications, also said the university center would be good for prospective students.
“One of the things that everyone knows as we look around campus there’s a lack of a place where students can hang out and be seen interacting with each other,” Veilleux said. “We haven’t had that, and our tours haven’t been able to illustrate that, so I think this is going to be a big help. We really think this is going to have on positive impact on what we show prospects and their families.”
Slabach said the university center is still on schedule to be completed in June 2019 and open that fall. He also mentioned updates for the new restaurant on Rosedale Street, which he hopes will still open this semester.
“Ben Merritt has updated his design for Ben’s Triple B: Biscuits, Burgers, and Brew to exclude the rooftop patio,” Slabach said. “That redesign has now been resubmitted to the city so there’s going to be a little bit of a delay in implementing that.”
Slabach also said that the total enrollment that was budgeted for the year was down by 11 percent due to rising seniors getting the credit hour waiver last semester, deregistration, and lower transfer enrollment.
Slabach said that at the beginning of the deregistration process more than 1,000 students were set to be deregistered, but after everyone pitched in to help, only 110 students were deregistered.
“I want to thank everybody because it really was an all-hands-on-deck situation,” Slabach said. “I want to thank everyone that stayed late, who counseled, who sent texts and emails, and who helped make sure we did everything that we possibly could to keep those students in school.”
Slabach said he was sad to see students deregistered but that he was glad that a policy was finally in place.
“We are very disappointed of course that any students were deregistered, but we are very pleased that we have a policy in place that will provide for our students to make sure that they have paid their bills or have entered into a payment plan before the semester starts,” Slabach said. “It’s far better for them (students that cannot pay) to be able to make that decision at the beginning of the semester than it is for them to roll up significant student debt and not be able to transfer those credits.”
Slabach transitioned this into the issue into whether or not faculty would be getting a raise this year. He said he was unsure of whether faculty would be getting the planned two percent raise pool with the changes to the operating budget, but that he would be looking for alternate routes to do so.
“I can’t guarantee you that (raise will happen for sure), but I’ve already started those conversations with the leadership of the board,” Slabach said.
Slabach said another changes being worked on are 120-hour degree programs and more online degree programs.
“We are in the process of developing an online masters of education program as well as an online bachelors for business administration program,” Slabach said. “Both will be in that seven-week model just like the online MBA, and we think that’s really going to be able to help us increase enrollment in both at the graduate level and the undergraduate level.”