You are here: American University Board of Trustees May 26, 2022 Memo

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Memorandum May 26, 2022

AU Community
Marc N. Duber, Chair, Board of Trustees
Board of Trustees May 2022 Meeting Summary

The May 2022 meeting of the American University Board of Trustees concluded an extraordinary week that featured the first five commencement ceremonies and the 2022 Alumni Awards. We often begin our meetings with highlights of the many accomplishments from across the AU community and last week we celebrated an amazing achievement that demonstrates the hands-on opportunities made possible by AU’s experiential learning. SOC faculty member John Sullivan and eight students in the AU-Washington Post practicum program were named as part of the reporting team that won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. This is considered the highest award in journalism and recognized the Post’s reporting on the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol, which John and his students supported with research, writing, and compilation of a database of the ongoing legal proceedings.

With the resumption of in-person trustee meetings, we again welcomed the opportunity to gather with members of the AU community. The trustees held an in-depth discussion with staff members about the evolution of the university’s hybrid work environment and the contributions of staff to the university’s mission. We are grateful to all our staff members whose hard work and creativity propels the university forward every day.

At the outset of the meeting, Vice President Surls provided an update on the Change Can’t Wait campaign, including the successful regional events conducted throughout the spring and recent gift commitments that bring our amount raised to $335 million. We are excited to share more information in the coming weeks about gifts that will advance student thriving, expand access through scholarships, and enhance our campus. President Burwell reported that the budget numbers look good for the conclusion of the fiscal year on June 30. She also noted that American University won the 2022 Inclusive Excellence Award from the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE).

Provost Starr and Vice President Aw led an informative discussion exercise on freedom of expression and the pressing challenges faced in higher education as we seek to promote a culture of inquiry and an inclusive learning environment. This evolving area is shaped by changing views on the limits of free speech, the important role of academic freedom, and perspectives from the current generation of students. The university’s Freedom of Expression and Dissent Working Group will be making recommendations to update AU’s policy and compose a new statement of principles designed to enhance our sense of shared belonging and provide guidance for our community.

Dean Fairfax briefed the trustees on the ongoing evolution of the Washington College of Law (WCL). Since joining the university nearly one year ago, Dean Fairfax has embarked on a thorough assessment of WCL’s operations. He discussed increasing collaboration between WCL and the university, unique challenges faced by WCL, and broader trends in legal education. Dean Fairfax and his team are implementing a comprehensive strategy to right-size WCL enrollment, enhance support services for our law students, and improve our admissions metrics and student outcomes including job placement upon graduation and bar exam passage rates. WCL is on track to achieve the highest average GPA for the incoming class, and we continue to have highly ranked law education programs, including three programs in the US News top five and five in the top ten.

During the business meeting, we approved resolutions honoring outgoing trustees Gary Abramson, Tom Gottschalk, and Peter Scher; outgoing faculty trustee John Heywood; and outgoing student trustee Anusha Mannam. Each of them provided outstanding service to the AU community. On behalf of the trustees, I want to salute Gary (36 years on the board), Tom (27 years), and Peter (12 years) for their dedication, their contributions to the university, and their friendship. They will be greatly missed but fortunately each of them has pledged to continue their involvement with AU in the future.

The Board of Trustees will next meet on September 8–9, 2022, for our annual retreat.