On Wednesday, April 26th, President Baumann delivered her second town hall address to the student body during Student Senate’s regular meeting time. A complete audio recording of the event is attached below, as well as a written summary. Audio courtesy of Nick Williams, Northern Review Staff Writer.
During her opening remarks, President Baumann identifies Northern Review Editor-in-Chief Eldon Buckner’s request for clarifying comment about her inaugural speech as a reason she wanted to attend. It is correct that Northern Review requested comment from the Office of the President for the purposes of developing an article about the inauguration, but President Baumann is incorrect about the contents of our request. She claims, “somehow what I said got translated into, ‘we’re gonna decrease tuition.’ Yeah, it’s not gonna happen…so I just wanted to come, rather than have a set of questions to a reporter and then have it come out in the Northern Review…Yeah, I don’t see in the foreseeable future that we would ever decrease tuition, and that’s just–that is economics.” Northern Review has never made this claim, and the editorial staff feels it is important to clarify before publication of the event.
President Baumann did not respond to a request for comment on the matter.
President Baumann was asked about the portion of her inaugural speech which referred to the cost of attending ONU. Baumann says her comments concerned student accessibility. She had referenced “a great set of data” which recently came out indicating that in 700 universities, “the students least able to pay actually paid more percentage wise than students who were better able to pay” (1:35 in our audio). In some, Baumann claims, it doubled. ONU stayed mostly the same, decreasing by a few dollars. Her inaugural quote, “at ONU, the net cost has remained the same” was intended to refer to Ohio Northern’s accessibility to low-income students. Baumann also confirms we will have a “2%” tuition increase for the coming year. In a letter to the student body dated November 21, 2022, she identified tuition increases of 2.77% for Arts and Sciences, 2.82% for Engineering, and 2.51% for Pharmacy.
Doubling the Endowment
Baumann was also asked about her plans to double the university’s endowment over five years, another inaugural promise. The president says she spends a lot of her time speaking with donors, some of whom offer up to six figures for the university: “When we have the opportunity to meet with donors, I take it” (4:50 in our audio). She also described the hunt for donation as a “24/7, 365 job.” She also stressed the completion of the Forward Together campaign’s $100 Million goal. She says a new goal may be to accrue $112 Million by October, which would make Forward Together the largest campaign for the university. At the same time, Baumann acknowledges some of the obstacles the university will face in endowment growth: “For us to double the endowment, the stock market is going to have to rise” (5:22). She also reiterates that often, donor money is specifically earmarked towards the donor’s preferred projects. She also reframes some of her goals for the university’s financial future. At 7:17 in our audio, Baumann says, “When I said doubling the endowment, what I’d really like is to bring in in the next five years $100 Million more cash. That’s gonna be crazy hard. I’d be celebrating if we brought in $50 Million more in cash.” An Ohio Northern-written news article from June 2, 2022 valued the university’s endowment at $200 Million, making an additional $100 Million a 50% increase.
What about esports?
An esports competitor asked the president about her intentions to help the flourishing of esports, a topic which came up at last semester’s town hall. Baumann clarified that ONU cannot give scholarships for esports competitors, but claimed “we actually support esports more than all of our competitors” (11:50 in our audio). Baumann also expresses concern about some of the university’s academic programs that have “dwindled” in regards to student participation, while esports has retained a relatively strong following, and that it compels the university to spend its money “really, really wisely” (12:53).
Biggest Areas of Growth for Student Life
Asked by Shannon Carnes, student body president, about the biggest areas for growth in general student life at Ohio Northern, Baumann stressed that she wants student input. The president also identified a few action items for the university. She says administration is “actively working on” (16:16) a renovation of 2nd floor of Heterick Memorial Library to make it look more like 1st floor. The university is also working on renovations for baseball and softball, saying we will get a new softball field. Finally, she identifies the renovations to Kinghorn, citing the strategic plan that was sent to students in February. This plan includes the goal to “expand King Horn to meet the recreation and wellness needs of students, faculty, and staff” in the second objective of the “place” pillar.
Program Reviews for Academic and Athletic Programs
Baumann was also asked about the undergoing process of program review by a student concerned that some programs may be cut. Baumann began her response by stressing that “program review” doesn’t necessitate an intention to cut, but a review with the mindset, “what do we need?” (18:38). Baumann also clarified that she won’t do the program reviews, the provost will–and has begun the first stages already. She also appeals to the mission and vision of the strategic plan.
The final question of the event was also asked by student body president Shannon Carnes. She wanted to know what President Baumann’s plan is to make Ohio Northern more sustainable in the future. Baumann stressed the importance of environmental sustainability, and cited a few pieces of evidence for ONU’s eco-friendly trend. The Meyer Hall of Science will receive a new roof this summer, an energy-efficient “white roof” (35:55). She wanted solar panels too, but the university couldn’t afford it right now, so we’ll “probably” get solar panels later. Additionally, one $500,000 donation was recently made specifically for environmentally sustainable projects (36:42). She also addresses the windmills which were torn down because they weren’t working. Ohio Northern has since ordered two more windmills, but supply chain issues have delayed their arrival (38:46). Combined, the two will produce approx. 1/3 more power than original three, but the electricity is more expensive. Baumann says we’re doing it “because it’s so important to be green.” (39:18).
President Baumann made a few more miscellaneous comments which do not directly align with the topics of discussion but are still of relevance to the student body. Some of these follow.
- The cost of Chicken has recently increased by 25%, but administration ate it without passing the cost onto students. Baumann used this as an example of difficulty in balancing the university’s budget and the difficult decisions she must make as president (31:20).
- President Baumann briefly addressed the controversy of Hill Memorial’s potential demolition, reiterating the stance she gave during last semester’s town hall (27:25).
- Baumann wishes there were more fun things to do so people stay over the weekend, hoping that it would discourage students from going home. A straw poll of the audience revealed a few students who regularly go home on the weekends (22:28). Comments from different students and administrative staff on the issue can be found here.
- Excluding constant cell phone use, the president appreciates the relationship among peers at ONU, and that students are generally kind to each other. She likened campus to Mary Poppins, saying we’re “practically perfect in every way” (25:31).
- Finally, Baumann laments that due to financial constraints, she cannot make every student happy, but she appreciates all of the feedback administration receives from the student body (29:20).