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Fall town hall meeting addresses innovation, University finances

| Thursday, October 6, 2016

University President Fr. John Jenkins and executive vice president John Affleck-Graves addressed Notre Dame’s faculty and staff at Wednesday’s town hall meeting, which focused on globalization and the University’s finances.

Jenkins opened the fall town hall meeting by discussing the “biggest development” the University has undergone since he became president: internationalization. He referenced the University’s newest partnership with Kylemore Abbey in Ireland and spoke about his travels to South America to reaffirm the “strong historical and cultural connections” the University has with the region.

University President Fr. John Jenkins addresses members of the Notre Dame community at the fall town hall meeting Wednesday afternoon in Washington Hall.Chris Collins | The Observer

University President Fr. John Jenkins addresses Notre Dame faculty and staff at the fall town hall meeting Wednesday afternoon in Washington Hall.

“We make connections with businesses, we make connections with government, we make connections with business leaders,” he said. “People know about Notre Dame, and we can develop those relationships that could deepen our presence in those countries and help us understand those regions.”

Another major development, Jenkins said, was the recognition of the need to accommodate and encourage innovative ideas from students and faculty. Jenkins said Notre Dame is currently building up the infrastructure needed to better support faculty and student innovation — a process they’re starting by creating the position of vice president of innovation.

“We need infrastructure to grease the wheels and make this happen, whether it’s a drug to treat a disease, or a computer chip that will be revolutionary or whatever it is,” he said. “ … Right now, we’re looking for the person who will lead this as the vice president of innovation. And we will get that started. It’s very exciting because it moves the ideas out into the world and also because it provides a home for businesses.”

Jenkins also touched on the University’s five-year sustainability strategy during the town hall meeting, a strategy he previously announced at a faculty address Sept. 21. He said at the town hall that a committee had been established to review what the University was doing every year to ensure the proper implementation of the plan.

“It’s a comprehensive strategy that will allow us to continue doing the work we do, but doing it in such a way that it’s pretty sustainable,” Jenkins said.

For the University’s upcoming 175th anniversary, Jenkins said there would be a “pilgrimage” to celebrate the founding of Notre Dame.

“We will retrace Fr. Sorin’s steps to South Bend,” he said. “ … What we’re hoping is for the last part of the trip, others will join us.”

Jenkins also spoke about the President’s Oversight Committee On Diversity and Inclusion, onboard training on diversity, the promotion of Michael Seamon to the newly-created role of vice president of campus safety, the Indiana Bicentennial and United Way.

Following Jenkins, Affleck-Graves spoke about a Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) update, the University’s finances and parking.

The Department of Labor revised the regulations on overtime pay earlier this year, Affleck-Graves said.

“Specifically, anyone who is making less than $23,616, at the old system, was eligible for overtime pay,” he said. “That is now changed to anyone who is earning less that $47,476. That’s going to impact a lot of employees in that group.”

For those who are affected by this change, Affleck-Graves said human resources consultants will be available for meetings to answer questions and oversee the changes.

The University, Affleck-Graves said, receives money from four sources: tuition, auxiliary operations, income on endowment and money from research grants — the first two being unrestricted and the latter two, restricted, depending on what the money is given for.

“What’s happening over time is our dependence on tuition is declining,” he said. “What is happening is our restricted funds are growing — our endowment funds are growing and our research funds are growing — and we’ve reached a stage where they’ve actually crossed.

“53 percent of our funds come from restricted sources and only 47 percent come from unrestricted sources. … What [restricted funds] do is they give us less flexibility. It makes us more dependent on the financial markets.”

Despite his “concern,” Affleck-Graves said the University is currently in “great shape.”

The parking committee established in February will be presenting a report to Affleck-Graves near the end of this month, he said. The committee is looking at options including  “surface parking, short-term parking, construction parking and a parking garage.”

“This is one of those things that affects us each and every day,” Affleck-Graves said. “It is a big issue.”

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About Megan Valley

Megan Valley is one of the Associate News Editors for The Observer. A junior majoring in English and the Program of Liberal Studies, she hails from Flushing, MI and lives in Flaherty Hall.

Contact Megan