Oregon State Board of Trustees approves construction of $70 million Arts and Education Complex

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Oregon State University Board of Trustees on Friday unanimously approved construction of a new $70 million Arts and Education Complex that will serve as a center for performing arts classes, programs and performances on the Corvallis campus.

A $25 million lead gift from an anonymous donor, along with $10 million in other philanthropic gifts and $35 million in state of Oregon-paid bonds will finance construction of the complex.

“This nationally best-in-class arts and education complex will be a transformative addition to Oregon State University, the Willamette Valley and all of Oregon,” said OSU President F. King Alexander. “The complex will serve as a center of creativity and will fuse programs in music, theater, visual and digital arts and technology. This center is integral to the university’s land grant outreach mission and will help bring the arts to all Oregonians through education, performances and community engagement. We thank our donors, Gov. Kate Brown and Oregon legislators for their support in helping make the dream of this arts complex soon become a reality.”

The 49,000 square foot complex will include classrooms, offices, performance theaters and rehearsal rooms. It is expected to open in the 2022-23 academic year.

The board also accepted a report detailing the university’s 10-year business forecast. Projections show that a commitment to funding renovations and capital renewal projects and pursuing enrollment initiatives that generate net revenue will allow the university to maintain a healthy financial position even with the impacts of the pandemic.

“Looking ahead, while challenged by the pandemic, we forecast fewer short-term financial issues facing the university beginning in fiscal year 2024,” Alexander said. “We will take nothing for granted, however. We will continue to focus on managing and reducing the overall costs of the university; growing enrollment to provide for access to excellent higher education; and developing new programs that serve the university’s land grant mission of teaching, research and outreach, and contribute to financial stability.”

The board also approved moving ahead to renovate two buildings on the Corvallis campus: $16.35 million for Fairbanks Hall, the second oldest building on the Corvallis campus that includes classrooms, offices and gallery space serving the College of Liberal Arts; and $6 million for Graf Hall, which houses the College of Engineering’s robotics program.

The Fairbanks Hall renovation will improve teaching, learning and gallery spaces and update seismic, access and HVAC systems to meet current code requirements. The Graf Hall renovation will expand facilities for the Collaborative Robotics and Intelligent Systems Institute and upgrade bathrooms and mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems.

The board heard a briefing on planning related to the State Land Board’s December 2018 request that OSU explore with the Department of State Lands the potential transformation of part of the 91,000-acre Elliott State Forest into a state research forest that OSU’s College of Forestry would manage. During the State Land Board’s recent December 2020 meeting, university leaders presented a proposal for the research forest developed in collaboration with the Department of State Lands and an advisory committee of stakeholders.

Following OSU’s presentation, the State Land Board, which is made up of Oregon’s governor, secretary of state and state treasurer, voted unanimously to affirm its intention to decouple the Elliott State Forest from the Common School Fund and transfer management of the forest to OSU for a research forest. The State Land Board also directed the Department of State Lands to continue working with OSU and the advisory committee to finalize various elements of the proposal.

Provost and Executive Vice President Edward Feser and College of Forestry Dean Tom DeLuca, who briefed the Board of Trustees on OSU’s proposal, said OSU’s management of the Elliott as a research forest is a unique opportunity to demonstrate how to integrate forest management, watershed protection, environmental and climate research, habitat protection, recreational use and timber production for the long-term benefit of Oregonians.

“It is worth noting that no other state nationally has an 82,000-acre research forest serving this research and practical need,” Feser said.

Feser and DeLuca indicated that they would continue to provide the OSU board updates on the university’s planning related to the Elliott. They said the plan would emphasize research outcomes, shared goals achieved with stakeholders, and assurances of financial sustainability that would not place the university at risk.

“We are very cautious in evaluating this opportunity,” said Alexander. “It will take time to work out the details.”

On Friday, the board also:

  • Heard an update from Feser and Susan Capalbo, senior vice provost for faculty affairs, on the university’s progress in meeting Strategic Plan 4.0 goals. Feser noted several key advances, including in the areas of enrollment management; deployment of remote learning technologies; research and graduate education; and integrating inclusive excellence principles and practices into all aspects of the university.
  • Approved a 10.3% reduction in winter term fees for OSU-Cascades’ students taking 12 or more credit hours. Fees will decrease from $300 to $269.
  • Heard an update on federal and state legislative matters. On the federal level, the university is expected to receive $25.5 million from the latest COVID-19 Congressional relief package. A minimum of $7.8 million of that will be designated for student aid. On the state level, university leaders are seeking funding for a $13.8 million Student Success Center at OSU Cascades; $86 million in state bond funding to continue renovation of Cordley Hall on the Corvallis campus; and funding to support current service levels within OSU’s OSU Extension, outreach and statewide public services in agriculture and forestry. As well, the board heard updates on efforts to support $900 million in legislative funding – a 7.42 % increase – for higher education programs at Oregon’s seven public universities, and an $80 million allocation to serve capital renewal requirements at the seven universities; $200 million for student equal opportunity grant scholarships; and $10 million to re-establish support for innovative research occurring at state universities.
  • Heard a report on the university’s Impact Studio, an effort that brings together teams of faculty, students and staff to develop and launch initiatives that advance the university’s strategic goals. “The Impact Studio was launched to help answer the question: ‘How do we create an institutional structure within Oregon State University to help innovation occur in a systematic way that serves OSU’s academic goals and that generates new net revenues,” Feser said.
  • Approved several amendments to the public university fund, an investment pool administered by Oregon State on behalf of all Oregon public university participants, and several changes to the university’s investment policy.
  • Heard reports from representatives from OSU’s Faculty Senate; OSU Foundation; Associated Students of OSU; Associated Students of Cascades Campus; the Higher Education Coordinating Commission; the board’s presidential transition committee; and the OSU’s COVID-19 response and resumption team.

Also on Friday, a joint meeting of the board’s Executive and Audit Committee and Finance and Administration Committee approved OSU’s 2020 fiscal year external auditor annual report.

On Thursday, three board committee’s met.

  • The Finance and Administration Committee heard a report about tuition rates for the 2021-22 academic year. The University Budget Committee is considering tuition increases in the 2% to 4.5% range. With input from the board, budget committee, Student Advisory Council and other stakeholders, a proposal, approved by the president, for tuition rates and fees will be presented at the April board meeting. The committee advanced to the design development phase a $153 million project to rebuild the west side of Reser Stadium. More than half of the funding for the project would come from fundraising gifts restricted for that purpose, with $40 million coming from revenues generated by premium seating and other athletics event revenues. Plans for the completed stadium also include year-round use within a health center, welcome center and more university meeting space. The committee also heard quarterly reports on investments and operating management finances.
  • The Academic Strategies Committee heard reports about new and existing academic program reviews and accreditations in progress, as well as sexual harassment and violence education, prevention and response. They also heard briefings from the Division of Extension and Engagement and the Research Office; updates on enrollment for winter term and early enrollment trends for fall term 2021; work by the Statewide Provosts Council in partnership with community colleges, the Higher Education Coordinating Commission, and others to implement common course numbering and other efforts to aid student transfers between community colleges and state universities; and updates on dean and vice provost searches.
  • The Executive and Audit Committee heard several reports from the Office of Audit, Risk and Compliance and discussed risk management with senior university leaders in light of the pandemic. The committee also heard an update on the university’s new police department on the Corvallis campus.

The board received public input from state Sen. Sara Gelser praising OSU’s COVID-19 response; comment from six community members on the concept of an Elliott State Research Forest; comment from a faculty member on faculty labor issues; and comment from four OSU students and a post-doctoral scholar regarding student mental health needs and the university’s public safety programs.