Board of Governors Meeting Highlights Marshall’s Improvements


Victoria Ware

Athletic Director Christian Spears speaks on the state of Marshall’s athletic programs.

Victoria Ware, Opinions and Culture Editor

“The Big Five” initiative—which includes enrollment management, pricing, student experience, digital marketing and a distinct strategy—highlighted President Brad D. Smith’s report to the Board of Governors last Wednesday, Feb. 22. 

Outlining several areas in which he said Marshall University is progressing and others that present opportunities for improvement, Smith said advancing The Big Five initiative grew from his listening tours of campus to talk with students and staff.

He then discussed the progress made in gender and pay equity. Marshall consulted with an outside firm that reviewed the university’s payment practices. Smith said 80 people that had unexplainable pay variances were identified. Payment changes were made for these individuals in December. The firm has been contracted to return every two years to maintain equity. 

Smith also said that he feels positive about Marshall’s progress in legislative and economic development. 

“We are in the midst of a very busy legislative session in Charleston,” Smith said. “Our hard-working elected officials have put forth 2200 bills—65 of which are directly affecting education. Throughout the year, we have actively engaged with our elected representatives. We’ve partnered closely with them to advance the prosperity in this state.”

In contrast, Smith said that areas needing improvement are student enrollment, fiscal performance, fostering a culture of transparency, Title IX practices and executing ideas.

“We still have heavy lifting ahead in enrollment, strengthening our financial position, improving a culture of transparency and trust, becoming the gold standard for Title IX and accelerating our ability to move with speed and agility,” Smith said. 

Aside from the president’s remarks, Brandi Jacobs-Jones, the senior vice president for operations, delivered a facilities and operations update highlighting the university’s ongoing projects. These include the Byrd Biotech cage washer, the Drinko Library and Science Building cooling tower replacement, a horizontal mine shaft, the MU Health chiller, the Smith Hall cooling towers and a Smith Hall elevator replacement.

Along with the athletics budget and project updates discussed, there was a compliance update related to Title IX. The first iteration of the policy was adopted in 2017. Debra Boughton, the executive associate athletic director for championship planning and resources, said the policy aimed to educate people about Title IX and promote a safe environment. The second iteration requires the university to ensure that current student-athletes or those being recruited do not have a history of Title IX issues or other violent acts. 

“It’s our responsibility to ensure that kids we’re bringing here and student-athletes we have now are not committing these kinds of activities,” Boughton said.