Inside the Strategic Alliance Feasibility Study – March 14

As you know the Hilbert Board of Trustees met on Thursday, March 6th. Because of Spring Break, we delayed the standard Tuesday post-board information session and our Friday coffee. Thus, we’re sharing a more detailed Friday newsletter update given our not holding those two opportunities for discussion.

The Hilbert and St. Bonaventure boards continue to be in a “due diligence or feasibility” stage of investigation.  To date, neither board of trustees has agreed to go forward with a change of corporate identity involving Hilbert College and SBU.  At a meeting of representatives of both boards on Feb. 24, it was agreed to continue the feasibility study of that possibility as it is being led by the two presidents.  The two trustee groups are meeting again on March 21 in Olean at a time when St. Bonaventure’s full board is in session.  Please recall that most of the members of the SBU board don’t live in WNY and their meetings typically are held over the course of two days.

As was reported in December, both boards wanted the second phase of the feasibility work to focus on three areas – academics, finances, and governance.  At this time, the work being done on finances is simply a review of the current financial operations of both colleges to insure that, if joined as one entity, the possibility for greater financial health and revenue exists. This work is being done by Ronald Salluzzo, of Attain, Inc. Ron is an SBU alum and former trustee, former audit partner for Hilbert and nationally recognized expert on designing models for financial management of colleges and medical centers.  He is working with the two CFOs and a report will be given to the two boards to enable them to vote on going forward with plans for a complete unification.

The governance work has not begun and will focus only on the nature of the board of trustees in the future. No one has been appointed to do this work yet. Thus, when a report states that governance is being studied, the only level under discussion is the future work of the boards of trustees.

The academic work is somewhat of an exception because it is drawing upon the expertise of, and using representation from, the faculty of both campuses.  This task force, chaired by the two provosts, has a limited agenda of advising the boards on what might be the most likely new programs to be developed once a unification has taken place.   The report will outline conceptual frameworks for such program possibilities. They will not decide on these programs but offer researched options for development that can take place with an integrated institution.  This work is to be completed by the May board meeting.

If we get the “green light” for integration those suggestions will then have to be vetted by the normal processes for program design and approval by both faculty governance councils– including NYSED approval. Thus, the normal process of faculty deliberation will take place as part of the integration planning.  If we are not able to identify promising academic program opportunities, this may be a reason not to proceed with an integration of the two institutions.  That’s why we have elected to take a look at the academic programmatic opportunities in advance of the Boards’ vote on proceeding toward integration.

We have also begun to look for an executive director for the integration process in the event that the Boards decide to go forward.  AGB Search has been engaged to help us find a person with the appropriate skills to direct this search.  We are most grateful to the Oishei Foundation for their financial support of this endeavor.

If you have any questions about this process, please remember you can utilize the feasibility study email address at FeasibilityStudy@hilbert.edu or come to the Board Information Sharing Session on Tuesday, March 18 at 3:15 p.m. in the Library Conference Room.  Our next Coffee Talk is scheduled for Friday, March 28 at 9 a.m. in the faculty lounge in Bogel Hall.

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