The Marshall University Board of Governors approved expanding protections for sexual assault victims during its meeting Thursday.
Also approved Thursday was the university’s five-year capital project list, which changes the university’s course of building new infrastructure to invest in what is already built.
The board first approved changing its student code of conduct, which requires students to conduct themselves lawfully and in compliance with the code’s guidelines. The change came to the policy specific curtailed toward discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, sexual and domestic misconduct, stalking and retaliation.
The passage expands the definition of rape to include instances when the victim is unable to give consent because of age or mental or physical incapacity. It changes the definition of rape from involving penetration to “carnal knowledge,” an act of an individual having sexual bodily connection, however slight, with another.
It also adds to the definition of sexual assault oral or anal sodomy and sexual assault with an object.
A Title IX coordinator will also now be able to sign a complaint without being considered a party to the grievance.
In other moves, the board also passed the university’s five-year capital project list — a master plan wishlist the university is required to send to the state each year.
Brandi Jacobs-Jones, senior vice president for operations and chief of staff, presented the list to the board, stating the university is shifting its focus from starting new projects to investing in the infrastructure it already has.
University President Brad D. Smith said the possible future projects are part of the university’s dedication to “taking care of the house,” one part of a campaign started by the university after a presidential listening tour in Smith’s first 100 days of office.
The list has about $532 million worth of proposed projects ranging from the university’s wildest imagination — like a new basketball practice facility to a new center of center for music and music education. However, under the guidance of Smith, Marshall is turning its attention to upgrading its existing infrastructure.
Jones said to do that, the university is hopeful the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission will select it to receive an estimated $20 million in funds the HEPC was given to address the burden of capital projects on university campuses. The HEPC will get to select specific projects from the list to be completed.
Smith said the university had to make hard decisions on prioritizing different projects.
“We have $532 million worth of wishes,” he said. “We (needed) to figure out if we get $20 million worth of funding, what is the strategic use of that resource. It’s really been a grassroots effort.”
Built around that possible $20 million windfall, Jones said there are five key areas the university has focused on for how it would be used, with 35% going to building system stabilization, 25% to health and safety, 20% to ensuring an equitable environment/Title IX, 15% to invest to accelerate growth and 5% to miscellaneous projects.
Many of the projects range from roof and chiller replacements to locker room renovation for cross county, golf and swim teams. The list also includes technology-enhanced classroom initiatives to make it easier for students to attend class online, generators and fire alarm upgrades, as well as renovations at the Marshall Medical Center.
Jones also reflected on the 10-year Campus Master Plan passed in 2013. In the nine years since its passage, the school has completed $4.3 million in renovations at the Education building, $1.3 million in Memorial Student Center renovations and $56 million in development of the medical and forensic campus. From 2018 to 2022, the school has completed more than $68 million in projects.
The university will start building its next master plan this summer.
Other projects outside of the $20 million wishlist include those the university thinks will accelerate growth. Wishlist projects include renovations to Corbly and Prichard halls, as well as changes to athletic facilities. These projects could still be funded through grants, fundraising and other sources.
Also Thursday, the board approved a clarification in the students rights and responsibilities policy to be in line with a West Virginia law that allows firearms to be “locked or locked in a vehicle” if they are out of view while on campus.
The policy was also updated to make employees mandatory reporters of instances involving direct threats of physical harm, physical injury, hazing, drugs or alcohol, weapons or discrimination. It also banned students from releasing intimate images without consent and holds online students to the same standards to protect and preserve the educational environment as in-person students.
Finally, the updated policy would allow the rescinding of admission of a potential student if they violate the standards to which current students are held.
A comment period is open through July 26. If substantive comments are received, a final policy will be presented to the board for approval at a later time. If no substantive comments are received, the changes will take effect Aug. 1.
With the board’s approval Thursday, students are now able to withdraw from a course without consent from professors. Students are instead encouraged to meet with academic advisers to discuss the implications of a withdrawal.
On the academic side, the board also approved moving the bachelor of arts in sports management program from the College of Health Professionals to the Lewis College of Business. Finally, it approved a letter of intent for creation of a master’s degree program in natural resources and the environment.
The board also approved officers for the next fiscal year. Current chairman Patrick Farrell will remain in the same position and be joined by Bill Smith as vice chairman and Chris Miller as secretary.
Current vice chairman H. Toney Stroud will be leaving the board to become the university’s general counsel. As of Thursday, his replacement had yet to be announced by West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice.