Dr. Duane Nellis, right, talks with WOUB’s Susan Tebben. Nellis is set to embark on “listening tours” of academic units at Ohio University and communities where the university resides. Photo courtesy of the OU President’s Office

OU Prez: I Will Invest In OU

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After a month in office, Ohio University’s 21st president, Dr. Duane Nellis, is on a mission to hear from everyone involved in the institution’s success.

Nellis has planned “listening tours” for all the academic units at the university, and at regional campuses and community venues. He said this gives him the perspective he needs to make the university centered around the success of students, faculty and staff.

“I want to hear people’s thoughts about what they believe we should be as we move into the future,” Nellis said when he sat down with WOUB recently.

On the list of topics for the listening tours is outreach and integration into the communities in which all OU’s campuses reside, and sustainability of resources in a time of ebbing state support.

The state budget, which is still under review by the Senate for final approval, did not increase the State Share of Instruction (SSI), a formula used to determine how much money state universities and institutions receive as a subsidy from the state.

Deb Shaffer, the Senior Associate Vice President for Finance and Administration, told the OU Board of Trustees at the June meeting, that the university budget was created with the assumption that the SSI would remain flat.

“We appreciate what the state gives us as far as our budget, and we’re pleased they didn’t cut the SSI,” Nellis said. “But state funding is gradually declining.”

Nellis said the changing funding model means the university needs to be more and more adaptable, and find more and more sources of revenue that don’t rely on state subsidy.

“We have to be ever-changing in a positive way and we need the resources to support that,” he said.

He was encouraged by the action academic units took when asked to take a hard look at their resources and make decisions about monetary cuts.

He included athletics in his list of units making sacrifices, but also said athletics is a significant area where revenue is made within the university.

“Athletics is, in many ways, part of the front porch of the university as it’s perceived nationally,” Nellis said.

When asked whether he would be willing to give up some of his own salary to help the university with budgetary issues, the president, who receives an annual salary of $475,000 in his six-year contract along with a $5,000 housing allowance, said he was “very open” to the idea of using some of his own money to make “investments” in the university.

“I think every university that (First Lady) Ruthie and I have been at, we’ve invested our personal resources in those universities,” he said. “But I need some time to look at where I can make those investments.”