Auburn trustees recognize alumnus Harold Franklin, approve 2021 budget

Published: September 04, 2020
Updated: September 08, 2020
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Members of the Auburn University Board of Trustees tasked with reviewing broad diversity and inclusion issues have recommended the university administration enhance the historical marker signifying the 1964 desegregation of Auburn.

Trustee task force co-chairs James Pratt and Elizabeth Huntley informed the full board of its latest work during the board meeting on Sept. 4.

Huntley said Auburn marked a “tremendous event” earlier this year when Harold Franklin, Auburn’s first African-American student, was given the opportunity to defend his thesis and earn a master’s degree more than 50 years after he first walked on campus. Franklin, 86, would have participated in May’s commencement exercises, but the ceremony was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Franklin has since received his degree in the mail, which Huntley called a nice gesture, but ensured that Auburn needed to do more. Thus, the task force has recommended that the administration enhance the historical marker located on the green space between the Draughon Library and Mary Martin Hall, and that the marker be a part of campus tours from now on.

Pratt said the task force has completed a thorough and deliberate fact-based study on the possible removal of any memorials or monuments on Auburn property. He said it was not easy as Auburn has more than 3,500 acres, plus two campuses and a base in every country to examine. He reported that they found no memorials or monuments that warranted removal.

The group continues to examine the names of buildings. As part of the board’s approval of awards and namings, trustees announced that the Student Center would be named after Auburn alumnus and Georgia Chief Justice Harold Melton.

The Student Center becomes the first building at Auburn named for an African American. The significance was not lost on any trustee or current Student Government Association President Ada Ruth Huntley. Melton was the first Auburn student of color to serve as student body president in 1987 and Huntley is the first female student of color to serve in that role.

Additional trustees on the task force are Gen. Lloyd Austin, Bob Dumas, Sarah Newton and Quentin Riggins.

The board also approved the 2021 fiscal budget of $1.484 billion, a $41.3 million or 2.87% increase over last year.

Kelli Shomaker, vice president for business and finance and chief financial officer, said all five revenue sources available to the university increased, with state appropriations and tuition and fees making up 56% of the increase.

She noted that the COVID-19 pandemic created some uncertainty surrounding allocating these additional revenues to permanent expenditures. As a result, no money was allocated for merit increases and $27.3 million is being retained in reserve accounts. Only $5.3 million was budgeted for permanent job family and faculty promotions and some new faculty and staff positions, and another $8.7 million was budgeted for increased expenses across all divisions. 

In other matters, the board decided to:

  • Initiate a project to construct a new Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM, and Agricultural Sciences Complex, or STEM+Ag. The project will replace outdated STEM-related and agricultural science facilities and relocate the Department of Mathematics and Statistics from Parker Hall, the Department of Geology from Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum and College of Agriculture departments from Funchess Hall. Auburn has been awarded approximately $36 million in state bond funding to help cover the cost of this project.

  • Grant final approval for a project to replace an old chilled water plant and build a new plant that can handle the increased demand for chilled water throughout campus. The 7,200-square-foot building will house two 2,500-ton chiller units with future expansion capacity for a third chiller unit. Construction is expected to cost $24 million.

  • Select Davis of Birmingham as the architect for the renovation of the Quad Residence Halls. The board agreed in July to initiate the plan to renovate all 10 halls over five phases. The project will replace and upgrade interior finishes, furnishings and plumbing fixtures, as well as make Americans with Disabilities Act modifications.

  • Adopt a five-year timber harvest plan for Auburn University, for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, for the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station and for the Solon Dixon Forestry Education Center.

  • Posthumously award a Bachelor of Science in biomedical sciences to Stacy R. Russell Jr., who died in July.