A year after ratifying plans for the largest capital project in the university's history, Oklahoma Baptist University trustees toured construction areas on the campus Fridayduring their summer meeting in OBU's Bailey Business Center.
"It is exciting to see capital projects under way on Bison Hill," said OBU President Mark Brister in his state-of-the-university report to the board members. "Workers have been steadily moving ahead with the Wellness Center project, pouring the piers and grade beams, even though you don't see the concrete and bricks just yet."
Dr. Brister said the two-story facility, under construction just west of OBU's Noble Complex for Athletics, is on schedule to open in August 2007.
"Our other elements of the wellness and athletic facility work are moving well, too," said Brister, noting work on new track, baseball and intramural facilities. "This effort reflects a vision for the future development of our campus. We are going to continue to provide a campus where students are challenged to growth in every area of their lives."
The capital project, approved by the board at their July 2005 meeting, represents a $14.95 million investment in the campus.
"I am delighted to report that our fund-raising work is going extremely well," said Brister. "We are within $1 million of our goal of raising $4.7 million to complete the Winning Spirit Campaign as a part of the overall project.
"The construction disruptions we are experiencing today portend great days for our wellness and athletic programs," said the president.
"We anticipate that the new facilities will enhance our varsity sports programs," he added. "Frankly, they are already faring pretty well. We learned this summer that OBU has the fourth-ranked overall athletic program in the United States in the NAIA. Each year, collegiate athletic programs at all levels are ranked in the Directors Cup standings. Based on the success of our teams this year, we were the top overall program in the Sooner Athletic Conference. Nine of our 16 teams finished in the top 10 nationally."
University officials also reported on major roadwork around the campus. This summer, state contractors are completing renovations to MacArthur Street. The work includes reducing the number of OBU property street entry points from 16 to 10, and adding signal lights at two intersections.
In other business during the general session, the board approved revisions to the university's student handbook, The Green Book. The revisions include an additional paragraph in the handbook's purpose statement. The paragraph states: "A student, by virtue of choosing to attend or remain at Oklahoma Baptist University, agrees to live within the framework of the University's standards which include, but are not limited to, its values, policies, rules, philosophy, Christian mission, and expectations ('the University's standards'). While a student's personal convictions may differ from these standards, the choice to become or remain a part of Oklahoma Baptist University's community includes a commitment to abide by the University's standards. The University may, in its sole discretion or judgment, discipline or dismiss a student who demonstrates a lack of respect for, or who disregards the University's standards, or whose conduct is not in keeping with the University's standards."
Following the meeting, Dr. Alton Fannin, chairman of the board's student development committee, said OBU officials recommended the addition after examining policies of other member institutions in the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.
"In looking at policies relating to lifestyle philosophies, it was determined that OBU needed to add text to further clarify the university's expectations," said Fannin.
Board members also voted to clarify OBU's human sexuality policy, which was initially adopted in 2004. Fannin said the revisions replaced the term "biblical understanding" with "biblical standard" and wording was changed to specify that it "is the university's expectation that OBU students, faculty, and staff will comply with the biblical standard for sexuality."
The board opted not to act on an external request for an additional revision to the student handbook. A small group of students, alumni and others not affiliated with OBU sent several letters to the board in May, June and July, asking the board to revise the university's harassment policy to include sexual orientation as a protected group. According to Board Chairman Doyle Pryor, trustees reviewed the letters, and concluded that OBU's current policy is comprehensive in requiring adequate protection for all students.
"Legal counsel has informed the board that our current policies go beyond what is expected by state and federal law," said Rev. Pryor. "It is vital to our mission that we provide a safe campus environment for our students, and we are confident that our current policies address that intent."
Trustees also approved contracts for eight new faculty members. New faculty include Dr. Jeff Pounders, associate professor of sociology; Dr. Keith Harman, professor of business; Gene King, associate professor of business; Dr. Michael Dean, assistant professor of piano; Judith McGee, assistant professor of art; Dr. Mark McQuade, assistant professor of music; Cathy Buchanan, assistant professor of nursing; and Jeri Hargrave, assistant professor of nursing.
The meeting of the 33-member board was moderated by Pryor, who is pastor of the First Baptist Church of Sapulpa. At the conclusion of the meeting, trustees elected a slate of officers for 2006-07. Elected as chairman is Sen. Jim Howell, of Midwest City. Vice chairman will be Dr. Alton Fannin, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Ardmore. Rev. Griff Henderson, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Newalla, was re-elected to a second one-year term as board secretary. The officers will begin their terms of service during the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma meeting in November.