June 26, 2005 – The University of the Virgin Islands Board of Trustees held its quarterly meeting Saturday at its St. Croix campus, where board members tackled a lot of university business, including re-electing Auguste E. Rimpel Jr. as chairperson and Alexander Moorhead as vice chairperson.
During the meeting, board members learned that turmoil and uncertainty surrounding federal regulations changes to the Economic Development Commission program are having a ripple effect on the university — especially on UVI's Research and Technology Park.
During Saturday's board meeting, UVI President Dr. LaVerne E. Ragster said, "If the tax rules are negative towards the Economic Development Authority, we would have to change focus while still meeting the needs of the park."
Back in February 2002, when Gov. Charles W. Turnbull approved UVI's Research and Technology Park, he predicted in his remarks that "tax benefits of the EDA will bring enormous economic relief to the territory, while providing our residents with multiple high-tech jobs and other supportive services."
Despite the current uncertainty, Ragster remained optimistic about the success of the park, saying, "We are encouraged and believe we will end up with tax rules to support our endeavor."
In February, Rimpel, who is also the technolgy park's board chair, explained the workings of the technology park before a Senate committee as "a simple but compelling business proposition that allows companies to distribute digital content and transfer ownership of its intellectual property to a locally-based subsidiary in the islands where the company can benefit from tax incentives, the protection of U.S. law for its intellectual assets, and access to one of the largest broadband capabilities in the world." (See "Amended Law Clears Path for Investment at UVI".)
The recent EDC turmoil has also hurt UVI's most recent fundraising venture. Joseph P. Boschulte, vice president for institutional advancement, said the upcoming celebrity golf classic, scheduled for July 14-16 on St. Croix, has "been impacted by the current EDC uncertainty. We have lost a significant amount of gifts because of EDC companies waiting [for the outcome the hearings in Washington, D.C.] or pulling out."
Ragster said she would testify at the U.S. Treasury Department hearing on the proposed changes to the EDC regulations on July 21 in the nation's capital.
In other business, the board of trustees approved the establishment of a new bachelor's degree in Inclusive Early Childhood Education. The new program will take effect in the fall semester. The new degree program allows V.I. Head Start managers and teachers to pursue their degree, as mandated by the federal Head Start agency. Nationally, Head Start has mandated that 100 percent of its managers and teaching staff must have a B.A. degree in Early Childhood Education by January 2006. Because a degree has not been previously offered in the Virgin Islands, Head Start employees in the territory have been given until January 2008 to complete their degrees .
Also of note, Ragster commended St. Thomas Chancellor Dr. John Leipzig, St. Croix Chancellor Jennifer Jackson, Provost Dr. Gwen-Marie Moolenaar and UVI Research and Technology Park Interim Executive Director Malcolm Kirwan for their service to the university. Their retirement from the university becomes effective as of September 30.
Ragster also recognized Dr. Henry H. Smith, who has served as UVI's interim provost since January 2005. Smith will resume his post as vice provost for research and public service, as well as acting chief information officer until August 8.
Dr. Al Hassan I. Musah, a provost fellow at New York State University, will assume the post of UVI provost on July 1. Tina I. Koopmans will become the university's vice president of information technology and learning resources on August 8.
Additionally, the board heard reports from various committees, including the Academic, Research and Student Affairs Committee.
Committee Chair Dr. Yvonne E.L. Thraen reported on UVI's reorganization of its academic units, which has resulted in the establishment of five divisions — science and mathematics, nursing, business, teacher education and social sciences/humanities — with one chair for each division. The social sciences and humanities divisions have merged into one division.
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