JACKSON, Tenn. – April 29, 2011– Union University will develop plans for a new library, apply to NCAA Division II and launch a new publishing project after trustees approved all three measures in their spring meeting April 29.
Trustees also approved a record $89.4 million budget for the university for 2011-2012, a 10.2 percent increase from this year’s budget.
The library will serve as a complete academic resource center to serve the research and resource needs of a 21st century academic community, Union President David S. Dockery said. Located between Jennings Hall and Miller Tower, the library is expected to be about 60,000 square feet in size. More specific details about the structure will be nailed down during the planning process over the next several months.
“This will not only be a warehouse for books, but a technological center that connects students and scholars with other research opportunities that would not have been possible even a decade ago,” Dockery said. “Something like this project is the only thing that really touches every student and every program at the university.
“Everyone needs this kind of resource, and it’s the right time for Union as a top-tier institution to have a top-tier resource of this kind.”
Construction on the building is scheduled to begin in about a year, with a projected completion date in 2013. Funding for the library will come from a two-year, $36 million capital campaign launching immediately. The campaign will include $18 million for the library, $10 million for endowed scholarships and $8 million for annual scholarships and operations.
Regarding the institution’s application to NCAA Division II, Dockery said Union has been considering the possibility of an alignment change since 2009.
“We really like the new identity of NCAA Division II with its commitment to the student athlete, to a holistic understanding of athletics, which they describe as ‘life in the balance,’” Dockery said.
He added that NCAA Division II has developed an expectation for their institutions and athletic programs to be involved in off-campus community service, which fits Union’s mission well. NCAA Division II has also in recent years been more open to private institutions, which now make up 48 percent of its membership.
“We like all of those things,” Dockery said. “In terms of our size, the kind of athletic competition that we want to have and the understanding of an athletic program that fits within a larger mission of an academic institution, NCAA Division II would be a good fit for Union, and we trust Union would be a good fit for Division II.”
The Gulf South Conference has unanimously endorsed Union’s application for NCAA Division II membership, and would be the conference with which the university would be affiliated if the NCAA approves its application this summer.
That approval would begin a three-year process of transition from the NAIA to the NCAA. During the first year, Union’s athletic teams could still compete in the NAIA and participate in national tournaments. The following two years, Union would compete in NCAA Division II but would not be eligible for postseason play.
If the NCAA accepts its application, Union would adjust to some new athletics regulations. The university would add a compliance officer and a senior women’s athletic administrator, and would consider the addition of new sports, such as women’s golf. Union currently offers 10 sports, which meets the requirements of NCAA Division II.
Trustees also approved a plan for Union to begin a publishing project that will initially consist of a semi-annual journal entitled “Religio et Eruditio.”
The journal will be led by an editorial board consisting of Union University faculty members as well as others from outside the university community. Hunter Baker, associate dean of arts and sciences, and C. Ben Mitchell, Graves Professor of Moral Philosophy, will serve as the journal’s senior editors.
Union plans to publish the first edition of the journal in 2012.
As for the budget, Dockery said the increase was driven largely by the university’s growth over the past three years. The expanded budget includes raises and ongoing benefit packages to more than 700 Union employees, startup funds to support relatively new initiatives like the Hendersonville campus and the Singapore partnership, new faculty and staff positions and growth in technology.
“It is something for which we are very grateful, and is a great testimony to God’s faithfulness to this institution,” Dockery said of the budget.
In other matters, trustees re-elected Rod Parker to serve a third and final year as chairman of the board, and selected Norm Hill as vice chairman and Linda Shoaf as secretary. Trustees also offered special prayers for those across the South who were affected by recent storms.