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MSU President Jackson Discusses Coronavirus, Pension Costs And OVC Basketball Tournaments

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Murray State University
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In an interview with WKMS' Chad Lampe Murray State University President Bob Jackson discusses coronavirus, pension costs, and OVC basketball tournaments.

As coronavirus case numbers continue to rise in the U.S., health experts urge the public to exercise preventative measures. Murray State University President Bob Jackson said he and Murray State’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Hughes are developing a plan in the case of an outbreak in the region and watching the spread of the virus closely. 

“Well, it's obviously an international issue. We've been watching it closely for really several weeks now, and so we were making plans and preparations,” said Jackson. “So, you plan for the worst and you hope for the best. We've been spending a lot of time doing that.”  

Members of the community may reference Murray State’s new webpage dedicated to updating the public on any virus outbreaks.

Jackson said the current pension system issue could be costly for the university if legislation doesn't change before July 1. He said the current 49-50% pension contributions could skyrocket to 93%, which would be "a major financial issue."

“It's a major financial issue, the biggest single financial issue that we deal with at Murray State University,” said Jackson. “ I never really thought in my career that 49% or 50% would be a good thing. Ten years ago, the pension rate that we paid was about 10%. Today, it's 49. If nothing happens in the legislative session, it goes to 93. It's unmanageable, it's unsustainable, and we have to address it.”

Jackson said there are a couple of bills now in the House and Senate which could mitigate some of the pension issues; House Bill 171 is one bill he said he is watching very closely. 

House Bill 171 has since passed the House unanimously and is now in the Senate. 

Jackson said he is working with the legislature on the house budget that would help keep the pension rates for KERS at 49-50% and attended meetings in Frankfort this week to discuss pension issues. 

According to Jackson, many legislative leaders have a full understanding of the pressures a 93% rate would place on not just state universities, but health departments, mental health agencies and other quasi-state agencies. 

The potential dollar difference to Murray State’s next fiscal year would be approximately $4 million if the rate explodes to 93%. 

This week the Board of Regents tapped Dr. Tim Todd as permanent provost and vice president of academic affairs after Jackson made the recommendation. Todd has served Murray State for 25 years in a variety of academic roles including professor, Dean of MSU’s Arthur J. Bauernfeind College of Business, Assistant Provost, Associate Provost and Interim Provost twice. 

“I'm so excited that he's now in this role on a permanent basis,” said Jackson. “He has done a wonderful job since he's been back in this interim spot since August. Tim Todd is one of those individuals who just does his work, he does it well, and he doesn't say a whole lot about it. He's just top notch in every respect.”

This week both men and women Racer basketball teams competed at the OVC tournament in Evansville, Indiana. Jackson said he is excited for all the players and believes Evansville is a “great venue” for Murray State. 

“We've had a lot of success there over the last couple of years and I expect a lot more success this week,” said Jackson. “Our teams have made us proud. They've made Murray State proud and I wish them all the best.”

In the OVC tournament this week, women’s Racer basketball fell 33 - 88 to University of Tennessee at Martin March 4. The men’s team will play March 6 against Austin Peay at 9 p.m.

Within the past year Murray State has launched a rebranding campaign. Jackson praised MSU’s Executive Director of Marketing and Communication Shawn Touney for his “fantastic job.” He said the goal of the rebrand is telling the story of Murray State.

“We're using the branding message of, ‘We are Racers,’ and it's simple, it's clean,” said Jackson. “It really will help us tell our story to future students. I'm very proud of the work we've done there.”