Testimony of Michelle Consalvo of Boston University in Connection with Proposed Ordinance on BSL-4 Research in the City of Boston

in Featured, Press Releases
April 18th, 2014

Good afternoon. My name is Michelle Consalvo. I am a lifelong Bostonian who currently lives and works in the City of Boston. I live in West Roxbury, at 93 Addington Road, and work at Boston University as the Assistant Vice President of Government & Community Affairs.

I would like to take this opportunity to talk about BU’s dynamic relationship with the City of Boston, a relationship that Boston University holds in the highest regard. However, before I continue, I would like to acknowledge the extensive support that the NEIDL has received from both the community and local trade and advocacy organizations, many of which you will receive letters from or hear from this evening. These organizations include: Partners Healthcare, MassMEDIC, MassBio, AICUM, COBTH, the New England Council, Boston Medical Center, Newmarket Business Association, Harvard Medical School, the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, Tufts Medical School, the Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM), the Massachusetts Hospital Association, The Boston Globe – which leant its support to the NEIDL and its mission in an editorial featured in Sunday’s paper – and the Boston Municipal Research Bureau to name just a few.

Boston University, very much is Boston’s university. Over a hundred years ago, Boston University’s third president described BU as an institution “in the heart of the city, in the service of the city.” This description rings more true today than ever, and serves as the basis for Boston University’s extensive and ever-growing array of community benefits and services.

Today, BU is the third largest employer in Boston. Nearly 44% of our 10,000 faculty and staff live in the city, a fact that reinforces BU’s longstanding commitment to being a good partner and neighbor to the City of Boston and the surrounding community.

Perhaps the best example of this commitment is BU’s participation in the payment in lieu of taxes program, commonly known as the “PILOT program.” Back in the 1980s, Boston University was the first institution to participate in this voluntary program. Since 2003, BU has contributed more than $100M in real estate tax, PILOT, and linkage payments, funding that goes directly into the city’s coffers. In FY2013 alone, BU contributed more than $5M in PILOT payments to the City, on top of an estimated $10M in real estate taxes and linkage payments. BU is proud of its long-standing PILOT agreement with the City of Boston, and will continue to be a leading PILOT contributor.

BU’s signature community program is the Boston Scholars, which is the largest, longest-running scholarship program of its kind in the country. The program, which began in the 1970s, awards four-year, full-time scholarships to 25 Boston Public School students every year. Several years ago, the University expanded this program, and committed to meeting the full financial need of any Boston Public Schools student admitted to BU. In FY2012 alone, BU awarded more than $11M in scholarship funding to 326 graduates of Boston Public Schools. We provide this financial benefit not only in recognition of these exceptional Boston Public Schools students, but also in honor of our long-standing partnership with the City of Boston.

In addition to the NEIDL’s contribution to our local innovation economy through its unique, cutting-edge scientific research, Boston University also views the NEIDL as an opportunity to deepen our connection with the community through new and enhanced community programming. The NEIDL has already provided new benefits for the community, in the form of local infrastructure improvements, grant funding to local community organizations, and new opportunities to engage students in STEM education. To date, BU has contributed a combined total of $3.3M to the Boston Neighborhood Housing Trust, which funds the creation and preservation of affordable housing units throughout Boston, to the Boston Neighborhood Jobs Trust, which provides adult education, English as a Second Language and job training services to Boston residents, to the South End Community Improvements Fund, and to the Cortes Street Housing Project. Boston University also contributed $200,000 to the Boston Public Health Commission for first responder training and technical upgrades, and funded a $1M expansion of our City Lab Academy, BU’s biotechnology and biomedical certificate training program, which provided full-tuition scholarships for over 100 community residents over a 4-year period.

As the NEIDL nears full operating capacity, BU is prepared to work in close cooperation with the City to fashion an appropriate package of additional community benefits once BSL-4 permit approval is granted.

BU has been proud member of the South End community since the BU School of Medicine was established in 1873 on what’s today known as the BU Medical Campus. For nearly the past 150 years, BU’s research and initiatives have addressed issues and concerns — such as Alzheimer’s, health disparities, maternal and child health, and cardiovascular disease — impacting not only the neighboring community, but also the broader Boston community. Most recently, Boston University, in partnership with the City, established the BU Fitwell at BCYF-Blackstone. This initiative, based at the Blackstone Community Center in the South End, was created to increase access to free and low-cost physical activities and healthy living resources to the community. The program is staffed exclusively by BU Fitness personnel, and the fitness and wellness programming is directed and guided by experts from the University’s Sargent College, and the Schools of Medicine, Public Health, and Social Work. Through Fitwell, BCYF Blackstone Community Center members ages 14 and older, have access to quality fitness training, nutrition counseling, and wellness programing in a state-of-the-art fitness facility designed and renovated by Boston University.

The University also initiated a summer athletic camp scholarship program to benefit Boston youth. The camps include basketball, hockey, sailing, rowing, softball, and lacrosse. Over the past three years, hundreds of local youth have had the opportunity to participate in these camps, many of which are coached by our varsity coaches, and benefit from the experience of spending a significant amount of time on our campus.

The programs I’ve discussed up to this point are just a fraction of the community resources that exist on our Charles River and BU Medical campuses. I’ve provided a comprehensive list of BU’s community programs and services, excerpted from the University’s most recent Institutional Master Plan, along with my testimony. A brief list of community benefits and programs, which are representative of BU’s efforts to improve the health and wellbeing of Boston residents, is also included in my written testimony.

Sample of BU community programming:

  • Prevention Research Center
  • Alzheimer’s Disease Center
  • Boston University Arthritis Center
  • The Center of Excellence in Sickle Cell Disease
  • The Boston University Hearing Research Center
  • The Pulmonary Center
  • The Whitaker Cardiovascular Institute of Boston University Medical Center
  • Women’s Health Interdisciplinary Research Center (WHIRC)
  • PAIRS Program (Partnering in Alzheimer’s Instruction Research Study)
  • Boston University Geriatric Services
  • Smart Smiles at Boston Public Schools
  • Oral Health Screenings through Head Start & Early Head Start
  • Healthy Athletes® Special Smiles® Initiative
  • Patient Treatment Center, Medical Campus Location
  • Horizons for Homeless Children
  • Community Scholars Program
  • Boston Healthcare for the Homeless Project (BHCHP)
  • Refugee and Immigrant Health Program

Chairman Flaherty and members of the committee, I thank you for the opportunity to address the Government Operations Committee this afternoon. As one of the 4,400 BU employees who call Boston home, I can assure you that we – who own and rent homes here, work here, raise our children here, and are part of the fabric of this community – we too have a stake in the successful operation of NEIDL facility and its mission to develop life-saving treatments and cures.

Michelle Consalvo
Assistant Vice President of Government & Community Affairs