University of Vermont

Office of the President

President's Report to Board of Trustees November 12_2004

President’s Report
Board of Trustees, November 12, 2004

Chairman Pizzagalli, trustees of the University, faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends, the sheer heft of our Board books tells us that we have in store for this meeting many stimulating and challenging matters for reflection and deliberation. I want to give you an overview of the state of the University, and then I have two particular topics I want to touch on.

The state of the University is very good. Today the vision you endorsed unanimously along with the Strategic Financial Plan is much more than a vision: it is a new reality.

Let me point to a few of the ways in which our invest-and-grow strategy for UVM is already paying dividends. Witness the Honors College, the palpable intellectual excitement it has created among our students and faculty, and the buzz about UVM that it has fed into in the national media. Witness the new attitude of pride in the University prevalent among our stakeholders. Witness the University’s high-water mark in research productivity, with a $125 million in awards coming into the University through the Office of Sponsored Programs in the fiscal year that ended this past June 30. Witness the all-time record level of diversity this fall among our students, faculty, and staff. Witness our continuing success in raising private dollars to support the advance of UVM, with nearly $175 million booked to the Campaign as of the end of October. Witness the rapid transformation of the physical campus at a number of sites where construction is already under way, not to mention the critical new projects, notably the student center, that the Board authorized in September. Witness the widespread excitement among faculty, students, and staff in response to the many challenging, provocative, and stimulating lectures on campus this fall, including those in the President’s Distinguished Lecture Series, the Aiken lectures, and others. And witness the latest external affirmation of the soundness of the University’s strategic plan and of its financial strength, the long-term A+ bond rating we received this week from Standard and Poor’s.

As all these milestones are registered—and many others besides, including what is undoubtedly the first week in the history of UVM in which both our basketball and hockey programs have picked up votes in the AP Division I polls—we are keeping our eyes on the prize, the building of academic quality inside and outside the classroom for our students, increased recognition and visibility for our robust and distinguished research enterprise, a deeper and ever-more effective commitment to our indispensable role as a driver of the intellectual, cultural, social, and economic well-being of Vermont, and a more and more rewarding sense of community for all who are affiliated with the University of the Green Mountains.

I want to assure the Board, and all of our stakeholders, that we are also focused on critical next steps, on completing the Campaign successfully, with emphasis on the scholarship funding essential to meeting our enrollment goals; on creating a pervasive campus culture that will focus on bringing talented, diverse students to UVM, including increasing numbers of Vermonters, and on challenging them in engaging ways to attain the highest levels of academic, intellectual, professional, and personal development; on executing with high-quality and efficiency our ambitious capital projects; on pursuing curricular innovations that will build on the success of the Honors College and add value to the experience of all students at UVM, including the writing-in-the-disciplines initiative now under consideration by the Faculty Senate; on implementing our new management information systems (the ERP) and on additional measures to streamline operations and improve service to all whose lives are touched by UVM; on working in partnership with Fletcher Allen Health Care to strengthen the academic health science center; and on further refining the scope and focus of our research initiatives.

We have, to be sure, very high but achievable aspirations for UVM, and, to go with them, very high expectations of our students, which brings us to the first of the two topics I want to address before closing these remarks. My classroom experience this semester, teaching an undergraduate course on the modern tradition in poetry, has confirmed and enriched my sense of how bright, talented, and eager for intellectual stimulation and growth our students are, and my work with our student leaders confirms my sense that today’s UVMers can fairly be characterized as highly responsible and engaged citizens. There is no question, however, that a very small minority of the student body utterly frustrated our high expectations through the irresponsible, destructive, dangerous, and inexcusable behavior we witnessed three weeks ago on the Redstone Campus. It was nothing short of disgusting.

We can look to this episode as a learning experience, but I have to say that for most of our students it was a lesson they did not need: they already knew, and said, immediately, that the disturbance that night was deplorable, that it did not reflect well on them or on the University, and that they condemned it without reservation—there view was aptly expressed, for instance, in the resolution of condemnation passed unanimously and at the earliest opportunity by the Student Government Association. As for the administration, I can assure the Board that we are not likely to be surprised again by what was an unprecedented event at this University. Other campuses had experienced destructive so-called victory celebrations. We had not. I do not believe it is likely we will see one again. Eight more students were charged this week with criminal conduct as a result of the disturbance, following on the five who were cited quite quickly on the heels of the event. More citations will follow. We are supporting our students by sending a very strong message that we will not tolerate behavior that is dangerous and destructive of the fabric of community, on or off the campus. With respect to campus judicial processes, we follow the Federal Educational Right to Privacy Act. We do not discuss individual cases and their disposition. Due process has yet to play out for the students who have received citations. We hope that they will learn from their experience. One thing that it is likely that some of them will learn is that they are no longer welcome as members of the UVM community.

I want to commend our student leaders, our Department of Police Services, and the staff in our Division of Student and Campus Life who worked together to ensure that the celebration of the historic Red Sox World Series victory a week after the Redstone disturbance was safe, orderly, and wholesome. I personally witnessed their work together late that night, and I couldn’t have been prouder of them, or more impressed by the determination of the whole community to demonstrate that the appalling aberration the week before was just that—an appalling aberration.

That the vision for the University of Vermont is now more than a vision—that it is more and more a new reality—seems to me a resounding affirmation of the commitment of this Board to making significant investments in order to build academic quality and value. It also seems to me that, in parallel with the commitment of the Board, there is increasing recognition among the citizens of the State, and among state leaders, of the very high value—the very high return on investment—derived from state support of post-secondary education in general and of the University of Vermont in particular.

And so we come to my closing topic, which concerns a modification we wish to make in our request for Board approval of the University’s state appropriations request. Two beautifully illustrative embodiments of the rising recognition in Vermont of the value of investment in post-secondary education appeared in the last few months in the form of two reports. One was issued this summer by the Windham Foundation, the report of the 28th Grafton Conference, titled Driving the Next Generation of Economic Opportunity. That report stressed the vital role of Vermont’s only research university in regional economic development. It followed a Vermont Business Roundtable report issued last spring, Becoming the Knowledge State: The Vital Importance of Higher Education in Vermont’s 21st Century Economy. The Business Roundtable report offered a set of recommendations, including a strongly worded injunction to the State of Vermont to commit to the goal of moving from 47th to 40th in funding for higher education per $1,000 of per capita income.

That goal has been strongly embraced by the Commission on Higher Education Funding (or CHEF), the legislatively created body that for the better part of the past decade has fostered a very effective process for coordinated funding requests for state appropriations from the Vermont Student Assistance Cooperation, the Vermont State Colleges, and the University of Vermont. We expect that CHEF will formalize its recommendations to the legislature later this month, calling on the State of Vermont to attain, over a multi-year period, the 40th-place goal recommended by the Vermont Business Roundtable. Some initial modeling of what might be required to move Vermont from 47th to 40th included a high-end scenario for annual appropriations increases of 7% per year for five years running, and it was because we believed that 7% was probably the very highest number on which CHEF might settle that we put a 7% request into the Board book as the upper limit for UVM’s appropriation request. New modeling suggests that the goal can be met with annual increases of 5% per year over a six-year period, and consultation between the leaders of the publicly funded CHEF institutions and the State of Vermont suggests that, given the considerable financial challenges the State will face in the upcoming legislative session, the 5% scenario makes a great deal more sense than the 7% scenario—and we recognize that even the 5% scenario may be a stretch given the significant demands on limited public dollars. Accordingly, we will ask the Board to authorize us to request a 5% appropriations increase in concert with CHEF, not a 7% increase, and we will, furthermore, ask for authorization to add to the ask for a 5% increase in recurring base budget an additional request for $1 million in supplemental one-time funds, as we did last year, for investments important to the well-being of Vermont and Vermonters. I wanted you to know as a Board, on the threshold of this meeting, that is the modified appropriations request we will be bringing to you tomorrow through the Finance and Budget Committee. Here, Mr. Chairman, concludes the president’s report. I would be happy to answer any questions if we have time. Thank you.

Last modified November 21 2004 05:21 PM