University President's Report, Faculty Senate
March 16, 2009

Thank you, Robyn. Good afternoon, everyone. As I reported last week in a letter to faculty, staff, and students, over the course of the past two months I have intensified dialogue with all segments of the University community, above all with the leadership of this Senate through its Executive Council and its Financial and Physical Planning Committee. I have listened to the concerns of the community about a variety of important matters, including what is to my mind the most consequential for the well-being of the University and of Vermont: as we make the budgetary and operational changes required for successful navigation of today’s troubled economic waters, we must maintain UVM’s academic quality and distinction. I take this as the most sacred trust of my office, and with special gratitude both to the Executive Council and the FPPC, I can report with confidence today that we are securely on course to maintain the academic quality of the University for the benefit of students, faculty and staff, and the citizens of our State. It is also my firm belief that we continue to be well-positioned to emerge from this difficult economy stronger and sooner than many peer institutions.
I will return to that central issue of academic quality, but first I want to touch briefly on other topics addressed in last week’s letter.

As I said at the outset of these remarks, stewardship of academic quality is a sacred trust. In the short term, we are intensively examining what needs to be done to maintain, preserve, and even enhance academic quality in the light of budget reconciliation processes. Last week, Associate Provost Jane Knodell and Vice President Richard Cate met with the deans and determined that, in addition to the return of about $200,000 already committed to the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, we will need to make additional investments—perhaps well over a million dollars more—in faculty positions, teaching assistantships, and instructional support to ensure the quality of the academic experience for students and faculty next year. To be clear, the analysis to date suggests that those investments will not have a one-to-one correspondence with the areas and positions affected in current budget cut scenarios; instead, investments will be designed in the most strategic and effective ways we can devise to maintain the quality of the academic and student experience. That work will extend beyond the just-completed conversations with the deans to incorporate other information that may be forthcoming from chairs, from faculty, and from the work of the FPPC as we deepen and round out our picture of areas that may need attention in the coming academic year. In the longer term, we are committed to the academic-quality impact analysis of which President Warhol-Down wrote in her memo of last Monday to the faculty on behalf of the Executive Council of the Senate. Because the Executive Council suggested that I charge a committee comprising members of the FPPC and the Senate’s Curricular Affairs Committee, I am asking the chairs of those committees, Bud Meyers and Cindy Forehand, to serve as co-chairs of an Academic Quality Assurance Task Force that will be convened by Associate Provost Knodell; also on the task force will be three other members of each of the two Senate committees, nominated by the committee chairs, and, in addition to Jane Knodell, one other central administrator and two deans, to be appointed after I receive the Senate nominations.

The challenges we face as an institution are serious. I hope what I have just told you about the decisions already made and the measures under way reinforces what I have said many times—so long as we work together as a community, our challenges are not only manageable but also provide us with opportunities to continue building academic excellence. I continue to be inspired by our dedicated staff, our talented faculty, our marvelously engaged students, and our devoted alumni and friends. I continue to be inspired, too, by a vision of a university in which we continue to work together to advance our commitments to liberal education, environment, and health in a rich array of programs that are deeply rewarding intellectually for our students and faculty and that will promote solutions that support health and sustainability, locally and globally. Thank you.