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UF President Bernie Machen State of the University Speech Thursday, August 25, 2011 (3:00pm) Reitz Union Ballroom Good afternoon. I hope your summer was restful and invigorating. And I hope you had the opportunity to visit some interesting places. Chris and I have yet to take our vacation, but we leave Sunday for an adventure in the wilds of Idaho. We are going to spend a few days with no Blackberries, no TV, not even any electricity, in a location you can only reach by bush plane. In light of wha civilization high unemployment, hurricanes, presidential politics the solitude of Idaho sounds like paradise. te of th e University address, I want to focus on three areas of concern First, I want to talk about diversity at the university, and what we are doing to further our c ommitment to that core principle progress in restoring the three percent reductions from state employee salaries for retirement. Third, and most important, I will talk in some depth about an initiative to re examine and renew our graduate programs. We have filled a number of important leadership positions in the past year Dr. Zina Evans has shouldered new responsibilities and is Zina, could you stand? Thank you. Dave Kratzer is our interim vice president for student affairs. Dave, please stand. We brought Dr. Teresa Balser dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, from the University of Wisconsin. Teri ? We are pleased that Dr. Tom Dana is serving as our interim dean of the College of Education. Tom, would you stand? Tom wi ll remain in his position until Dr. Glenn Good arrives from the Uni versity of Missouri to serve as our new permanent dean Dr. Good will start late next month and is not present today. Danita Nias from the University of Maryland, has arrived as executiv e director and associate vice president of the Alumni Association. Danita, would you please stand up? Thank you. Last but not least, Dr. John Hayes, not present today, is our new Interim Dean for Research at IFAS This spring, in what seems to have bec budget percent tuition increase, combined with operational, administrative, one time and UF Athletic Association funds. avoid layoffs and program cuts this year. While I am not going to talk about it today, we had another banner year in the quantitative areas of fundraising, endowment, research and student characteristics. I will post the data on my w ebsite at www.president.ufl.edu
2 While we continue to make strong hires through our have not made enough headway on improving faculty diversity. Actual numbers of female and H is pan ic faculty are up slightly but faculty diversity has been essentially flat over the past five years. Diversity is a core value of any great university and the reality is that if we want to reach that pinnacle we need to do better We hope to gain new ground on this issue in future hires with guidance from t he P whose members put considerable time and thought into the matter. Diversity Action Plan, released earlier this spring, recommends a number of comm on sense strategies that we will pursue in coming months. These include making university lead ers more accountable for female and minori ty hires and creating attractive incentives for academic units to increase diversity. aculty should The diversity plan will get us closer to that goal. We will also soon finish recruiting for a new university equity officer to replace Larry Ellis, who is retiring. We expect our Office of Institutional Equity to play a pr ominent role in our new effort, and we anticipate the Office of the Provost will bear down on this issue as well. There is much to be done. W the new requirement for state employees to pay thr ee percent of their salaries by providing three percent raises for UF employees. In order to do this, we must find offsetting savings in employee ben efits, and we have been seeking the right solution. The situation for faculty has proved considerably more complicated than for staff. As a result, we have elected to move our proposal forward in two s t ages staff first and faculty second. for the three per Under this plan, staff would be paid for up to 20 0 hours of unused vacation when they leave the university. There is to be no reduction in leave accrual just leave payout at termination. W e anticipate the Board of Trustees will consider the plan on September 6. result in salary increase s for staff on September 16, payable in their October paychecks. This is for all staff. As for faculty, we will continue to discuss changes to benefits with faculty representatives this fall. Our goal is to arrive at an agreement, work through collective bargaining and have a proposal for the Board of Trustees to consider in December for faculty raises in January. Whether we can pay for faculty raises will depend on changes to faculty benefits. We tout ourselves as the foundation of T he Gator Nation. But legacy and br anding aside, what truly distinguishes UF is our doctoral enterprise
3 We graduate nearly half of all the in the state of Florida and more than all but two other re search universities in the nation With 125 doctoral programs, we are among the five most comprehensive universities in the country. Our best scientific and scholarly papers d epend on doctoral students. Our ability to woo promising junior faculty from out there and convince distinguished professors to stay here rests on the quality of our doctoral programs. h operation and growing propensity for i nnovation cascade from work at the docto rate level. Our governing body, the Board of Trustees, has twice voted to re affirm our primary mission of research and graduate education. This takes nothing away from our 000 undergraduate standouts, a commitment that will continue. But do ctoral education is our spirit and our soul. It is who we are as a university and has been since UF graduated its first doctoral students in 1934. Despite this centrality or perhaps because of it our graduate and doctoral enterprise has for far too long operated on academic autopilot. It is large and decentralized and hard to eval uate. Inevitably, the budget and other urgent priorities intercede So when the National Research Council last fall released a report rating graduate disciplines nationwide, I welcomed the news. Here was a rare opportunity to examine what we do The NRC survey gave us an outside perspective. I believed a serious inquiry also demanded an assessment from the inside. We assigned this task last October to a Doctoral Education Review Committee consisting of 10 faculty members, all of them distinguished professors. Dr. Ben Dunn, a distinguished professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, has done a first rate job as chairman of the committee. Over the fall and winter, Dr. Dunn and his colleagues carefully assessed 60 doct oral progr ams Their conclusions are troubling, thought provoking and ultimately, I believe hopeful. More than anything, they are a ca ll to action one that c of the c hanging higher education climate nationally. Let me discuss the main conclusions first. The ut how we wish to move forward. When committee members analyzed the NRC survey, they found some UF departments performed exceptionally and many others respectably Taken together however, it is fair to say that our programs fell short of expectation s for the most prominent university in a bellwether sta te of nearly 19 million people. Of the 61 universities in the Association of American Universities UF ranked 5 3 rd in its percent age of programs that are among the best in their discipl ines. 28 th out of 35 AAU publics Predi ctably, UF did not perform as well as UC Berkeley, the Univ ersity of Michigan and the University of Wiscons in. W e also ranked below Penn State, below Ohio State, below UT Austin. I am well aware of objections that the NRC survey relied on six yea r old d ata and flawed methodology Still, the survey generated a great deal of attention. However problematic it mattered, and matters still.
4 The Doctoral Education Review Committee considered the NRC survey along with a wealth of internal data g athered for four Dr. Hank Frierson dean of the gr aduate school, led the effort to gather this data and vet it wi th departments. Dr. Frierson did a standout job assembling an accurate, highly comprehensive database. The committee further considered the responses to questionnaires sent to all 60 programs. Members reviewed all of this material the NRC data, the graduat e school data and the surveys to determine how each program fared against ni ne carefully chosen ha llmarks of graduate program quality. These hallmarks included the time required for students to earn their the number of doctoral gradua tes per graduate faculty member The results rang ed considerably. S tudents i n some programs sprinted to their degrees in a ra pid three or four years, while others rowed through an abyss as long as nine years. A mere handful of students deserted some programs, while as many as 60 percent fled others In some programs, faculty gra duate pretty close to one Ph.D. per faculty member per year. member every 10 years. The committee did not rank programs against each other, nor did it rank programs against peers elsewhere in academe, a s the NRC did. M embers instead used their best judgment to group like departments into the best on the nine criteria Let me pause here to put this grouping into proper context. an attempt to condemn weak programs. It is n ot a mos t and least valued programs. Nor does it foreshadow penalties or terminations of programs. Instead, it is a starting place for each program, with a suggested route for progress. I have the highest regard for UF faculty and their professional, scientific and scholarly achievements. Many of you are among the best in your fields. Many more of you are steadily accruing the accola de s to join the best. R esearch and doc torate education is your native country and passport to future success Our goal is to p rovide clarity and direction to guide everyone in elevating their own programs, graduate students and ultimately the university A couple of imp We recognize more money woul d help programs address the deficiencies identified by the committee. However, we h a ve faith that leaders will also reexamine their priorities and try creati ve solutions that do not require new resources. Programs with unusually high acceptance rates can become more selective. Programs that have high attrition rates can improve faculty mentor ing. Programs that load graduate students up with so many teaching responsibilities that it impedes their research or scholarship progress can lighten those teaching loads. All will traditions or internal culture not necessarily new fu nding.
5 We recog nize that clarity is essential in this process That is why our provost, Joe Glover has asked each department to draft a five year plan to address its deficiencies. We understand that each program is unique and that some leaders may wish to suggest their own assessments We welcome those suggestions with the five year plans. We have no wish for everyone to hew to a one size fits all directive. We do wish for plans that honestly acknowledge shortcomings and clearly spell ou t s olutions Universit y leadership shares responsibility for crafting solutions. We intend to add $5 to $7 million to graduate student stipends and create more graduate fellowships. In coming years, we will make those investments in the programs that demonstrate the most growth and improvement In the meantime, I would encourage you to think ab out this reexamination and renewal of doctoral programs in t he wider context of the growing emphasis nationally on higher education accountabil ity. But I have never seen as much open skepticism about the value of universities as I do today. Barely a week goes by without another story in The Chronicle for Higher Education reporting an attack on some element of the h igher educat ion mission. Is an undergraduate degree worth the money and time? Is the federal government wasting money on research that is not relevant to society? Why suppo rt doctoral programs over say, job training pr ograms? These used to be infrequ ent questions. Now, they are daily And to a small bu t disturbing extent, the discussion reflects the reality on the ground. For proof of that, look no further than the hig her education politics in Texas and the latest candidate to enter the GOP preside ntial field. I am utterly and completely convinced that universities have tremendous value. I know the University of Florida and its graduates have elevated our state, our nation and our world in countless ways. I also know all public universities will face louder and more persistent demands to prove our worth. When we as the Doctoral Education Review Committee recommends it broadcasts to the world that UF is deeply committed to its studen When we show we seek to nurture programs that eff iciently produce highly sought after graduates it proves we are sensitive to how we spend public dol lars. We want to pursue these and other measures recommended by the committee because they will make UF a better university but they also put us out front of our critics. They provide assurance that there is no need to intercede. onsideration. There is also an internal one.
6 Even as shrinking state budgets over four of the past five years have damaged the university, they have for ced us all to become less shackled to tradition, more nimble, and ultimately more creative. In the p ast when we faced cutback s we had one game plan: Plead with Tallahassee for more money. T oday, we build innovatio n communities. We propose a fresh idea for a new semester that will allow UF to take on 2,000 more undergraduates. We invest heavily in d istance learning. We still rely on Tallahassee, but we will become more and more independent as we transform from a conven tional to a creative university. T his renewal of ou r doctoral enterprise must be a part of that transformation. I touched on the simplest and best reason to embrace this process earlier. Rese arch and doctoral education set t his university apart and define our careers as academics. Grad ons with their professional success busy, and we all have a lot of responsibilities but we have to get doctoral education right. I thank you for your energy, passion and creativity in contributing to that outcome in the coming months and years. me questions. If any one stump s me, I may call on Provost Glover or Dr. Dunn, who are both here, to help with an answer. ###