On Monday, October 13, at the invitation of the Academic Senate, President Easter and I had the chance to offer remarks to the campus faculty community. As usual, this annual event was a chance to talk about some of the great accomplishments of the past year, some exciting initiatives on the horizon and to address some of the challenges along the way. And also as usual, the questions and discussion following our remarks was spirited and gave those on the campus an open opportunity to offer opinions and responses to our comments.
I know it is difficult to find a time and place for all to attend, so I am sharing a version of my comments on the blog this week. As those of you who have been in an audience where I speak will know, this is not an exact transcript of my words - but it is the text from which I spoke on Monday.
Remarks at the Annual Meeting of the Faculty - Monday, October 13, 3:10pm, Illini Union Ballroom
Thank you to the members of the Academic Senate and Senate Executive Committee for once again hosting this event.
Welcome to you President Easter – it is always a pleasure to have you join us. We deeply appreciate all that you have done in your relatively short tenure as president, not only to restore stability to the whole university, but to work so effectively with our external stakeholders to spread the word about the value that the University of Illinois brings to the well-being of the state of Illinois. It is always heartwarming to welcome you back “home,” so to speak. All of us look forward to hearing your perspectives on the state of the university and your vision for our collective future in just a few minutes.
To all of you in the audience today – our faculty certainly as well as many of our staff and students – thank you for taking time this afternoon to attend and thank you for the opportunity to talk briefly about where we’ve come in this past year, where we’re headed together and to touch on some particularly exciting achievements and accomplishments.
As is the tradition at this meeting, after President Easter and I have both offered our remarks, we’ll open the floor to your questions to both of us and to the members of the Senate Executive Committee.
In many ways it has been a great year for the campus.
- We set records once again for undergraduate applications with more than 35,000. And our new class – 6,932 - is the strongest academic one to date with an average ACT of 29 and SAT of 1372. They joined more than 25,000 returning undergraduates. Together with our graduate students, we have students from every state in the nation and more than 100 countries.
- All around the campus – and particularly visible in the core – you see barricades, trucks and fences – temporary inconveniences that signal massive reinvestments in the rejuvenation and rebirth of our facilities going on right now.
- We have a new recipient of the prestigious Humboldt Award in Naira Hovakimyan of Mechanical Engineering.
- Two members of our Dance faculty were honored by the Doris Duke Foundation: Tere O’Connor with the Doris Duke Artist Award and Jennifer Monson with a Doris Duke Impact Award.
- We had four new members elected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
- Five faculty members were awarded Guggenheim Fellowships.
- We won a $3M Mellon Foundation award to lead the 15 university Humanities Without Walls Consortium – a grant led by Diane Harris of the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities.
- We won the bid to establish a $70 million Digital Manufacturing Design Innovation Institute (DMDI) in Chicago. This grant was matched by $250 million from 41 collaborating companies, (including GE, Proctor and Gamble, Lockheed Martin, John Deere, Caterpillar, Boeing, Dow Chemical) and 23 universities (including UIC, Indiana University, University of Chicago, Northwestern University). The project’s Technical Director is Bill King of Mechanical Sciences and Engineering.
- The Graduate College was chosen to coordinate a massive, CIC-wide NSF initiative that aims to double the number of underrepresented STEM faculty members in our consortium.
- A $25 million USAID grant through ACES is helping to introduce new, sustainable varieties of soy beans in Sub-Saharan Africa.
- We are once again, the home of the most international students of any public university in the country.
Our highlight reel could go on for days. And I will give a few more examples of the most recent accolades our faculty have gotten at the end of my talk.
At every level of accomplishment, from individual to the campus, from student to faculty, and from local to global – whether in the humanities or the sciences, our peers, our state and our nation are looking to Illinois for answers and for leadership. And we are competing with the best national and global universities for talent that will allow us to have the greatest respect, impact and visibility.
When I joined the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – almost exactly three years ago – I started with a listening and learning tour – and by asking all of you where we needed to position ourselves for the greatest future challenges to society. What steps did we need to take immediately and what strategies did we need to pursue to prepare Illinois for the challenges 20 or 50 years ahead?
We have focused squarely on actions to move us forward as an institution. We are providing the support to enable faculty pursuit of cutting edge teaching, scholarship, discovery and innovation. We must be the university where our students find profoundly transformational experiences that allow them to be leaders in whatever they choose to do in life.
There will always be challenges along the way. And I believe it is how well we face them, whether we can turn challenges into learning moments, and whether we come together as a community of scholars and colleagues, which will determine whether we come out stronger and are able to take the biggest leaps forward.
And when it comes to challenges along the way, clearly there is one that I want to address right up front. My decision, along with President Easter and the Board of Trustees, not to recommend the final approval of Professor Steven Salaita’s appointment to the faculty. All of you here have heard me talk about that decision since I spoke about it at the last Academic Senate meeting and at the many meetings I have had with all of the colleges and a few departments in LAS, as well as meetings with students and staff, so I won’t go over the details again now.
What I do want to address are the steps we are taking to move forward after that decision.
As I have said, I should have been more consultative with the provost who would have consulted with the dean, director and other faculty involved in this process. And clearly, this has demonstrated a need to improve the hiring process, so that approval from the Board is sought as soon as possible after the candidate has responded to our offer and well before a faculty member is scheduled to begin working.
On that aspect – reviewing the hiring process – we are already taking steps. Last week, Provost Adesida in conjunction with the Academic Senate convened a Hiring Policies and Processes Committee to examine this issue and make recommendations for changes or clarifications in the faculty hiring. The committee is chaired by Professor Eric Johnson from Law and consists of six other senior faculty members from LAS, ACES, Education and FAA along with two administrative staff members (Charles Gammie – Physics and Astronomy; Michael Rothberg – English; Ed Feser – FAA; Amy Ando – Agricultural Economics; Dorothy Espelage – Educational Psychology; Jean Phillipe Mathy – Literature, Culture, and Linguistics; Sandy Jones – AHR; and Katherine Galvin – Provost’s Office) They have been asked to work quickly and to deliver their recommendations by the end of November.
Since I made this decision, I have been on a new listening and learning tour. I have met with every college, with any department and unit that has asked to speak with me on the matter and with a number of student groups – including some of those who are here this afternoon. And I’ll continue these meetings if I am invited. I have already learned a great deal. Let me try to summarize a few key points:
- I’ve learned that while the principle of academic freedom is universally viewed as the bedrock of American higher education, what it means, whether there are any boundaries and who gets to set those are much less clear. Campus debates/symposia/lectures by experts about this would be really stimulating and useful; we saw one of the first steps in that process at the recent forum co-sponsored by IPRH and the Beckman Institute. We have the opportunity to be leaders in the ongoing national debate. I hope that you will participate if you are invited to be a speaker – whether on this campus or around the country.
- I have learned that how scholarship and research are defined and carried out vary dramatically by discipline. While we all agree that we must maintain the highest standards of quality, we all work under significantly different methods and processes and evaluative measures. These differences and how they influence our individual perspectives have become far clearer to many this fall. And I include myself in that group. I’ve been reminded how important this is.
- Many have voiced the importance of finding ways to re-establish a more unified campus community, to deal with the polarization and divisions between people with opposing views, and that they are willing to help. This will take more than a single committee and more than just speeches and messages. Members of my leadership team and I welcome robust, sometimes contentious debate, examination and consideration by different groups that is going on now and should continue if we are all to learn lessons from this challenge.
And that is the basis for the 3-year strategic plan that has guided our decisions, investments and priorities since I spoke to you at this event last year.
At that time, the plan was very recently published and much of my talk was focused on the goals and initiatives outlined in it. The feedback, both at this event and from the many conversations I had with you at other times was encouraging but also challenging. What you told me pretty consistently was something to this effect: “It’s a great plan. But now you have to translate it into action.”
That was a fair challenge. And a year later, I’m happy and excited to tell you that the campus has indeed been aggressively translating that plan into measurable, visible action.
As I hope you all know by this time, we outlined four major goals:
- Fostering scholarship, discovery and innovation. This goal is all about recruiting and retaining the very best faculty and providing you with the tools to meet and surpass your expectations and potential.
- Providing transformational learning experiences to our students. This is all about recruiting the very best students, from broad backgrounds and life experiences and making them ready to become leaders in the community, the state, the nation and the world.
- Making a visible and significant societal impact. This is all about making sure that our work bears relevance to our internal community, and also is valued beyond our campus because it touches the lives of the people around us.
- And carefully stewarding existing and generating new resources to fuel our initiatives. This is about making sure that we are as efficient as we possibly can be, looking for ways to cut costs whenever possible. And it’s about generating new resources from relationships with friends, alums, corporations and foundations who share the passion of our vision and mission.
We stated our bold goal to add 500 new faculty hires in the coming years – to create new areas of strategic expertise and to bolster traditional areas of excellence. We authorized 180 searches and this fall, welcomed 150 new faculty members to campus. There are already another 134 searches authorized for this year and we expect that number to grow as opportunities present themselves.
- We invested significant new resources to recruit faculty from diverse backgrounds – both by increasing TOPS funding by 35% and adding new options for hiring additional diverse candidates from exceptional search pools.
We permanently increased HASS funding by 50%.
- We have increased support for endowed chairs and professorships that are helping us to recruit leading faculty in every college. Private gifts generated $10 million towards that effort last year. This year we brought in new members from UCLA, Penn, and Michigan just to name a few.
- We once again implemented a salary program that matched or exceeded those of many of our peers.
- We raised $10 million in private philanthropy this year for endowed chairs, professorships and fellowships.
- The first three of our cluster hiring programs – in Social Equality and Cultural Understanding, Health and Wellness and Energy and Environment – are underway and are part of campus and college hiring plans for this year.
In terms of our transformative learning investments – our students are already seeing immediate changes.
- We are more than $19 million into an expected $82 million classroom and learning renovation effort.
- We are investing another $80 million through the Facilities Matching initiative that will address deferred maintenance and improvements of non-instructional spaces.
- Our advancement efforts yielded more than $48 million in new student support.
- And the recommendations that came from last year’s Campus Conversation on Undergraduate Education have been submitted and the first ones are being implemented this semester.
In terms of our progress towards visible societal impact:
- The Institute for Sustainability, Energy and the Environment was formally approved and Professor Evan DeLucia was appointed as the director.
- The Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Initiative was formed and Professor Neal Cohen is now leading that effort.
- A joint program with Extension and the Provost made $2.5 million available to the campus community through a competitive grant program to more closely tie faculty research to statewide and community engagement.
- A broad series of working groups and committees that cross the range of disciplines on the campus have been convened by the Vice Chancellor of Research.
-Interdisciplinary Working Group for Humanities,
-Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Working Group,
-Working Group for Integrative Scholarship in the Arts,
-Working Group in Computation, Data and Information,
-Working Group for Social and Behavioral Sciences and
-Biology Coordinating Committee
All are meeting and have been charged to present recommendations on actions and strategies to enhance scholarship in each respective field.
- The founding of a new college of medicine focused around the intersection of engineering, computation, technology and health care for the 21st century has gone rapidly from a promising concept into a solid plan for implementation. The initial proposals have been approved by the Senate and will be presented to the USC soon. We will present a business plan and a governance plan to the University Health Systems Committee of the Board of Trustees in November. Our goal is to have the inaugural class of this new College enter in the fall of 2017.
So that’s a ten minute snapshot of the actions we’ve seen undertaken this year. The list is much, much more extensive and you can see all of it on the strategic planning web site – strategicplan.illinois.edu. You don’t need to sit and listen to me read lists. And I want to make sure we have plenty of time for President Easter’s remarks and to field all of your questions.
I do hope I’ve managed to demonstrate two things this afternoon.
The first is this:
We are empowering you, the faculty, to determine the best and most productive strategies for campus investment and support for your discipline and to advance your work. All of these working groups and initiatives and programs are faculty-directed and faculty-governed. The agendas are in the hands of those of you who are the experts and who understand where we can best leverage our intellectual capacity. This plan is intended to be framework for all of you to choose your path to excellence and for the administration to support those efforts.
This is the second point I hope I am making clearly:
Together, we’re moving forward thoughtfully. We’re moving forward strategically. And we are moving forward with determination.
I started my remarks with some highlights from this past year. I’d like to end with a look at a few more, from just the past three weeks alone.
- Professor May Berenbaum was honored with the National Medal of Science.
- Professor Tami Bond was named as a 2014 MacArthur Fellow.
- Professor Julia Dowling was named to the National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic, and Other Populations, a committee of the US Census Bureau.
- The campus received the 2014 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award – the second consecutive year for this honor.
- Six area studies centers received Department of Education Title VI funding—support considered critical to the existence of many international programs in higher education. With a commitment of more than $3 million for 2014-15—and an expected total of more than $12.5 million through 2018—the news affirms the University of Illinois’ established and growing reputation as a leader in international public engagement and research.
- The US Olympic Committee designated the campus as an official Paralympic Training Site.
- We officially recognized our six newest University Scholars.
- We dedicated the new ECE building on the same day we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Beckman Institute.
This is a place that never stops moving forward for any reason at any time. We may disagree and we thrive on open and frank debate around the most important issues of our time. But the research, the teaching and the engagement that have been the hallmarks of Illinois since 1867 continue at a pace that no other university in my career experience can ever match.
Every day since I arrived here, I have continued to be inspired by the people around me, the people who are the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Together you comprise the most dedicated, loyal, intelligent, and compassionate community that I have ever had the privilege to call my home.
I am honored to be your colleague and to serve as your chancellor.