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2003 State of the University Address

2003 State of the University Address (Audio)
Given by President J. Bernard Machen
August 26, 2003

Segment Description Duration
1 New Beginnings 01:30
2 Water Conservation 01:10
3 TRAX on Campus 01:08
4 Administrative Appointments 01:05
5 Enrollment & Tuition 02:13
6 Plans and Opportunities 00:51
7 Campus Long-Range Development 01:39
8 Development Campaigns 01:29
9 Academic Affairs Strategic Planning 02:11
10 Future Vision 00:49
11 Announcing the Utah Brain Institute 05:17
12 Diversity as a Hallmark 03:28
13 Kudos and Conclusion 01:12

2003 State of the University Address (Transcript)

New Beginnings

First, I’d like to welcome everyone back to what is the first full week of classes. It’s great to have both the faculty and the students here, bustling about the campus and doing what they do best.

It’s interesting to me this year: For some reason I sense a high level of energy and excitement around the campus. We had some kind of a “riot” Friday night at the Union called the Crimson Night. I understand over 4,000 students showed up and by all accounts it was very successful. That kind of energy is always welcome, especially as we kick off a new year.

Then we had PlazaFest Saturday with over 2,000 people there, and we had FanFest up at the stadium on Saturday as well. On Friday we opened the new Olympic Cauldron Park, which is now officially part of the University of Utah, and there were crowds up there all weekend as the flame burned one more time.

This Thursday night, of course, is our first football game. We’re excited about Urban Meyer and what excitement he brings to the campus. Some of us will be at the game, but my wife and a bunch of others will be up at Snowbird for a KUED benefit with Garrison Keeler. She said, “If you ask me to choose between football and Garrison Keeler, there is no choice.” So I am very sympathetic to those of you who may want to be up there listening to Garrison.

Water Conservation

For those of you who’ve been away this has really been another long, hot, dry summer. We’ve been working on our water conservation this summer. Water usage for this period is down 11 percent over a year ago, and a year ago was down 21 percent over two years ago. So there is a noticeable and, I think, real effort on the part of our grounds people to try to save water.

Almost as a token (but nevertheless it’s caused a lot of comment in Federal Heights) the President’s house has decided to “brown out” the front yard, and amongst all those lush green yards over there we have a nice little brown yard called Rosenblatt House. That’s Chris’s work again but it feels pretty good to us.

I’m told that we have now converted over 300,000 square feet of our campus into drought tolerant landscaping. A lot of that is around the TRAX line, but it’s a significant effort on our part to try to be sensitive to the realities of living in the desert as we all do.

TRAX On Campus

We’re just about done with light rail construction and I can say that with some finality. Because of your patience and your support we are going to be opening it on September 29, almost a year in advance of the scheduled opening.

This new transportation modality that goes right through our campus – with a roundabout with a light rail train going through it – has much anticipation on the part of our traffic people about safety. We’re concerned about it. We know that students are going to do what they want to do when they want to do it, but so will the light rail so you’ve got to hopefully come together on this.

We have an advertising campaign underway to try to make people aware of using the roundabout and being attentive to the light rail and I hope people will take it seriously. It would be a hollow victory if we ended up with a serious accident as we open this new important part of our campus.

Administrative Appointments

I’d like to announce three new administrative appointments this year. First we have Jay Graves. He’s the new dean of the College of Health. He comes from Syracuse University. He’s a distinguished researcher in the areas of exercise and aging, musculoskeletal physiology, and exercise training for the prevention and rehabilitation of orthopedic injuries.

We also have Debra Daniels, new director of the Women’s Resource Center. She was formerly executive director of the Salt Lake City Rape Recovery Center. She’s a graduate of our School of Social Work and has taught there as an instructor for many years.

And Greg Lee. He’s the new director of Red Butte Gardens. Greg came here this summer from the University of Minnesota. At one time he was executive director of the Dodge Nature Conservancy in St. Paul.

Enrollment and Tuition

Now on to the business of our campus. This summer we saw another record enrollment. We’re happy to let summer enrollment grow because of the capacity we have. Head count: 13,935 registered. Over 7,500 FTEs took part this summer. Both of those are up three and four percent over a year ago. This is good news. I think it means students and others are coming and planning their academic careers around a full year schedule. We can handle that growth. In fact we can handle more growth in the summer session.

Fall enrollment is not quite finished, but we are essentially on track with our goal of having total enrollment this fall not to exceed that which we had last year. This so-called “enrollment freeze” as we’re calling it, is our response to a third year during which there has been no growth funding from the state to recognize the increased costs associated with new students. It looks like we are going to have denied admission and enrollment to over 1,000 students who would otherwise have been accepted under our previous criteria. We’ll have the actual numbers on this situation next month, but I think I can tell you right now we’re on course to have a level enrollment situation.

Now there’s an associated event… September 5 is the final day to pay tuition or to make arrangements to pay tuition. After this date, those who are delinquent will be denied enrollment. We’ve had a very lax policy on this matter in years past. All the other campuses in the state are very rigid about it, and we’re going to be so this year. We have been advertising it all spring and summer, and I sure hope students are paying attention to this important deadline.

Plans and Opportunities

Any university that has not been thinking about the future is falling seriously behind. With that in mind, even though we’ve had difficult economic times and have had to make difficult decisions, I’ve initiated a number of activities designed to help the University of Utah sharpen its vision for the future.

Specifically, we have begun a long-range development plan for our facilities. We have begun an analysis of the core fund-raising situation, with an expectation of having another universitywide fund-raising campaign in the years ahead. And the lower campus, under Dave Pershing, is involved in a strategic planning process, the Health Sciences having completed theirs already.

I’ll elaborate just a bit on each one.

Campus Long-range Development

With regard to the campus development plan: The University of Utah is probably the most beautiful urban campus in America. We’re very fortunate to have had the ability to plan our campus carefully not to be overbuilt. But as we look ahead for the next 50 years we have to look at our golf course; we have to look also at the buildings in Research Park that will be reverting the University in some fashion; and ultimately there are about 40 acres still in Fort Douglas that are in the presence of the military that we think will come our way.

If we plan carefully and utilize those new resources I think we can maintain the kind of campus that we have today. However, in order to do that, we’ve got to have a plan that will allow us to grow smart when it’s time to do so. I’ve asked the vice presidents to undertake and update our long-range development plan with a view toward utilization of those new areas.

Now let me make it clear: This 22-handicap golfer has no intention of closing the golf course. But what I am doing is recognizing that some future president will have to make that decision. It will be something they have no choice in. I’m trying to lay the groundwork so that when that time comes we’ll make the right decision and make the best use of that valuable resource.

Development Campaigns

With regard to the pre-campaign development assessment: This past year the University fund-raising total was $134 million. That was eight percent above last year. That’s the third-highest total in the history of the University. And the U is one of only 16 universities in the country that regularly passes the hundred million dollar goal annually.

You are very familiar with the campaign we completed two years ago, which was very successful with over $760 million dollars brought in. In fact this past year, just our faculty and staff donated over $1.4 million dollars to the University. That’s the largest number in our history.

We’re currently in the process of planning for our next major fund-raising campaign with the quiet phase – the part that’s done out of sight – possibly going to begin a year from now.

It’s clear that much of the excellence that we have here at the University of Utah is attributed to the private support we’ve been able to achieve. The last two campaigns were amazingly successful and we hope that in the future we’ll be able to focus on our endowment and increase the funding to enhance our program excellence, to provide faculty support, student scholarships and fellowships, as well as build new buildings and conduct major renovations.

Academic Affairs Strategic Planning

During the summer, we initiated an internal planning process to develop a comprehensive plan for the academic affairs sector of the campus. A committee of faulty, staff, students, and administrators has been working to develop an inclusive process that will produce a long-range plan for this part of the campus. They settled on an approach that I will highlight here:

During the semester we’ve just started, the committee will work with the deans, department chairs, faculty, staff and students to develop an initial version of a mission/vision/goals statement based upon consideration of our core values as an institution, our inherent strengths as a university, and the unique Utah environment. A draft of this statement should be available by early November.

In January, Dave Pershing will be asking the deans to lead college-wide planning efforts during the next semester, focusing on specific plans for our individual colleges and departments. In some cases, recent departmental plans exist and will only need minor updating. Others will need significant change in their strategic planning. Our goal is for each college to submit a plan by July 1, 2004.

During next summer and next fall we will try to revise and integrate this set of plans and come up with a consistent campus-wide statement relative to our strategic plan for the future. It’s our intent to use the plans that we will have from both the upper campus and the lower campus to help us drive the next version of our long-range development plan, to set the priorities for the upcoming capital campaign, and to make decisions about how to distribute resources going forward.

We think that this is an important process for the University. We’re very pleased with our situation in terms of what we have accomplished, but as we look ahead we think we have to take a hard look to make sure we have the plan that we need for the next ten to twenty years.

Future Vision

While we’re getting ready to go into this major planning process, I want to just say briefly that as I look at the next ten to fifteen years I see a university very much like the one that we have. I think of an undergraduate program that’s about the same size as the one we have now, maybe even a little smaller. I see a place with high quality undergraduate programs with even higher admission standards than we have today.

It’s the place where the best high school graduates want to come and where the most successful students in our system want to transfer and seek admission. We will no longer be the safe “fall-back” school for everyone in the state. We are moving towards real selectivity and excellence in our education programs.

Announcing the Utah Brain Institute

In addition to looking at the future of our education, I have been thinking about new avenues for research. Today I would like to announce a new undertaking designed to take advantage of some of our greatest strengths as a University and to advance knowledge in one of the last frontiers of science. We are tentatively calling this new endeavor the Utah Brain Institute (although any ideas for a more dynamic name would be appreciated!).

The concept of a brain research institute came about from a working group put together by Ray Gesteland almost two years ago. The group recognized that science is driven by available technology and that we are undergoing a technological boom right now in a variety of areas, including genetics, computer graphics and imaging, developmental biology, bioengineering and others in which the University of Utah excels.

The group’s discussions quickly focused on the question of what unique contributions could the University make to the next generation of science. The group soon recognized it would be most interesting to apply new technologies to an important topic, namely the brain. The brain is fundamental to every aspect of our existence, yet we know relatively little about how the brain develops, how it gives rise to our personality, memory, consciousness, and how it declines with age, injury, and illness.

Gaining better understanding of the brain is required if we are to improve our ability to combat terrible human suffering caused by diseases that affect the brain: Alzheimer’s and other dementias, Parkinson’s, traumatic injury, substance addiction, psychiatric disorders such as depression and schizophrenia, learning disabilities and classical neurological ailments such as epilepsy and multiple sclerosis. Unraveling the intricacies of the brain could also lead to advances in computer technology particularly in new ways of information processing and storage.

Ray’s group settled on brain research as an area that would attract and interest young scientists and students and capitalize on the strengths that we already have at the University. The idea is to take these strengths and add new resources so the Utah Brain Institute makes important contributions to the advancement of the neurosciences.

We envision the Institute as an interdisciplinary program, not within any department or college. It will bring together people from neurology, biology, genetics, computer science, radiology, social and behavioral sciences, physics, math, and other fields as well. It will not be just a clinical institute. It will conduct basic research, aimed at understanding the cellular basis and common underlying mechanisms responsible for various types of brain disorders.

Nevertheless, we hope and expect the Institute scientists will interact with clinicians in the School of Medicine, and the clinical component of this initiative will be located in the new Moran complex, scheduled to begin construction next summer.

The Institute will have at least six modules or areas of emphasis, each focusing on a different level of the nervous system – from the molecular to the cellular, from neurocircuits to the physiology of entire organisms. The Institute will seek fundamental understanding of how the brain works at every level. Basic knowledge of how the brain functions at the molecular and cellular level eventually should shed light on things such as personality, consciousness, and memory.

To make the Utah Brain Institute a reality we’re going to need money and lots of it. The University is itself providing a $5 million start-up grant in order to initiate this project. We hope to raise another $5 to $10 million dollars in the first phase so that we can begin recruiting new faculty members who initially will work within existing academic departments. Then we will come to the point of raising the money – hundreds of million dollars or more – to construct a building for the Institute and to fund the next five years of the program.

This is an ambitious project. We have chosen to make it answerable to the Office of the President to highlight its importance and to perhaps provide a campus-wide level of oversight. I have named two faculty members to lead the new Institute: Tom Parks, chair of neurobiology and anatomy at the School of Medicine will oversee the Institute as its executive director, and biology professor Eric Jorgenson as the Institute’s scientific director.

This is an exciting adventure for the University, one that we will not see the results of in its fullest context for decades, but it’s this kind of step forward that great universities have to make if we’re going to stay right in the forefront of what’s going on in science.

Diversity as a Hallmark

Now I want to read you something that I read to you last year in the State of the U address. It also appeared recently in a publication by the Legislative Auditor, having to do with the medical school admissions process. It was originally part of my remarks delivered in 1998 when I was installed as the 13th president of the University.

“We need to bring individuals from diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds into the University so as to enrich the discussion and debate that takes place here. Moreover, since we are a public institution, it is our obligation to be sure that representation of all segments of society can participate in the debate. We need to be sure many voices are heard and many ideas are expressed in order for the best thinking to occur.”

So, there should be no mystery about what we were going to do when I came to Utah. It’s been my goal from day one. And I can tell you that after five years we’re making significant progress. In the last five years, the number of minority students has increased 24 percent. The number of minority tenure-track faculty has increased 35 percent. The number of tenure-track female faculty has increased 29 percent.

Now the medical school is just doing its part, along with the other schools and colleges here at the U. What we are doing is consistent with the Regents’ policy. It is completely within the law as we all saw in the majority opinion rendered this summer in the Michigan case by the U.S. Supreme Court.

I must say I am disappointed but not surprised at the attitude taken by members of the legislature that you’ve been reading about. What really disappoints me is the lack of public outcry over their position. To date we have heard nothing from the Regents, from the governor, or from other elected officials. The only public support we have heard came from the Salt Lake Tribune in a wonderful editorial about a week ago.

So let me affirm today that diversity is and will remain a top priority of the University of Utah. This state needs this initiative almost more than any place I know about. We will not waver in this pursuit.

We will continue to recruit faculty, staff, and students. We will emphasize the dynamic environment of the University/Neighborhood Partners led by Irene Fisher on the west side. And we will support legislation where appropriate such as the type we did to allow the children of undocumented workers to attend college at reasonable prices. We are committed to help this state and its citizens become both educated and diverse.

Kudos and Conclusion

In conclusion, I want to observe that the U of U continues to perform on par with the top public research universities in our country. That is our peer group. That’s who we have to keep our eyes on, and frankly we’re doing quite well. We’re doing it without adequate support or encouragement from the state. We have set this course to remain in the top echelon and the plans that I have outlined that have begun now will help us be in this top tier in the years ahead.

Without a doubt our greatest asset and our greatest source of energy is the faculty. You’re doing a splendid job. As we move into a new year I can only hope that you continue to perform as you have during the time that I have been here. Together, we’re going to have a successful journey towards excellence. Thank you very much.