State of the University Address - Founders’ Day 2008
President Al Goldfarb - September 23, 2008
I cannot believe that I am already in my seventh year at Western Illinois University. In both Biblical and academic terms, the seventh year is the sabbatical year. It is a year of rest to assure that fertile grounds are given a respite in order to remain productive. It is the year for academics to rejuvenate and to undertake projects that have gone untouched or uncompleted.
Before the Board members present – and the campus community – think that I am requesting a sabbatical, I am not. Instead, I would like to suggest that this year we must make certain that we again review those projects completed and those that have gone untouched or are not yet completed. We need to make sure that we create a fertile environment in order to plant the seeds for future generations of students, faculty, and staff.
The revised Higher Values in Higher Education Strategic Plan remains the guide for all of our decision making. The Plan’s top priority is to provide faculty and staff salaries that meet or exceed peer institutions. This year we received $1.6 million from the state and reallocated an additional $1.2 million to provide employees with an average salary increase of 3.5 percent; this again appears to be above the statewide average of Illinois public universities.
This past year alone, the University also supported almost $700,000 in Professional Achievement Awards (PAA), promotions, and faculty minima. We worked closely with our governance groups to develop a Pay for Exceptional Performance Plan for staff, which will go into effect in FY10. This plan mirrors the PAA system in Academic Affairs for faculty.
We made much progress in the area of academic programs that are at the heart of our strategic plan’s academic excellence. This summer, Western’s first doctoral students defended their dissertations. We will hood these first doctoral graduates in December. We admitted our first Nursing students this Fall in our new BSN degree completion program. A master’s in Museum Studies is offered at the Figge Museum in Davenport. Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Liberal Arts are available to Quad Cities students.
However, with the number of high school graduates decreasing, and student recruitment becoming increasingly competitive, we must, as Higher Values in Higher Education argues, have a continuous review of current and possible future curricula.
For this reason, we have many new academic programs on the horizon. We requested that the Illinois Board of Higher Education approve a 4-year nursing degree and an engineering degree, which we hope will be on the October agenda. Doctoral degrees in Law Enforcement and Justice Administration and Environmental Sciences are also in the planning stages. We must, as Provost Thomas pointed out, continue to review the feasibility of new academic programs that build on our strengths, clearly defined needs, and institutional mission.
The university continues to strive for accreditation and reaccreditation for many of its academic departments and programs in order to highlight our academic excellence. The provost, at the recent faculty assembly, cited an impressive list of new and future accreditations as well as reaccreditations.
This coming year, we begin planning for our institutional North Central Association reaccreditation process. Joe Rives and Judi Dallinger will oversee that process, which will help us to review our accomplishments and assess areas of needed improvement. Our NCA self study will be co-chaired by Chris Sutton of the Macomb Campus and Marcia Carter of the WIU-QC campus.
I believe that our continued focus on academic excellence will enhance our already significant national recognitions. We were again a top tier master’s granting university in U.S. News and World Report, even though we continue to admit 300 undergraduates who do not meet our minimum ACT requirements. We were once again chosen by Princeton Review as a Best Midwestern College. The new College Guide for Access and Opportunity chose us as only one of two public universities in the state of Illinois.
We are committed to providing more grant and scholarship opportunities for our students. This year an additional $120,000 was reallocated to provide funds for scholarships and book awards. The Trustee Scholarship program, now in its third year, provided 24 scholarships covering the recipients’ full tuition, fees, room and board this fall.
Still, we cannot rest. We must address some key concerns. We did drop slightly in the U.S. News and World Report ranking. Our freshmen class was smaller than our 1,900 target, though we did have an increased enrollment in the Quad Cities, in transfer students, in graduate programs and in extension. We need to address why we did not meet our freshman target and develop enhanced recruitment strategies engaging all areas of the campus.
Our average ACT scores have stayed constant during the past few years, even though our strategic plan calls for an increase. I believe we can continue serving our special admission students while also enhancing our overall ACT score average. I have asked admissions to target students with 22 to 24 ACT scores to accomplish this goal.
While we have had increases in our retention rate – almost one full percentage this year – we can still strive for further improvements. I asked Provost Thomas and Vice President Johnson to establish a cross-division taskforce to review this issue.
We know that the state has not provided sufficient funds to meet our needs during these past 7 years. Our $60 million comprehensive campaign spanning our two campuses will provide necessary resources for faculty support, information and technologies, capital improvements, and student scholarships.
In Fiscal Year 2008, Western experienced its most successful fundraising year in our history, raising $8.4 million. Thank you to all those individuals working on our comprehensive campaign. Of course, we are grateful for our alumni and friends’ generosity during these difficult economic times.
Still, we need to make sure that this coming year is one in which we continue to enhance our fundraising efforts. We need another record year to ensure that we are able to accomplish our campaign goal. We must especially make new inroads with corporate donors, seeking their assistance for our programs and initiatives.
We continue to make progress on facilities priorities. Some on campus ask why we are expanding the Spencer Recreation Center, building a Multicultural Center, and enhanced our football stadium when there is little progress being made on the Performing Arts Center, the WIU-QC Riverfront campus and deferred maintenance?
First, these are all projects that have been requests on Western’s master plan. For example, we have long needed a permanent home for the Gwendolyn Brooks Center, Casa Latina, the Women’s Center, and the International Friendship Club. The new multicultural center will reflect our campus' commitment to diversity and inclusion. In addition, the funding for these projects comes from student supported fees, and can only be used for non-academic facilities.
However, I want to emphasize that we remain aggressively committed to our academic facilities priorities, even though funding has not been provided by the state, and are making some progress.
Even with the sporadic release of state funds, we are working hard on Memorial Hall; the Capital Development Board expects to open construction bids on November 5th. We used the $4 million released for the Performing Arts Center and the $1.4 million released for the first building of our Quad Cities Riverfront campus for outstanding architectural and engineering plans.
We also tried to focus on deferred maintenance. We reallocated $2 million to replace chillers in Horrabin, Currens, and Stipes halls. We reallocated over half a million dollars for classroom renovations and classroom technology upgrades. And in the last two years, we have spent over half a million dollars to replace chairs and desks in our classrooms.
Yet we must continue to lobby for a capital bill. It is unconscionable that we have gone 7 years without a capital bill. We must make sure that the Performing Arts Center and the Riverfront campus – as well as deferred maintenance – remain top priorities and are fully funded.
I also recognize that many of the reallocations for deferred maintenance and salary increases have meant that there has been little increase in operating budgets. For that reason, we reallocated $100,000 for faculty conference travel. In addition, we will, in January, provide an operating budget increase for all departments at about the level of our FY09 general revenue increase, should we not have any physical plant or fiscal crises prior to that time.
Despite the budgetary challenges, we have still found ways to make strides in technology. This past year, we reorganized in order to better enhance our services. We are now a completely wireless campus. We initiated a scheduled program to upgrade our electronic classrooms, targeting 30 for the next two years. We are replacing faculty computers on a regular basis so that no faculty member will have a computer older than four years. (Yes, I must admit, we replaced a computer that dated back to the early 1980s.) We doubled the amount of bandwidth available to students and faculty. We enhanced our website for the Quad Cities and will review the Macomb website this fall. We reallocated funds for technology security. Our new computer store in the University Union is a wonderful collaboration between University Technology and Student Services.
Yet, we must continue to plant the seeds for future technological improvements. We will review the implementation of the Help Desk committee recommendations to enhance customer service. We soon hope to light a fiber pathway between our Macomb and Quad Cities campuses. The university must, in the near future, replace its outdated analog telephone system.
We also remain strongly committed to sustainability. We installed many new recycling bins across campus; we have more hybrid vehicles for faculty and staff travel; Facilities Management staff continue to replace lighting with efficient fixtures; and we use chemical-free alternatives to treat Lake Ruth and to melt ice during the winter.
One of the most visible sustainability projects is our new Multicultural Center, which utilizes a geothermal heating and cooling system and recyclable construction materials. Its grass roof has a 40-year life span, compared to a traditional 20-year roof.
However, this year we must recommit to sustainability efforts. Therefore, I am asking our sustainability committee to develop a long-range plan to guide our efforts.
We continue to reach out to the communities around us. Our Community University Partnership Program (CUPP) was reorganized and restructured. The university is working with the local community on the planning for Adams Street and continues to assist with the recruiting of new business and industry to Macomb.
In the Quad Cities, we are working with Renew Moline, the City of Moline and the Illinois Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce to create the River Tech project adjacent to our new campus. We signed an agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers to work on sustaining the Mississippi River and partnered with River Action and the Corps, along with other organizations, to sponsor the inaugural conference focused on sustaining the Mississippi.
We also restructured administrative units in the past year to address the needs of our growing Quad Cities campus as well as technology changes. Joe Rives was appointed the new Vice President for Quad Cities, Planning, and Technology through June 30, 2010. He will provide leadership in the Quad Cities and continue to review and make appropriate modifications to our technology reorganization.
We must remain committed to encouraging honest dialogue about difficult and nationally significant issues on our campus and in our communities. We must continue to educate our students about the importance of being good citizens in their communities, which includes being aware of the negative impact of alcohol abuse. Our students must realize that we will not tolerate uncivil behavior. CUPP must build an agenda to deal with the key issues confronting the community and university.
Campus security remains a top priority and we reallocated funds to implement the recommendations of our campus security committee. We installed our new emergency alert system, which was put to use during our shooting threat this past spring, as well as during a number of winter weather alerts. We added public address systems to 20 of our 51 emergency callboxes on campus. We are implementing specific building plans and inventorying all of our classrooms as well.
Even so, we still have much more to do in the coming year. We must address ways of communicating more clearly to the campus community during times of emergency and we must make certain we are all trained to respond to crises.
These seven years have been difficult times. Still, I am not ready for a sabbatical. Instead I am reinvigorated by the remarkable accomplishments of the Western Illinois University community. We are moving forward with new academic programs, planning for the new facilities listed in our campus master plans, working with our host communities, and honestly assessing our strengths and weaknesses. Western has proven that, even in difficult times, remarkable progress can be accomplished.
I have been re-inspired by the commitment of the Western Illinois University community to our core values of academic excellence, educational opportunity, personal growth, and social responsibility. I look forward to working with all of you to make this next year an even more productive one. It is all of you who have been responsible for Western’s great accomplishments and progress. Thank you.