A welcome from the president

The University Record, September 3, 1996


313 764-6270 FAX: 936-0775


September 3, 1996


Dear Colleagues:


One of the very fine pleasures that comes with my position as Interim President is to welcome you to campus for the 1996-97 academic year at the University of Michigan.


This occasion does give me the opportunity to tell you what a remarkable academic community it is that you comprise---and I indeed mean all of you, faculty, students, and staff. It was out of respect for and trust in this community that I agreed to serve as Interim President; and I know that some months from now it will be with great pride in this community that I turn over the office to a new president.


In the two months since I took up the role of Interim President of the University, it has become clear to me that one of the major challenges of the job is to find a way of communicating effectively with all members of the University community. On a campus as large and diverse as ours, there is no easy way to ensure that everyone is equally well-informed about the major issues facing the University or about the thinking that goes into the resolution of those issues. It is also true that there is no reliable means of assuring that those of us in the Fleming Building are obtaining a true register of the view of faculty, students, and staff on any of these matters.


As a partial response to this challenge, I am taking two steps that are designed to promote more effective communication between the administration and the other elements of the University community. The first of these steps is the launching of a series of communications from Executive Officers and others in the Administration. These messages or reports, under the general title "In the Interim," will appear periodically and will be designed to provide updated views of the work and plans in several areas of endeavor. You can expect to hear from Bernie Machen, Farris Womack, Walt Harrison, and others about the major undertakings in their areas of responsibility. I will be sending out the first of these "In the Interim" reports in the near future.


The second step is less public, but I believe that it will also serve to enhance University-wide communication in important ways. I am establishing an advisory group that will draw its membership from varous segments of the University community, including students, faculty, staff, and alumni. The purpose of this group, the University of Michigan Advisory Panel (UMAP), will be to provide a forum for the dissemination of information, discussion of forthcoming issues, consideration of alternative approaches to problems, and focused attention to matters of Universitywide concern. This is not a decision-making group, nor is it designed to assume the functons of any organization already in place. My aim is to bring together a group of thoughtful and dedicated University citizens who will talk with me informally about the things that matter most to them and to their colleagues. Again, the focus will be on communication and on making sure that it flows usefully in both directions.


I hope that these two steps will mark an effective beginning of a mutually supportive conversation between the Administration and the wider University community during this year of transition.


I look forward to engaging in that conversation. And again, I wish you the best for an outstanding academic year.



Homer A. Neal, interim president