Coleman addresses U-M community
"My first priority is this: to protect and advance the academic quality of the University of Michigan," President Mary Sue Coleman declared in an address to the University community Sept. 20 in Rackham Auditorium, sponsored by the University Senate. "We are the guardians of a precious resource, for which every one of us shares responsibility."
Coleman reiterated four guiding principles that she outlined to the Board of Regents in April, in the form of commitments to sustain academic excellence, foster intellectual engagement within and beyond the University, build collaborative learning communities, and create greater access to U-M's academic quality.
"Because we are a public institution, we must honor multiple and substantial responsibilities: First and foremost, we explore the life of the mind. But we also have an abiding commitment to the world in which we live. That means we will reach out and offer our expertise and resources to address issues that affect all of society. It also means that we will continue to offer new generations of students the world of opportunities that a university education can create," Coleman said.
Coleman acknowledged the contributions of faculty and staff on all three campuses in creating what she called "both a great university and the very best of public universities."
"I am enthusiastic about the people who are leading us into the future," she said.
The entire address can be seen at 8 p.m. Sept. 27 on Michigan Television 2 (cable channel 22).
In wide-ranging remarks, Coleman provided updates and perspective about a variety of topics:
"The campaign for The Michigan Difference will be one of the most important legacies of my presidency," Coleman said. She cited the $100 million gift to the Business School from Stephen M. Ross, the largest gift in the University's history and the largest to a business school.
She further noted that the campaign has made it possible to create the 289 Rogel Scholars now on campus through a $22 million gift from campaign co-chair Richard Rogel. Campaign gifts to date, she reported, also are supporting the construction of the Depression Center, the expansion of the Museum of Art and the Kelsey Museum, and the creation of the Walgreen Center and Arthur Miller Theatre and the State Street gallery that displays student art.
Coleman said that more than half of the $2.5 billion campaign goal has been raised, and that the funds will support facilities and programs in all schools and colleges. But, she said, "it will take a lot of work to attract the next billion we need to meet our goal.
"I pledge my attention, energy and effort to this campaign, so our University can advance its ambitious goals," she said.
Facilities master plan
Coleman said attention to the physical plant is important to the University's success as a leading academic and research institution. She highlighted 11 renovation projects and new buildings from the last two years that have been completed, started or are about to begin construction, among them the Cardiovascular Center, a new building for the School of Public Health, the new Weill Hall for the Ford School, the Ambulatory Surgery Center, the Academic Center on South Campus, the Perry Building addition and three buildings in Engineering. She also cited the recent completion of projects, including the renovation of Hill Auditorium and the Rackham building, and the construction of the Gerstacker Building and the Life Sciences complex.
Still to come, Coleman said, are facilities plans for biology, a new Children's and Women's Hospital and a project to revitalize student life with "the most sweeping renovation to Michigan's residence life system in the history of the University" (see story page 1).
"We must take immediate, determined steps to reaffirm our commitment to the life sciences," Coleman said, noting that funding was cut in last year's state budget, but has been partly restored this year.
Coleman said the Life Sciences Institute already has brought together 12 scientists from within and outside the University who will have the ability to work together in facilities specifically designed for collaboration.
"But life sciences at Michigan is more than the Life Sciences Institute," Coleman said. She said that the next step will be to "design the network that will better connect the science units on campus" and "improve linkages among all our programs in the sciences." To create greater collaboration, she said, will mean moving beyond simple faculty-to-faculty interaction to "encourage colleges to work toward this goal more institutionally."
Coleman said the budget remains a challenge as state support for higher education continues to erode. She reminded the audience that the University has absorbed $43 million in cuts to the base budget in two years and said the future of state funding is unknown.
"I tell you these facts not to disturb you, but to reassure you about the primary commitment of our University: our academic excellence," Coleman said.
"If anything, we carry more responsibility today than ever before because those cases established the University of Michigan as the most visible defender of the educational value of diversity in higher education," Coleman said, referring to the 2003 decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court in cases that challenged the University's admissions policies.
The president said that while she was encouraged by the quality of this year's record-sized first-year class, she was concerned about a drop in minority applications. She said the University is expanding outreach to schools, working more closely with guidance counselors and adjusting the admissions form that was changed in response to the Supreme Court decision. The provost continues to provide support for schools and colleges to aid in recruiting faculty who contribute to diversity, she said.
She said U-M will launch a Spanish language portal to the University Web site (see story, page 1) to enhance outreach to underrepresented Latino students.
And, she said, the Ford Foundation has supplied funding to study the feasibility of creating a national center for institutional diversity at U-M and noted that the study will conclude with a major conference this spring.
"We cannot afford to lose even one talented student if the only barrier is financial," Coleman said.
The University already has a major commitment to meet the financial need of its students, Coleman said. But she noted that one-sixth of the entering class came from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds, and said, "The provost and I want to find ways to make an even more profound commitment to the most needy students."