March 27, 2002
Once again this term, I am struck by the quality of academic and intellectual life of which we are capable on this campus, as a community of faculty, staff, and students. In particular, I am thinking about the series on memory and history that has been coordinated by Professor Jacqueline Vansant, which has engaged faculty members from all units on campus and leading scholars from around the country. This program has been truly interdisciplinary and will stimulate long-term collaborations and other benefits for the campus. There have been numerous examples of this sort of intellectual engagement in recent months, and I feel that with each provost's roundtable, Humanitas seminar, or natural science colloquium we further enhance our cohesion as an intellectual community. These examples of faculty engagement in scholarly discourse are all the more significant when we note that they occur in addition to the everyday work of classroom teaching, with a continuing level of engagement with our students that represents one of the most attractive aspects of the UM-Dearborn learning experience. I continue to believe that this campus has a huge capacity to provide intellectual stimulation and growth, and I appreciate the work that is done by so many of you to make that happen.
Admissions and enrollment growth are crucial elements in the health of the university. As you know, we are working within a plan for increasing enrollments at a rate of 3 percent for the next several years. In considering the admissions process, I believe that it is crucial to emphasize the role that a public university plays within a democratic society. The opportunities that we offer to prospective students are almost immeasurable. We will be judged by the opportunities we provide and our success in creating an educational environment where students mature and acquire knowledge and intellectual skills with which they contribute to society, not simply by the profile of our entering students. The role of our admissions effort is to identify, recruit, and admit those students who have the talent and skills to take advantage of the life-transforming educational experience that UM-Dearborn affords. Growing enrollment and keeping high standards at the same time takes great care, but it can be done. As many of you know, last year we admitted the strongest group of freshman students ever into the University of Michigan-Dearborn. We would have liked a higher percentage of those students to have enrolled, but we can take pride in attracting so many highly qualified students, and we have a history of admitting students that we feel can succeed.
How a university handles admissions sets the tone for many things on a campus. If we are to succeed in this area, it will require attention by all of us. We should be grateful to the many in this community who have helped in our admissions efforts to date, and ask how we all can help with these efforts. I have come to recognize, as I hope you do as well, how essential is the engagement of faculty, deans, staff, and others to our efforts to attract the diverse and talented students we want to bring to the University of Michigan-Dearborn. We will succeed best in achieving our admissions goals for the campus-goals which will really define the quality and aspirations of the campus for many years to come-when we are most effective as a community in supporting student recruiting and the events through which we encourage admitted students to choose to enroll at UM-Dearborn.
To turn to some more administrative matters, I would like to give you an update on the state appropriation and the budget process. In an agreement with the governor and members of the legislature, the leaders of Michigan's public universities have agreed to restrain tuition increases this year in tandem with a continuing state appropriation. While a flat state allocation is not normally a cause for celebration, things could certainly have been worse, given the condition of Michigan's economy. We are still discussing next year's budget for the campus, discussions that are being shared with an all-campus budget committee including faculty, staff, and student members.
On another issue, we are considering the possibility of recommending the "certification" of some of our campus safety officers. Certification would allow them to exercise police authority on campus, including enforcing traffic ordinances, conducting criminal investigations and intervening in potentially troubling incidents. Among public universities in the state, there are only two institutions without a certified safety department. While no decision has been reached on this issue, it is our responsibility to take prudent steps to enhance the safety of the campus community. We are in the process of collecting additional information in response to questions raised in several open forums on this subject, and I will communicate with the community in greater detail when that information is complete. If you have an opinion on this issue but have been unable to participate in any of the open meetings on campus, please watch for an announcement of another open forum on the subject. We are eager to have as useful and informed a discussion of this matter as possible, so that we make the wisest decision.
As you probably know, we have now received the results of the staff classification review and have held several open sessions for staff members to discuss the findings. The objectives of the project were to confirm employee classifications, recommend modification to the existing classification system, and to assess the "fit" of UM-Dearborn jobs with the University of Michigan system-wide classification structure. The report finds that UM-Dearborn fits reasonably well within the University-wide classification system. It identified 29 positions for possible reclassification (out of roughly 300), and we will make progress on those very soon.
It is reassuring to know that external reviewers, after looking at a huge amount of data, find that one of the most important components of the work environment is in reasonably good shape. It is also reassuring to see how our open culture promotes full discussion and review of these issues. In the long run, activities like this will make this a better place to work, and will help us provide a better environment for teaching and learning.