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American Today


Campus News

Faculty Senate Hears from President, Provost

By Charles Spencer

With twin deadlines looming for documents critical to AU’s future, President Neil Kerwin told the Faculty Senate last Wednesday that “in the next six to eight weeks, we really need to focus.”

On Sept. 25–26, the Board of Trustees will consider the latest draft of the strategic plan, and February 2009 is the deadline for board action on the FY2010–2011 budget.

AU enters the fall budget planning phase with its largest freshman class ever, with 1,580 first-year students. Fall revenue is also strong, nearly $4 million over budget.

As for the strategic plan, Kerwin said he has insisted on two requirements:

  • The planning process should be as broadly participatory as possible.
  • The board and the AU community must be informed of the costs of achieving the plan’s goals.

During the meeting, Provost Scott Bass conducted an exercise well suited to a campus community trying to imagine itself 10 years down the road. Bass asked a simple question: What do you consider our peer institutions? Some responses: Boston College, Syracuse, George Washington, and Emory.

Viewed against one metric, the Carnegie classification of doctoral and research institutions, results surprised many of the faculty. Carnegie has three classifications:

  • very high research
  • high research
  • doctoral/research

AU falls into the last category, along with such institutions as Ball State, Cleveland State, and Southern Methodist.

Another measure of a university’s place in the academic world is federal research-and-development expenditures. Using federal R&D expenditures reported by Carnegie, AU is behind the institutions frequently cited as its peers.

While the disparities are sobering, Bass said dramatic improvements are possible, as his experience at the University of Maryland at Baltimore County showed. While Bass was at UMBC, where he served as vice president for research and dean of the graduate school before becoming AU’s provost July 1, external grants more than doubled and federal R&D funding tripled.