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President's Message | Archive


June 8, 2006

TO: Campus Community
FROM: Neil Kerwin, Interim President
SUBJECT: End-of-Semester/Summer Update

Board of Trustees and Governance

On May 19, the Board of Trustees voted unanimously to accept the recommendations from its special Governance Committee on a program of reforms to address inclusiveness, accountability, and transparency. The reforms outline ways to improve board governance, strengthen oversight, and clarify individual trustee responsibilities. The recommendations are posted on the Governance Web site, along with documents of support from the deans and faculty senate leaders. The reforms resulted from more than six months of study, review, and discussion with campus constituencies (faculty, students, academic leadership, staff, alumni), and consultation with nationally known outside experts from non-profit and higher education. The committee conducted a comprehensive review of pertinent literature, comparative data on university governance, policies, bylaws, practices, committee structures, campus involvement, trustee qualifications, trustee selection process, and other aspects of responsible governance. A key recommendation is the addition of three new (non-voting) trustees – two faculty members, and a current student member. Only 15% of independent colleges and universities have faculty and student trustees, which the board endorsed as appropriate for American University. In addition, the board will include one "non-affiliated" representative who will be a recent graduate of American University, chosen after consultation with student government and alumni representatives. The board will meet June 9 to formally enact the bylaw recommendations.

The entire AU community deserves credit for its attentiveness, participation, constructive comment, and patience, as the board conducted its thorough review of needed reforms. I am confident that institutions around the nation will look to the positive example that AU set in this process. It demonstrates the value of participation and civility in any serious discussion of governance.

New Trustees
Also at the May meeting, the board elected seven new trustees, two of whom are former college presidents (Stephanie M. Bennett-Smith and Arthur J. Rothkopf); one a former AU student government president (Neal A. Sharma); four are AU alumni (David R. Drobis, Gisela Huberman, C. Nicholas Keating, Jr., and Neal Sharma); and one an honorary degree recipient (Mark L. Schneider).  Biosketches for the new trustees are posted on the governance site. These trustees resulted from an inclusive campus-wide process that produced some 85 nominations; they reflect a new diversity of professional experience and breadth of knowledge. We look forward to their robust participation in board proceedings and in getting to know the AU community by appearing on campus at activities and events.

Senate Finance Committee
On May 31, Board of Trustees Chairman Gary Abramson and Vice Chairman Thomas Gottschalk sent a letter of response to Chairman Charles Grassley of the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance. The letter is posted on the governance Web site. The letter provides information and attachments to convey the breadth of governance reforms, bylaws changes and policy modifications approved by the AU board.

Commencement 2006
More than 1,900 students participated in AU's 120th commencement on Sunday, May 14 in three ceremonies for the five schools on main campus, and another 375 students took part the following weekend for the law school's ceremony. Honorary degree recipients and commencement speakers included Donald Graham, chief executive officer of the Washington Post Company; Michael Kahn, artistic director of the Shakespeare Theatre Company; Paul Volcker, former Federal Reserve Board chair; and the Honorable Vanessa Ruiz, associate judge, D.C. Court of Appeals. I was pleased to present the 2006 President's Award to Kenia Rodriguez, a graduating senior in the Kogod School of Business. The President's Award is given annually to the graduating undergraduate whose accomplishments are truly exceptional and reflect the highest ideals of American University.

Fall Enrollment
As of May 1, we had received 1,471 deposits for the 2006 fall freshman class, making it the largest number of deposits ever received (since we have been tracking them). Based on this, we will exceed our deposit goal for the class of 2010. The academic quality of this deposited class exceeds last year's record levels, with the average SAT of 1270 (1267 in 2005), and an average GPA of 3.53 (3.51 in 2005). There are 182 Honors students who have paid their deposits (average SAT of 1425 and GPA of 3.89), an increase in number and quality over the class entering in 2005. To date, multi-cultural students comprise 13% of the incoming freshman class, and we received 66 deposits from international students (up from 51 for fall 2005). We set new records for the number of campus visitors – with 3,890 in April 2006 compared with 2,390 campus visitors in April 2005. Transfer applications are up 4% over last year. Master's level applications are down by almost 3% compared with last year, with deposits down 10%. Doctoral enrollments are holding steady. Contrary to national patterns, applications are up substantially at the Washington College of Law; deposits have increased by 21.5% for the JD program and 17.8% for the LLM program. The caliber and diversity of students admitted to the law school is noteworthy; the school has received deposits from 599 students (511 full time and 88 part time), 35% of whom are minorities. The median LSAT for the full time students is 162. 

Financial Management
I am pleased to report that we will complete Fiscal Year 2006 and the year-end closing process with our budget in balance and perhaps, with a modest surplus. Although we had a shortfall in main campus tuition revenue related to budget and faced other financial challenges, we offset revenue shortfalls with the enrollment contingency fund and departmental savings in various units. I thank every unit for their assistance this year in realizing savings and helping to close the fiscal year on a positive note.

At the May board meeting, our internal auditors, Protiviti, reported to the Finance and Investment Committee on their year-long review of internal controls in accordance with the guidelines set forth under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Protiviti gave AU high marks for the control structure in place, while providing recommendations for improvement. It was particularly gratifying to hear from Protiviti, that they were not aware of any other university that had gone through such a comprehensive Sarbanes-Oxley type review. We will build on this successful report and make it a priority going forward.

The migration to Release 18 of Datatel (scheduled for completion by August 2007) is underway. A detailed draft migration plan is in place and staff members have been trained in the Envision development language required for R-18. We received the R-18 software from Datatel in mid-February and installed it on a test machine for verification and validation. Testing is still in progress. The conversion is on schedule, but much work lies ahead. 

Meanwhile, a project team of faculty and staff compiled the first draft of a comprehensive document on information technology security policies.  This is part of an effort to respond to increased concern about the security of institutional resources and to ensure compliance with applicable regulations and industry best practices.

We currently have before the city government, an application for a $100 million bond issue, an important initiative for the university that will enable us to proceed with essential facilities needs. We will work on this over the summer with a scheduled closing/sale date in mid-August. These funds will be used for the Nebraska Hall renovation (to convert to a contemporary residence hall for completion in summer 2007); for the SIS construction; and for refinancing our Series 1996 bonds at more favorable terms. Also this summer, Watkins will be renovated, providing eight classrooms outfitted with contemporary technology and furnishings, and other renovations will be done to the roof, windows, and the electrical and mechanical systems. The Mary Graydon north addition, originally scheduled to start this summer, will be delayed, because we did not receive a construction bid consistent with the project budget.  A team from Campus Life and Facilities will convene to work on alternatives for achieving project goals within our budget constraints. 

The fiscal year (2006) concluded with the Campaign for AnewAU having passed $120 million. From a cash perspective, FY 2006 was the most successful in AU's history, with at least $20.5 million in cash raised from gifts, pledge payments, and matching gifts. (The previous record was $17.9 million in FY 2004). Despite this success, we will have considerable work to do to maintain the momentum of the development staff and the campaign objectives.  Dollar-wise, alumni giving was up (passing the $10 million mark for the first time), although participation fell from 20% to 18% this past year. All of us at American University will need to renew our commitment to the success of AnewAU in the year ahead, to ensure our campaign is successful. The campaign will continue to be an important priority for all of us.  

Sponsored Programs and Related Activity
We had an extraordinary year for sponsored research. By the close of FY 2006, faculty were awarded $18,627,190 in external funds for research and related activities. This represents a 40% increase over last year and over $4.5 million more than our previous high level of $14,045,460 in FY 2004. Our success reflects not only the hard work of the faculty who pursue this kind of funding from government entities, foundations, and other sources, but also the high regard in which they are held by these organizations. The success is also attributable to the highly professional staff in the Office of Sponsored Programs, most ably led by Liz Kirby.

Army Corps Operation
The news regarding the Army Corps of Engineers operation, unfortunately, is not what we had hoped, as the Army Corps has informed us their work is not complete in the Lot 18 area. In particular, they have more work to do in the area behind Kreeger (now vacant) and the adjacent roadway, and in some areas around the Public Safety Building. A work plan is being developed for the area close to Kreeger, where some anomalies will be investigated and removed, with work probably to occur in July. The work projected for summer around Public Safety will include soil borings, an assessment of the building foundation, and the removal of buried glassware and debris. Safety and health protocols will be meticulously followed, and we will keep the campus informed of any new developments and a more definitive timeline, when available. 

Summer Student Activities
We begin preparing for fall semester in the next few weeks, when new student orientations will be held on June 19-20; June 22-23; June 26-27; July 6-7; and July 10-11. More than 1,100 new students and their families are expected to attend the five sessions. Looking towards autumn, the residence halls open for move-in on August 18. This year's Freshman Service Experience is August 21-24; Discover DC is August 22-24; and Opening Convocation on August 25. The first day of classes is August 28. 

International Affairs
The Center for Democracy and Election Management is launching its first Summer Institute on Democracy and Elections for 33 election officials, civil society leaders, and journalists from around the world, held June 5-15.  This unique executive education course brings together leaders from all dimensions of election administration.  And from June 19-30, the Center for North American Studies will host its fifth summer institute for students from Mexico, the United States, and Canada. The institute is focusing on North American business, which works in the largest free trade zone in the world.  Twenty-eight students will participate, most from the Business School (EGADE) of Tec de Monterrey, one of the finest in the hemisphere. 


In closing, I thank the entire American University community for its extraordinary commitment over this past academic year as we took part in an historic examination of board and campus relations. The outcome already has made AU a stronger institution.

I look forward to the planning and goal setting processes that mark this time of year and preparations for the fall semester to begin in late August.  Enjoy the summer.

September 5, 2006 12:14 PM


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