With the fall semester well underway I wanted our community to be current on a number of important activities and issues.
Fall Semester Start
With the semester solidly in swing, our data shows that 1,785 new freshmen and 259 transfers enrolled at AU this fall—which is the largest freshman class in memory. The residence halls are at capacity, with 3,826 students housed in the halls, which includes about 1,000 students in temporary triples; another 179 students are in university-leased apartments at the Berkshire Apartments. The "de-tripling" process is ongoing, with our goal to reduce the number to 280 triples (rooms) by the semester's end. We appreciate the incredible patience demonstrated by students and their families, and the extensive efforts of our housing and residence life staff (and all support staff) in working to accommodate the larger-than-expected number of new students.
It is still a moving target, but our current undergraduate enrollment is 6,605; graduate student enrollment is approximately 3,254; and law school enrollment close to 1,587. While undergraduate enrollment is generally on track, this is not the case relative to the goals we set for enrollment in our graduate programs and the Washington College of Law. If current trends continue, as we expect they will, these categories will require careful analysis and consideration during the upcoming strategic planning and budget discussions that are covered below.
The ambitious summer construction schedule finished successfully with the opening of a refurbished "tunnel" and retail shopping area in the heart of campus. Other key projects include the upgrading of Hughes Hall housing and ongoing progress for the Washington College of Law's new Tenley campus home (although with some delays encountered, due to bad weather and Capital Hall preservation challenges). With additional permits granted this month, construction has now begun on the East Campus site.
Because of campus construction and the closing of the Nebraska Avenue parking lot (which removed 900 spaces from inventory), we implemented new parking procedures this fall. Our garages and parking lots are fuller, and some preferred parking areas are close to capacity. But I am pleased to report there is still parking available on campus—most typically on the lower floors at the Katzen and SIS garages, and on the upper floors at the Sports Center garage on most days.
We are aware of particular pinch points (such as when exiting the SIS garage). As we continue to implement our traffic demand management programs and monitor campus use patterns, we will seek improvements and make needed adjustments. I greatly appreciate the campus wide cooperation of faculty, staff, students, and visitors as we abide by the Good Neighbor Policy and comply with all parking obligations as mandated by District government and zoning authorities.
Current Budget and Two-Year Planning
The large freshman class boosted revenues from that source ahead of projections, while other enrollment categories (graduate, SPExS, and the Washington College of Law) were slightly behind. Combined with summer revenue and projecting into spring, we expect this year's revenues to be 1.7 to 2 percent below budget. This is similar to last year, which required prudent fiscal management to close the budget in balance and end with a small surplus. We expect the same this year.
Meanwhile, the two-year budget planning process (for fiscal years 2016 and 2017) began this month with the creation of the University Budget Committee. Chaired by Scott Bass, provost, and Doug Kudravetz, CFO, vice president and treasurer, the committee will develop budget formulation criteria for my review and approval, prior to our submitting them to the Board of Trustees at their November 2014 meeting. The committee will then develop detailed budget proposals for review, approval, and consideration by the board at their March 2015 meeting. As in the past, the new budget will be guided by the strategic plan. The committee will collect information on campus priorities from various constituencies in an open and transparent way. More specific details will be forthcoming as the newly appointed committee begins its work.
With regard to our ongoing strategic planning, at upcoming meetings I will ask the provost, vice presidents, and deans to begin considering objectives for years seven and eight of AU's strategic plan. I will soon send a more general call to the university community for ideas for the next two years and will include an update on the progress made to-date on the objectives we set for the current period. Conversations will be held in our various units about what our priorities should be for the next two years, and the results of those deliberations will inform the budget committee, me, and the Board of Trustees as we allocate resources for the next cycle.
Sexual Assault Prevention
Sexual assault on college campuses continues to be a matter of great public concern nationwide commanding the attention of Congress, the White House, and several federal agencies. Even if this had not been the case, our own experience with the reprehensible communications of an unrecognized student group (EI) last spring would have required a strong, sustained response to ensure that members of our community understand such behavior is unacceptable and we will respond immediately and appropriately when such incidents are reported. Throughout the summer, the Office of Campus Life continued to build on work we did immediately following the EI incident. Vice President Hanson reported on these activities in a series of three communications to the community providing additional details on our policies and procedures. Those communications can be reviewed on the Office of Campus Life/StandwithAU website. We remain committed to being at the forefront of positive change on this issue.
Board of Trustees
The Board of Trustees held its annual two day retreat (September 11–12) with a focus on AU today and the recent successful trajectory of achievement—and an eye on how to position AU for the future. By any number of measures shared with the board, AU has made tremendous progress over the past two decades in academic prominence, physical facilities, financial strength, and in the process, has become a much more selective university growing in academic prestige. The evidence is plentiful, including the recent laudatory Middle States reaccreditation report; the approved 2011 campus plan and its ongoing endorsement by city authorities; AU's strong bond and credit ratings; the high quality of faculty hiring; and the increasingly competitive profile of our incoming students, all which form credible affirmation of just how far AU has come and how highly it is regarded in key areas.
The board and senior management will now focus on how to maintain (and improve upon) AU's current performance and secure AU's future. In the vast landscape of higher education program offerings, evolving delivery systems, and changing customer and consumer demands, how can AU remain competitive in the future? Where have we been successful, where have we not, and what have we learned as we prepare for the coming years? To assist in the discussion, the president, provost, vice presidents and other senior AU officials provided reports and data from their areas, and we worked with the board to identify needs and lay the groundwork for the next strategic plan.
The board also held a brief business meeting on September 12, and chair Jeff Sine's report to campus outlines a few actions taken. A summary of the September board meeting is online. Among them was an approved resolution to expedite board approval of new academic degree program proposals, which will enable AU be more responsive to the competitive higher education market. The board also approved the selection of a new student trustee-elect; School of Public Affairs sophomore Evangeline (Evie) Unsworth was chosen for this important student position which, along with the current student trustee, is an important link for AU students to the AU board. Her name will be submitted to the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church for formal approval.
The next Board of Trustees meeting will be November 20–21; an open forum with the trustee and university leaders will be held in conjunction with the board meeting.
Alumni and Fundraising
I am pleased to announce that the Center for Environmental Policy in the School of Public Affairs recently received a $500,000 philanthropic grant from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. This grant, made in honor of former EPA administrator William K. Reilly, will establish the William K. Reilly Endowment for Environmental Governance and Leadership. The gift is a tribute to the substantial contributions Mr. Reilly has made to environmental and energy policy and will advance the center's capacity to engage faculty in applied policy research, feature distinguished speakers, and host forums on key environmental policy concerns.
In recent weeks, outreach to alumni, parents, and donors has intensified. The weekend of September 19–21 saw a flurry of activity including the kickoff of the SIS Mentoring Program;a building celebration for the School of Communication, which attracted more than 300 attendees; and the third-annual Fall for the Arts, hosted by the College of Arts and Sciences, featuring hands-on workshops, student performances, an evening reception, and silent art auction. Also, the Washington College of Law hosted 150 attendees at its Myers Society Dinner. All-American Weekend will take place October 17–19, so mark your calendars.
The fall sports season is under way for men's and women's teams as they prepare for Patriot League conference play. Of particular note, the men's soccer team earned a #12 national ranking based on its strong start (6-1-1), which included a victory over then #1 ranked UCLA. Much credit goes to Coach Todd West and his coaches and players. Meanwhile, volleyball (8-4) and field hockey (5-3) also have winning records with tough schedules that include nationally ranked opponents. If you have not seen it, check out the new AU Athletics website and follow the Eagles teams during fall season.
I will write again following the November meeting of the Board of Trustees. Until then, I wish you the best for a successful fall term.
AU's strategic plan, Leadership for a Changing World, outlines goals and objectives for the next decade at American University. Visit american.edu/strategicplan for more information. (myAU.american.edu login required for some documents)