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State of the University Address 2003

FSU President T. K. Wetherell

Faculty and staff, colleagues, trustees, alumni, boosters, students and friends, let me start by saying thank you.

Thank you for the warm welcome you have given my family and me to our campus community. And thank you for the terrific job that you all do. Your efforts make this job so much easier. Thank you, too, for your positive attitude during difficult times.

A little over a year ago, Sandy D’Alemberte stood before you for the last time as President and outlined the state of the university as he saw it at the end of his nine-year tenure. His summary at the time: “Florida State University is now at a tipping point in its history–on the very edge of entering the ranks of the great research universities in this country.”

Sandy’s years in office were characterized by growth–growth in the state and growth for Florida State University. The state’s mindset was that universities were important academic, cultural and economic engines in both Florida and the nation. State funding was available to match that mindset.

But the world has changed significantly in the year.

Throughout the country, higher education is losing ground, both financially and substantially with certain decision makers.

This is true despite the fact that almost everyone wants their children to go to college because of the huge benefits of a college education. Studies show significant earning power for those with college degrees and graduate programs.

With national budget woes, the passage of the class-size and Board of Governors amendments in Florida, as well as other economic difficulties, higher-education funding in this state is in far worse condition than during Sandy’s years of service.

Quite frankly, the state university system in this state is in peril.

We have no choice but to deal with this peril. As a matter of fact we have a professional and social obligation to step forward with proposals.

Florida State University is–and must continue to be–a place where opportunities are open and dreams come true. Each year thousands of students enroll in this university with high expectations and a sense of energy that deserves our greatest commitment. Their experiences on this campus will shape their lives, the lives of others and the lives of generations to come.

Accordingly, we owe them nothing less than our best effort, regardless of political or economic circumstances.

Quality and Access

An integral part of our success in combating the threat to higher education will depend on this university’s ability to help shape public opinion. For some reason foreign to me, the public has been led down a path of choices—between a quality K-12 system or a quality higher education system. But neither choice alone is valid. We have a common objective, and working together we can achieve it.

To accent this point, we at Florida State University have led the university system’s efforts to inform the public and develop an interactive campaign to spread the message that higher education in Florida is important. It’s called Quality and Access—Q&A for short.

You may have already seen our first Q&A ads. They feature former Governors Reubin Askew and Bob Martinez–one a Republican, the other a Democrat, both recommending higher levels of support for our universities.

It’s an impressive ad, and the message is being heard. An impartial poll just out shows that more than 80 per cent of Floridians oppose cutting the budgets of public universities. They also oppose balancing the budget on the backs of students through tuition increases.

Floridians are overwhelmingly concerned that inadequate state funding could weaken the quality of programs and endanger access to universities and higher-education opportunities. Our citizens have even said they’d prefer to see taxpayer dollars go to universities than to public safety or transportation. That’s a strong message!

Every public university in Florida has adopted our Q&A program, and I encourage you to make your voice heard to support our efforts. You can go online (www.fsu.com) to learn about the perils facing our state universities and to send your message to university leaders and public policy makers.

Quality and Access is a true grassroots campaign. It is privately funded and politically blind. The number of messages our legislators receive counts–and they WILL listen.
If you are not comfortable with a technology-based response, write an op-ed piece, letter to the editor or just send a “Zing.”

Quality is vital. Access is vital. These are constants. Just because we are going through difficult times doesn’t in any way mean we’re going to lower our ambitions and goals for this university.

Faculty and Staff

I believe we have among the best faculty and staff of any university in the country. Your dedication and commitment make this job exciting and fulfilling.

We have recently said goodbye to the largest DROP contingent in the history of FSU: 150 members of our faculty and staff. We will miss these dedicated individuals who served the university so well.

Although replacing so many faculty and administrators was a daunting task, we were able to take the positions of those in DROP, plus others who retired or left, and replace them with more than 180 new faculty members with excellent reputations and commitment to quality teaching, research and service. We are proud to add them to our world-class faculty.

Because all of you in our FSU community are doing such an outstanding job, we wanted to find a way to show you our appreciation.

We are pleased that the Board of Trustees was able to put together a compensation plan for faculty and staff that touches practically every employee.

The Board of Trustees, with the support of the Legislature, was able to grant a 2 per cent pay raise across the board for most faculty and staff and provide about $2 million for distribution in merit pay.

The Board was also able to provide a series of incentives, including pay supplements for all staff paid up to $35,000, and bring the lowest paid employees up to $15,460.

In addition, to compensate for our inability to increase pay more, we were able to arrange a phased closing during the holidays so that you could spend this special time with your families.

Money will not be the only factor in our long-term success for staff recruitment. Accordingly, we will begin negotiations to develop a Continuing Care Retirement Center (CCRC) at FSU. The concept is to provide options for faculty, staff, alumni and friends of the university for a lifetime of living, learning and health care options.

Academics

Our students speak highly of FSU, and one of the reasons for their praise is their interaction with you–our dedicated, creative faculty.

We have a number of programs that have maintained strength over a long period of time and, at the risk of offending some by omission, we would have to cite music, dance, theatre and film, as well as physics, chemistry and oceanography. Of course, political science and sociology have a long tradition of strength.

In addition, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the College of Education, which has literally produced two of the last five presidents of FSU and, along with the School of Nursing, guarantees each of their graduates a job offer or tuition refund.

Fortunately, none of our programs are resting on their laurels. In the last two years, our psychology, philosophy and law programs have all received major recognition for the quality of their area and the overall strength of their program.

Our fledgling program in computational sciences continues to grow in strength and to attract national leaders to our ranks of faculty. In both biology and mathematics, the faculty will continue our strong tradition in ecology and evolutionary biology. Meteorology and statistics are examples of programs that continue to prosper.

Our College of Medicine, the country’s first new medical school in a generation, opened its first three regional campuses last July in Orlando, Pensacola and Tallahassee, where the 30 members of the inaugural class are now completing their third-year clinical rotations in fields like family medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics and surgery. A fourth regional campus is scheduled to open in Sarasota in 2005. We’re looking forward to the first graduation, in 2004-05, along with full accreditation.

Research

Florida State University is world-renowned for its research. Today, we’re taking new directions in the hard sciences, like computer science, biological systems and environmental science.

Our top research priority for next year and the legislative session is keeping the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory right here at FSU. The Mag Lab is the premier facility of its type in the country.

Our current five-year contract with the National Science Foundation has produced a gross regional research product of $300 million and even more from spinoff projects like the $83 million impact of the U.S. Navy’s Center for Advanced Power Systems. We employ 250 scientists at the Mag Lab and welcome many more visiting scientists each year.

This is a facility we can’t afford to lose. Through a joint effort with the University of Florida, we were able to make a strong case for the $10 million necessary to upgrade the facilities to allow us to be competitive as the NSF starts the bidding process. We will make every effort to draw in the necessary stakeholders to make sure they understand that the Mag Lab and its supporting cast are top priority.

The research dollars that our outstanding faculty attracts are a strong indication that we’re doing well. Contracts and grants reached more than $157 million this past year, and we expect that figure to be $175 million by the end of 2004. We expect that the presence of the medical school will drive those figures up even further.

Contracts and grants not only mean dollars for the university, but opportunities for undergraduate and graduate student research. We will work to increase internship opportunities in all our areas of research and creative activities.

In addition to our always-impressive accomplishments in the hard sciences, we are taking some incredibly creative directions in our arts and social sciences research, and this is being driven by advances in technology.

We are seeing a time when hard copies of textbooks are becoming unnecessary, when technology is fully integrated into our teaching programs, and all materials are available online. We need to be on the cutting edge. That edge is moving, and we’re sticking with it.

Technology

In the words of Larry Dennis, we are involved in a campus-wide effort to “insure that every student graduates on the right side of the digital divide, and to create a next-generation learning environment at FSU.”

This fall, nearly 32,500 students, or 9 out of every 10, are enrolled in courses supported by Blackboard, the University’s primary Web-based course-management system. In January I will teach a technology-based honors seminar.

Our medical school was designed to be a leader in the use of technology in medical settings. As the first new medical school in the U.S. since the Internet revolution, FSU has seized the opportunity to build its medical education program on an unprecedented technological foundation. The school integrates technology into the curriculum in such a way that it’s simply part of the culture.

The medical school operates in a wireless environment. Next year, when students return, ALL OF FSU WILL BE A WIRELESS CAMPUS.

We are working to ensure that all students will be able to take advantage of this wireless environment. Next year we will be conducting a pilot program on the use of laptops. Starting in Fall 2004 we will begin requiring 1000 incoming freshmen to have laptops. By the fall of 2008 we expect this program will be fully implemented.

Technology is giving us new tools for communications, and we have launched a commercial web site—everythingFSU at fsu.com–that provides a new and newsworthy portal to the university.

Technology advances are not limited to the academic arena. With the demise of the Board of Regents, FSU can no longer rely on the State for its business and record-keeping functions. Accordingly, on July 1, 2004, FSU will begin a phase-in of the ERP program. Payroll, travel and retirement functions will be totally within FSU’s purview.

Within three years, FSU will have a totally integrated business process and will not need to ask the State for any help or permission to manage its own books or lifestyle.

Reaccreditation and Quality

We are in the midst of review by SACS for re-accreditation, and our advances in technology have facilitated the process of confirming our compliance with SACS standards and creating a Quality Enhancement Plan.

Although the accreditation process is far from over, our materials have been very well received so far. We are anticipating a site visit in April and hope that you will do all you can to make our visitors feel welcome on this campus.

Our College of Medicine is also proceeding with its effort to attain full accreditation. The med school was provisionally accredited more than a year ago, and the school will become eligible for full accreditation during 2004-05, just before the first class graduates.

Students

The quality that accreditation confirms is based on the needs of our students. Florida State University exists as its students. They are the reason for our being.

FSU entered Fall 2003 with the largest enrollment in history. Our student body grew to well over 37,000. In addition to being the largest group of students we’ve ever had on campus and around the world, our students are among the most highly qualified ever.

Yet this blessing of so many bright, hard-working students has a serious downside. At the undergraduate level this fall we are serving about 1600 more students than the State paid for. Together, all of the state’s public universities enrolled more than 20,000 new students this fall–and the state did not pay for one of them.

For the first time in the history of this institution and all of Florida’s public universities, the Legislature did not fund full enrollment growth. For that reason, we must stop and consider our options for the future.

Today’s situation not only shortchanges the 1600 students who are here but unfunded, but also the 36,000-plus who were already here. It means larger classes; heavier burdens on you, the faculty and staff; stretching the university even farther. At some point, accepting undergraduates without the state resources to fund each one will mean compromising quality. That is something we are not willing to do.

At the graduate level there are still opportunities for growth, since a number of our colleges and schools have instructional opportunities. For that reason we will be stressing graduate enrollment, particularly in the areas of business and education. In each of those fields, mid-range institutions in Florida are growing at a faster pace than FSU.

In response to these enrollment trends, FSU has submitted to the State Board of Education a plan that calls for 1 per cent growth in undergraduate education and 2 per cent growth in Graduation I and Graduate II level education. Our goal is to look more like our sister institution, the University of Florida, in terms of our undergraduate/
graduate ratio.

Student Life

Among the most important advantages FSU offers students is our environment. From the application process through graduation, we want students and their families to see Florida State University as a warm, welcoming place.

We have an outstanding staff that is committed to that goal, from Orientation through advising and counseling services.

We are sending the message that this is a friendly campus AND a safe campus. Another way to look at our friendliness is our three-minute map test. Don’t know what that is? Just unfold a map on campus, look a little puzzled—and within three minutes, we can guarantee that someone will stop and ask if you need help.

While academics are important, time outside the classroom also contributes to student development. We provide students a full range of opportunities to build their leadership abilities. Each year more and more of our students take part in volunteer activities on and off campus and in service learning. In the last year, students recorded a 26 per cent increase in service hours, for a total of over 150,000 hours.

Involved students are more successful and satisfied with their college experience. At FSU our vibrant student life offers a way for every student to learn and develop inside and beyond the classroom.

Diversity

Both our student body and our faculty are characterized by significant diversity, and we are proud of our record.

Our minority students tell us they feel at home on our campus. A recent survey shows that our African-American students are slightly more satisfied than our white students, that they experience a sense of belonging at FSU. Other minority students reflect positive feelings about their student experiences in terms of sense of belonging, friendliness and satisfaction with their college experience.

Construction

Our need to house and teach our students is our top construction priority. Today we house about 17 per cent of all of our students on campus. Our goal is to provide housing for 25 per cent. Last fall we re-opened Cawthon Hall, and this fall we opened the new hall at Jefferson and Woodward, which will be named the Sherrill Ragans Residence Hall.

In the next five years we’ll be adding 1500 more spaces. Beginning next May we’ll be renovating Landis Hall. By fall 2007 we plan to open new residence halls at the corner of Wildwood and Jefferson. Renovation or rebuilding plans are also in the works for the DeGraff and Deviney Hall sites.

For our fraternities, a new home at Heritage Grove is becoming a reality. We have broken ground on the property on Ocala Road and hope to house at least 13 fraternities in their own houses and others in joint accommodations in unique, state-of-the-art facilities.

It’s no surprise–parking is always an issue. We are prepared to break ground on 1500 new parking spaces in a garage between the medical school and the soccer fields. The DeGraff Hall site will also have a parking garage, as will the new chemistry building. More parking facilities are in the works.

I know our students will appreciate expansion of our intramural fields out to the Eisenhower Rd./Seminole Golf Course area. Our goal is to quadruple the size of fields that are available to students and avoid the interruptions that occurred this year from leasing and multiple uses.

In addition, as the University works with local government to solve the challenges of Gaines Street and College Avenue, more housing and shopping opportunities for students will become available.

Other PECO construction plans include more parking garages, a chemistry building, a psychology building, a life sciences building, an aquatic complex, completion of the College of Medicine and expansion of the Legacy Walk. Yes, we are equally committed to constructing the first general-purpose classroom building on campus in 30 years.

We are committed to a continued campus beautification program. With the expansion of the Legacy Walk program from the gates of Westcott to the University Center, we will take an effort that began as an athletic program and move it to a university-wide project recognizing our heritage as an institution. The band and circus areas are targeted for landscaping and parking enhancement.

The great challenge is how we are going to grow to meet the demands of an increasing number of students and more and more sophisticated research.

Alumni Giving and Philanthropy

How students perceive of this university during their classroom years forecasts their feelings for FSU once they graduate. Today, Florida State University boasts an alumni base of approximately 250,000. We depend on loyal alumni and friends to help us move well beyond the capacity of public funding.

And they have. Despite hard economic times, FSU has raised an average of $86 million over the course of the last two years. The Foundation transferred a record $34 million — besting its former record by $10 million — to the University during the fiscal year.

With a Capital Campaign that has collected $430 million to date, the goal of $600 million is clearly in sight. Seven of our colleges and schools (Arts and Sciences, Communication, Criminology and Criminal Justice, Social Sciences, Human Sciences, Social Work, and Visual Arts and Dance) have already achieved more than 80 per cent of their goal. To date, more than 92,000 people have contributed to the Connect Capital Campaign.

Over $50 million will be raised from the Ringling Museum’s Sarasota community. These facilities have been designated a Cultural Arts Campus for Florida State University. The museum is becoming a greater part of the main campus arts program, including the Seven Days of Opening Nights arts festival. We look forward to broadening the base of Seven Days to the Ringling and other institutions and venues throughout the area.

Our fundraising success and our approach to philanthropy and corporate citizenship depends not only on those who have passed through these gates and then moved on. It also depends on those of us who are right here on campus—those of us on the inside. I encourage you to contribute to the United Way. In addition, I hope you will consider making a gift to the Inside Connect Campaign to help us reach that goal of $600 million.

As successful as we have become with fundraising, there is a key issue we must confront. The Legislature challenged universities to develop private/public partnerships and seek private funds, with the promise of matching funds. Florida State and all public institutions of higher education took up the challenge and raised those funds. But the promise has not been kept. Today, over $100 million of contributions has not been matched. If we are to succeed with private funding, we must have those promised funds.

Seminoles

Part of the strong heritage of FSU that encourages alumni and friends to remain part of our community is our relationship with the Seminole Tribe of Florida. We take great pride in our positive relationship with the tribe.

The university recognizes the sovereign Seminole Nation and considers the Seminole Tribe the university’s greatest ally. Every graduation begins with the Seminole Tribe’s Color Guard and recognizes the personal ties of the university to the Tribe.

In addition, major events provide an opportunity for the institution to further publicly proclaim its ancestral ties to the Seminole Nation and Florida’s Native American population. Florida State University is forever indebted to the Seminole Nation for the relationship that allows this university to publicly and proudly proclaim: “We are Seminoles.”

Athletics

Florida State’s athletic programs continue to be one of the university’s windows on the world. Our teams continue to perform at championship levels on and off the field. Academically, our athletes tend to graduate at higher rates than the student body as a whole. Overall, FSU’s athletics teams rank second only to Duke on the ACC Honor Roll.

On the field of play, our women’s soccer team is in the final four nationally and could be playing for a national championship this weekend. Our women’s basketball team set an NCAA record for defensive play in its opening game. Men’s basketball is off to a promising start and being 10-2 ACC champion in football with a BCS Bowl bid in hand isn’t bad either—plus we beat the Gators!

Our athletics department has been put under considerable scrutiny during the past year. We have embraced the MGT report and made changes that I believe will make us even stronger.

This brings us to the single most important issue we face this year if we are to address current needs, much less a vision for a brighter future: the budget.

Budget

As I said at the beginning of this address, higher education in Florida has changed. Our approach has shifted from public growth to private partnership. More and more, we’re being required to balance the needs of the institution on tuition increases rather than General Revenue. This is a catastrophe for the future for any public university.

Of necessity, we have made student achievement the first priority with new dollars. Everything else is secondary.

As the Legislature continues to cut back public dollars, FSU is challenged to become more accountable. That can only be accomplished by placing academic programs and student support services first as new funds are distributed.

In the year before my tenure began, FSU lost $30 million in revenue but increased enrollment 7 per cent. In my first year as president, FSU was, by design, up only 2 per cent in enrollment and was subject only to one-third of the cuts of the previous year.

We can no longer ignore the trend of trying to provide more for less without affecting quality. The public has a right to expect the best from its universities. Our citizens are willing to sacrifice for that quality and access.

To expect the funds we need to come totally from student tuition is not fair. It is for this reason that FSU and UF, in an unprecedented move, ask the Legislature to contract with these two flagship institutions for services. We are prepared to move forward with that contact. In our eyes, it is not only a funding model, but also a mission statement and an accountability pledge.

The short-term approach that we’ve taken has produced the necessary savings to keep the institution on a level footing and protect quality. However, this is not a long-term fix. We can’t keep this up forever.

Our priorities in the budget are: First dollars from the state should fund unfunded enrollment. New dollars should fund additional enrollment as established by the State Board of Education and Florida Legislature. Institutions that grow beyond that level do so at their own peril.

In our case we want to be an institution that looks more like a Graduate I Research institution. We’ll lobby the legislature for the Board of Governors recommendations and to increase those, particularly as it comes to graduate enrollment and graduate scholarships and fellowships.

Board of Trustees

Our board has been very active in the state’s entire higher education debate. Its primary goal and concern is to protect the sovereignty of the board and the new governance structure. We’re proud of that.

Board members attend as many functions on campus as possible. They are involved with most major college functions. They are among the university’s greatest ambassadors, and we thank each of them for their dedication to this university.

Vision of Florida State University

So, what do we envision for FSU in the future? For me, in five years I see an FSU:

  • That has set the tone for higher education to be required rather than denied.
  • Fully re-accredited by SACS and with a fully accredited medical school.
  • Having a fully funded enrollment plan and enrollment growing beyond the national average, especially at the graduate level.
  • With a world-class faculty and a great proportion of full professors.
  • With the most qualified support staff in the state.
  • Enrolling a highly qualified student body that, like the faculty and staff, reflects the state’s population.
  • As a total wireless campus—each student with a laptop and all classes totally online.
  • With another five-year extension (through 2013) of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory’s bid contract.
  • With $200 million in research grants and contracts.
  • With a new chemistry, life sciences, human science and psychology buildings and two new general-purpose classroom buildings. With 3000 new residence spaces on campus, 5000 new parking places, 50 acres of intramural fields, a Seminole Retirement Village, the Greek Park fully occupied and Legacy Walk extended from Westcott to the University Center, highlighting both Heisman winners and Nobel Laureates.
  • That has completed a $600 million Capital Campaign and another $200 million Scholarship Campaign.
  • When the general student body graduates at the same rate as athletes tend to do.
  • FSU winning five more national championships—one per year.
  • The Seminole Tribe of Florida and all Native Americans clearly getting the respect they so naturally deserve.
  • 100 per cent of FSU employees contributing to the United Way and annual fund drive.
  • The Board of Trustees and President having the same administrative authority that the local community college enjoys.

Conclusion

I must admit, and my staff can attest to this, that I was a bit apprehensive about making this “State of the University” address. I am, by nature, more “action-oriented” than I am “word-oriented.” I see an issue that needs to be addressed, or a problem that needs to be solved, and my natural inclination is to engage the people and resources to effect the change that is needed to produce the desired results. To be quite honest with all of you, I very much believe I am standing before a group of people who are very much like me.

My presidency here at FSU began almost a year ago. And in that time, I have had the privilege of working with a group of “action-oriented” people. This certainly is evident in the research and facts I have just provided to you in this “State of the University” address.

I firmly believe that to dream anything you want to dream is the beauty of the human mind. To do anything you want to do is the strength of the human will. And to trust yourself to take action and test your limits—that is the courage to succeed.

I thank each of you for your courage. I ask each of you for your continued courage. And I know each of you will give FSU your best courageous efforts.