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State of the University Address 2005

FSU President T. K. Wetherell
FSU President T. K. Wetherell delivers his third State of the University Address

This is the third time I’ve come before you to report on the state of the university.

FSU President T. K. Wetherell delivers his third State of the University Address

Three years ago, shortly after I took this office, I provided an inventory, an assessment of where we were. I also offered a five-year plan to provide a direction for FSU. We would measure our success by whether we had moved in the right direction and accomplished most of the plan’s goals within five years.

Last year when I reported to you, I spent most of the time reviewing the progress we had made on our plan.

Today, I can report to you that we are ahead of schedule in achieving most of our original goals. We are moving in the right direction.

Last year we added another aspect to our plan. At that time I broached the subject of an even more ambitious expectation and destination—membership in the Association of American Universities.

This year I would like to focus on two issues: First, a specific plan of action to become one of the top research and graduate education institutions in the United States. And second, financial options at the state and local level that will help us achieve that plan.

Before we talk about the future, I want to take a moment to thank you all for making this a successful year at Florida State. We could not have accomplished so much without the hard work of faculty, staff and students, and the dedicated support of our trustees.

Let’s start by taking a look at our advances in the past year alone—all excellent progress toward our expanded five-year plan:

We have received several important accreditations, including reaffirmation of our SACS accreditation. This took campus-wide cooperation, and I want to thank you for the hard work on this effort. Special thanks to many of you who are still working on this ongoing project.

Our College of Medicine received full accreditation and our first class of FSU physicians graduated. We also opened two new regional medical campuses in Sarasota and Orlando.

We were successful in recruiting highly qualified new faculty members, including our sixth Nobel Laureate.

I wish I had the time to announce all of honors you, our faculty, have received in the past year. To name just a few, we’ve seen a new member of the National Academy of Sciences, two Guggenheim Fellowships, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Leopold Leadership Fellowship, two Fulbrights, and an Alexander Von Humboldt award.

We also had new members elected into three other prestigious organizations: the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Endowment for Humanities.

The record-setting 900-megahertz NMR wide-bore magnet is operational at the Mag Lab.

A number of departments in addition to the Mag Lab have achieved national recognition, including but not limited to the film school, creative writing in the English department and the risk management/insurance program, to mention just a few.

We also made some key personnel appointments this past year: Dianne Harrison as Vice President for Academic Quality and External Programs, Nancy Marcus as Dean of Graduate Studies, Marcy Driscoll as Dean of the College of Education, Don Gibson as Dean of the College of Music, Aaron McNeese as Dean of the College of Social Work, Tom Blomberg as Dean of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Larry Dennis as the Dean of the College of Information. We are pleased to have them in leadership of this University.

We’re on schedule to complete our $600 million capital campaign by the end of this year. So far we have raised almost $550 million for the Capital Campaign. Just a few days ago, at the Miami/FSU football game, we announced our first $25 million private donor and with minimal notice raised over a quarter of a million dollars for Hurricane Katrina relief.

To date, we’ve used Foundation funding to create 22 new Eminent Scholar Chairs and 61 new professorships. Student aid has also been important, and 511 new scholarships and fellowships have been created. Foundation funding is underwriting academic programs, facilities and equipment, art endowments and many other projects and efforts of this university. We appreciate the work that Jeff Robison has done for us in this successful campaign and we wish him the best as he moves to his new position at Case Western Reserve University. We are very grateful to our donors. I also want to take this opportunity to thank staff, faculty and retirees who have given generously to the University.

To support student learning and faculty research and teaching we are engaged in many building projects on campus, including the new classroom building, West Campus Dining Facility, Psychology Building, Medical School Complex, Wildwood Halls, Landis Hall remodeling, DeGraff rebuilding, Johnston Hall renovations, the band practice field, as well as new parking garages. At the Ringling, Asolo Theatre renovations, main galleries expansion, Tibbals Learning Center are under construction.

But when we talk about campus environment we are not just speaking of bricks and mortar. We have expanded the wireless area on campus. All incoming students will have computers.

FSU has provided a key role in initiating and establishing the National LambdaRail and Florida LambdaRail high speed networking initiatives in concert with nine other public and private universities to enhance faculty and student research collaborations.

We also intend to continue to promote diversity. Trustee Knowles has been especially involved in this issue. At his urging we have appointed a Minority Business Participation Committee. We have also achieved national recognition for our diversity program. For example:

  • Black Issues in Higher Education ranked FSU 11th, nationally, in total number of Ph.D.s in the Physical Sciences (among traditionally white institutions). FSU ranked 29th in total minority Ph.D.s.
  • Hispanic Magazine has named Florida State University as one of the “Top 25 Colleges for Latinos.”
  • Hispanic Business Magazine ranked Florida State University College of Law among the top 10 law schools in the nation for Hispanics.

We are pleased with this progress and will attempt to build on this success in all areas of the University.

Our students continue to come to us better and better prepared. This year’s entering class has arrived with excellent academic credentials. On the average, our students have taken 23 academic courses in high school, when the requirement is for just 19 courses. At 1204, their average SAT score far exceeds state and national averages.

During their time with us at FSU our students achieve greatly. Let me offer just a few examples: Cara Castellana was named a 2005 Truman Scholar, one of the most prestigious honors an undergraduate can receive. Cara, an economics major, won this recognition just weeks after the establishment of our new Office of National Fellowships. Film School student Matthew Pope won the 2005 Coca Cola Refreshing Filmmaker’s Award, which showed in movie theaters across the county.

We are also working to attract and retain the nation’s top graduate students. This year we have set aside additional funds from the $10 million Adelaide Wilson gift for University fellowships for graduate fellowships and to pay for graduate health insurance subsidies. We hope to do more in the future.

We also want to recognize the excellence of our current faculty while we continue to attract and retain top-performing faculty members. We know that to do this, salaries must be competitive. This year, I am pleased to report that we have concluded negotiations with all of our collective bargaining units and outperformed many of our sister institutions with a comprehensive salary and benefit plan.

At the same time, we know that faculty and staff salaries must improve further, and we will continue our efforts to make this happen.

All of these accomplishments and so many more that could be listed are encouraging, but there is still a long way to go to reach our destination of becoming a top public research and graduation education institution and achieving AAU status.

To accomplish this goal, the University commits to enhancing research and graduate education efforts consistent with the AAU’s Phase 1 and Phase 2 membership indicators as well as the criteria used by the National Research Council for evaluating the quality of doctoral programs. We will use these indicators as benchmarks for assessing how effectively we are moving forward.

Why do we care so much? Why is selection into the AAU so important to the University? How will this make Florida State an even better University? How will this help faculty members, staff and students at all levels?

First, we all recognize that FSU already has very high quality research and graduate education programs that will be greatly enhanced by the steps I am announcing today. AAU membership would constitute tangible recognition of the high caliber of these programs, indicating that the University is one of the nation’s premier institutions. That recognition means a lot.

AAU membership will allow us to attract even stronger faculty and graduate students. It will give us access to a stronger national network of researchers in a variety of fields. It will give us a voice in helping set national research policy.

States like California, North Carolina, Texas, Illinois and New York each have two or more AAU members. California alone has nine universities that are AAU members. Florida only has only one. It’s time for the Sunshine State to have another, and the time to act is now. If we’re going to achieve AAU membership, we need to move aggressively by upgrading our research, upgrading our scholarly activity and upgrading our training of doctoral students.

I want to assure you that this is a serious commitment. A group of faculty who developed a plan for positioning the university has been working for months, and I commend them for their efforts. Their work product is the basis for our plan of action. Professor Ross Ellington, who chaired that group, has agreed to serve as associate vice president in academic affairs to lead our efforts toward AAU membership. He will be working closely with vice presidents, deans, chairs and faculty.

We have told the Board of Governors that AAU membership is our number one goal. Yes, it’s ambitious, but I believe we’re up to the challenge. The fact is, other universities have the same goal. We face stiff competition. Many strong public universities are not AAU members, including the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Arizona State University and Virginia Tech. Of the 12 universities that constitute membership in the ACC, only four are AAU members. It’s going to take hard work to move ahead of them.

The quest itself will challenge us to move all programs on FSU’s campus to new levels.

As we move toward this goal, we stand to benefit by improving the things that AAU considers most important – grant awards, faculty recognitions such as academy memberships, citations and nationally ranked programs. Whether we are in music, physics, law or medicine, moving towards AAU status will benefit us by bolstering and highlighting the overall strengths of FSU’s academic programs.

Our action plan for AAU membership will require three things. First, we need to identify some challenging but realistic goals. Second, we need to make some focused investments to pursue these goals. Third, we need to hold ourselves accountable for making progress towards these goals.

Very soon you will find a link on the University’s front page to a Web site that will articulate to the University community and to the world at large our aspirations, steps that we are taking and progress toward achieving these goals. I’m suggesting we codify this effort under the phrase “Pathways to Excellence.”

To pursue the general goal of AAU membership based on their criteria, the University is committing itself to the following campus-wide goals:

  • Double our annual federal research expenditures in the next five years.
  • Triple our annual grant awards from the National Institute of Health (NIH) in the next five years.
  • Increase scholarly productivity, as measured by citations and program reputation. It is my goal that by 2010 no less than one-third of FSU’s doctoral level programs will rank among the top 15 public universities nationally, based on such measures. I realize that this is truly a stretch, but I believe we can do it.

These goals will require us to invest both new and existing resources more wisely. We must focus our investments, and better diversify faculty productivity. To do this:

  • The administration will work to support a net growth of 200 tenure-track faculty at Florida State University over the next five years (from approximately 1,100 in 2005 to over to 1,300 in 2010). We will focus on hiring that is likely to yield substantial returns in increased scholarly and grant activity, particularly in the fields of science, including engineering and medicine. The AAU committee has recommended that these resources be devoted to “cluster” hires primarily of a multidisciplinary nature.
  • As to existing resources, we already work very hard at FSU. But competition for recognition in research is a highly competitive business and full of extremely strong institutions and people. We need to work smarter. For example, sometimes it will be better to focus efforts, to assign more teaching or research depending on a faculty member’s strength, and I hope deans and chairs will give this consideration as they re-evaluate their programs. FSU has many programs that are visible locally, but we need to begin to question whether, in certain areas, greater results for the university could be achieved by redeploying and concentrating resources in fields where FSU can build its national reputation. Furthermore, we need to increase our efforts to promote deserving programs on a national level.

As part of this effort, we must assure competitive levels of salary and benefits for all faculty. We will go into the collective bargaining process this year with a number of benefits and initiatives for our faculty and employees, including

  • Increased faculty and staff raises
  • Funds to address salary compression issues
  • Funds for promotion and tenure increases
  • Merit increase funds.

Since we are asking so much from faculty and staff, before we go into collective bargaining for the coming year, I have asked our Human Resources staff to explore various additional perquisites for faculty and staff.

No great deeds can be accomplished without risks. One cannot truly achieve a significant goal unless one is willing to risk failing along the way. In the 1960s, when the possibility of going to the moon and returning safely seemed to be out of our reach, President John Kennedy issued a public challenge to the nation. Our ability—and our pride—were challenged.

Similarly, we are making a public statement about our intention to join the AAU and to become one of the nation’s top research and graduate universities. Florida State University has always accepted a challenge. That’s why we have one of the nation’s most outstanding arts and science programs, film school, law school and now medical school.

There are a number of roadblocks that we will have to overcome if we are to be successful. The most notable is funding.

We will continue to work with the Legislature and the Board of Governors. We will also work with the University of Florida on funding issues that enhance their status as an AAU member and ours as a candidate for AAU membership.

It’s clear that we need funding for more world-class faculty and facilities. Where is it going to come from?

State money and tuition alone have never sufficed, and they won’t suffice with our greater goals. Our first step is efficiency in our own services. We will advocate for Legislative authorization to implement block tuition, called the “Garnet and Gold Guarantee” which guarantees no tuition or fee increase for 4 years, during which time a student may take up to 30 credit hours annually and receive a “map to success” outlining exactly what is needed to graduate in four years.

But there’s no question we need to think about new ways to attract and assure funding. We also need a sense that this community really understands and appreciates the role that this university, its employees and its students play in sustaining and building a healthy, flourishing economy.

Accordingly, I want to spend the remainder of my time today talking about Florida State and our impact on this community, this region and the state of Florida.

It’s easy to overlook the contribution an institution of higher education brings to the community. We are so large; we have been here so long; we don’t “blow our own horn.” But think about it. What would Tallahassee be like if Florida State weren’t here?

A lot smaller, a lot poorer, in many, many ways.

There’d be a great big hole in the economy, for sure.

The fact is, FSU keeps the area’s cash registers ringing.

Let’s do the numbers.

We are an institution of 39,000 students supported by about 6200 faculty and staff. That’s over 45,000 people….about the same as Tallahassee’s entire population when I arrived as a freshman in 1963. And if you think about it, our campus is like a city itself contained within the City of Tallahassee.

Our city within a city has a total budget of about $1.3 billion. That’s payroll, construction, utilities, purchasing—everything it takes to support our mission. That $1.3 billion is more than double the City of Tallahassee’s spending power and five times Leon County’s spending power for 2004.

Unlike state government, we’re growing and issuing more paychecks these days, not less…about 12,000 checks per pay period for faculty, staff and about 6000 student employees. That’s about $18 million each pay period—right around $500 million a year. Most of that money goes directly into the local economy, keeping our local cash registers ringing and tax revenues flowing and creating more jobs.

Another big chunk of our budget is going for construction. Our master plan calls for a rolling $500 million capital construction program. The cranes and equipment with the names of local companies are all over campus. Now the people who are working on all that construction aren’t all FSU employees, but their paychecks help Tallahassee’s economy remain strong.

Take, for example, Phase I of the $60 million medical school complex. The project started in July 2003. By November about 120 workers were on the project each day. In early 2004, about 175 were on site each day. The site will see at least 70 workers a day until the final phase of the project is completed next April. To date the project has had 46 subcontractors, 22 sub-subcontractors and 34 vendors—the vast majority of them local. Does that fuel the local economy? Indeed it does.

Since I arrived on campus, FSU has pumped about $1 billion into the local economy in construction alone. To keep up with enrollment growth and to meet our goal of AAU status, we’ll need another $1.3 billion in construction over the next 10 years.

Compare that to the construction budgets of the condos going up around downtown that are getting all the headlines: Three of the seven planned projects total $41 million. Our new chemistry complex for organic and physical chemistry, along with the renovation to Dittmer, will exceed $80 million.

Our construction budget alone is nearly equal to the City’s entire budget.

Then think about the utility bills we have to pay to keep our campus running. Overall, our campus utility bill will run near $25 million this year. That’s about 10 per cent of the City of Tallahassee’s total utility revenues.

We are Tallahassee’s main consumer of electricity, gas and water. In 2004 we used more electricity than Leon County’s public schools, Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare, Wal-Mart, Publix, federal and county government combined.

Think about the federal, state and private money we bring in and spend locally based on our research activities. Last year our researchers brought in more than $180 million in contracts and grants. That’s 13 per cent more than the previous year. The positive growth in research funding is counter to the national trend. The 13 per cent increase in real research dollars makes FSU one of the most successful research universities in the nation.

A recent study of university research statewide tells us that each research dollar spent in the State of Florida increases personal income statewide by nearly $5.50. That means our $180 million in contracts and grants generates nearly a billion dollars in spending power. Tallahassee, of course, shares in those benefits.

As we make our way toward AAU status, we will need even more funding from external agencies to support our research.

We bring private money into the university and community in other ways, such as our Capitol Campaign, scheduled to conclude at the end of the year.

Direct campus spending is just the start of the impact of our city within a city. Our impact stretches well beyond our campus boundaries into this region’s communities and economies.

As faculty and staff, most of us live here; we spend those paychecks here; we pay taxes here. If we assume that our faculty and staff live in homes valued at $175,000, the total assessed value of their personal residential property is around $1 billion. That’s nearly 15 per cent of all residential value in Leon County and nearly 8 per cent of total assessed value.

We figure FSU faculty alone paid nearly $6 million in sales tax during the past year.

And what do we, as faculty and staff, pay the City for utilities? Nearly $8 million a year.

We haven’t even talked about students yet. Their spending makes up a huge proportion of area revenues.

We calculate that our 39,000 students generate revenues to the tune of nearly $400 million a year in direct and indirect revenues for the city’s economy. That’s for housing, food, books, utilities, gasoline, entertainment–all the expenses that go into a college education.

That $400 million would take a BIG chunk out of the area’s economy.

But it’s not just those of us who live here that pump up the economy. Consider all the people who come to town to visit FSU, from students thinking about applying to FSU to alumni, from the world’s most eminent researchers to tens of thousands of football fans. The Mag Lab alone draws over 600 scientists a year to Tallahassee, for visits ranging from several days to several weeks. And that may be an underestimate. Just last month 100 researchers from around the world descended on the Mag Lab for five days for a conference on a wide range of areas in which magnetic fields play a role.

Then think about game weekends, particularly in the fall, but throughout the year. The FSU athletic department and Boosters’ budgets total over $50 million and provide nearly 1400 jobs as well as hundreds of part-time opportunities on game days and on weekends.

A game like UM vs. FSU, which drew a record 85,000 fans, has a $15 million economic impact from visitors. A standard game brings in $6 to $7 million plus another 50 per cent from the multiplier effect. Football weekends alone provide about a $45 million positive economic impact on our community. Next year the NCAA has allowed institutions to add a 12th game, which could mean an additional $6 to $8 million boost to the area economy.

Let’s not forget our arts programs. We offer nearly 500 free concerts and plays each year. And that doesn’t count Seven Days of Opening Nights, which draws thousands of people to town, or the Tim McGraw concert, which attracted the largest crowd the Civic Center has seen and $250,000 for scholarships.

Think about Previews, when 2500 students and their parents—about 4000 people altogether–spend a couple of nights in town visiting campus to decide if this is the place for them. Or summer Orientation, when this year alone 18,000 students and family members, along with parents, came in for a couple of nights, ate out at local restaurants, started looking for housing, buying books and supplies. They kept local cash registers ringing during what used to be slow times during spring and summer.

We also have Parents’ Weekend in the fall and the new Family Weekend in the spring, when thousands of families come to town to visit their students, fill hotel rooms, eat at local restaurants and shop at the malls.

In 2004, almost 900,000 people visited Leon County for reasons related to FSU. Altogether, they spent over $250 million on shopping, restaurants, entertainment, groceries, lodging, transportation, sports activities and events, and other attractions. Their spending generated nearly $200 million in wages and supported over 13,000 jobs.

There’s more. We don’t just patronize, we create local businesses. Our faculty members have obtained over 500 patents worldwide and created 15 start-up businesses locally. Each one of those businesses plays a role in keeping our economy healthy.

The money we spend and the money we bring in is just the start of our economic contribution to this community—just the start of the hole that would be left if we weren’t here.

Take the value of the volunteer work and community outreach that comes from this campus. In the past year alone, about 3500 students recorded over 225,000 service hours. If those students had been paid $6.15 an hour to do that work, it would have cost local businesses, government and others nearly $1.4 million in salaries. Of course that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It doesn’t count faculty and staff volunteers. Nor does it count the thousands of individual volunteer efforts and the community support activities that don’t make the headlines but still enrich our community economically and socially.

And our employees and students contribute generously. Over 90% of all employees at FSU contribute to the Foundation, United Way, a local service project and/or local/national/international charities.

Another way of looking at our contribution to this community: Over 41,000 FSU alumni live here and own hundreds of businesses. Our faculty, staff and alumni retire here and continue to be a part of the area’s economic health.

Here’s the bottom line: Our economists tell us that jobs directly and indirectly related to FSU total nearly 21 per cent of employment in the Tallahassee area. That’s up from less than 13 per cent four years ago. That 21 per cent is a big chunk of the area’s economy. Take it out and listen to the silence of the cash registers.

Based on student spending, the university budget and visitors’ spending at FSU, the economic impact of FSU on the state economy was estimated at $3.3 billion. This spending generated over 44,000 jobs statewide and 40,000 locally.

If FSU were removed from Leon County today, about a quarter of Leon County’s economic impact would be lost.

And there’s simply no way of assessing the economic value of the community outreach we sponsor and perform for students of all ages, teachers and others.

I could go on and on about the important role FSU plays in this city, but you get the picture. But today’s picture is a lot smaller than tomorrow’s.

FSU is going to continue to grow. We can’t and we won’t stop. The state Board of Governors has said that just 20 years from now we’ll have 60,000 students—along with a whole lot more faculty and staff to serve them.

We want those 60,000 students to be attending an FSU that is a top research and graduate education institution as well as a member of the AAU. Not only is becoming a member of AAU important to FSU’s academic pedigree, but having an AAU institution in Tallahassee means an even greater economic impact on the area.

As a state university, we will always look to the State for the bulk of our funding. However, to expect the State to do everything in view of the many positive benefits this community receives is unrealistic.

Specifically, I believe we should continue to ask the state to fund the FSU/UF contract concept. We should also ask the State to pass permissive legislation to allow individual institutions access to local funding sources outside of any specific caps. Finally we should seek an incentive matching program for instruction or quality enhancement funds from locally generated dollars, similar to the matching gifts program.

At the local level we should seek dedicated funding sources from both the city and/or county to be utilized to advance our AAU status. We should also look to partnership with local governments that would reduce fixed costs to the University, such as utilities that would allow us to shift those savings into one of the enhancement areas previously mentioned.

Finally, we should negotiate a predetermined use of impact fees, user fees, etc., that the University pays to local government for areas that are mutually beneficial.

We will suggest these options to other institutions of higher education for their implementation at the local level. In addition, we believe that statewide initiatives such as those undertaken in North Carolina and other areas should be reviewed for feasibility in Florida.

In conclusion, our march to AAU status may be considered bold, and our expectation of the State and local community may be equally bold. However, both are within our grasp. Nevertheless, the ultimate success rests with a cooperative strategy between the administration and faculty. Whether we succeed or fail doesn’t depend on how many athletic contests we win or what our symbol is, but rather how successful our faculty is in advancing the University in the criteria for membership, as well as the administration’s efforts to find the funding.