February 2, 2007
Arkansas State University Ė
Greetings to and from our beautiful snow-covered campus! For a
couple of days now, I almost felt I was back in North Dakota, until I
realized it was 20 above zero, rather than 20 below! Last Wednesday
evening after the basketball games where both our women and men gave us
victories, I took our English Setter, Bess, on a walk in the neighborhood
where we live and marveled at the beauty of the landscape, the lack of
noise from traffic, and the reflected moonlight piercing the cloud cover
and bouncing off the snow. I was reminded of Robert Frostís wonderful
poem, Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening. After stopping his horse-drawn
sleigh "to watch his woods fill up with snow," Frost noted the sweep "of
easy wind and downy flake," and observed that "the woods are lovely, dark
and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep."
After the very busy month of January, I almost feel the same.
Three trips to Little Rock on legislative and board matters, two civic
club speeches, two alumni receptions, attendance and welcomes at several
events and meetings held on campus (including a meeting with the
Strong-Turner Alumni Chapter officers and attendance at the inspiring
community event honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) and
seven very important and informative visits to campus colleges and
departments, in addition to the usual office appointments and meetings,
have combined to make January stimulating and informative. I want to share
with you in this report where we stand in the budget process with ADHE and
the Legislature, how I am proposing that we handle the internal budget
process this year, and finally describe for you some of the issues that
have been raised with me as I have begun my "listening" visits across
First, we were pleased that Governor Beebe prominently mentioned
higher education in his inaugural address, and then followed that up with
a proposal to the legislature that higher education institutions receive
in the aggregate a 10% increase in their base appropriations (excluding
amounts received from the Educational Excellence Trust Fund) for the first
year of the biennium, and an additional 4% increase the second year. For
the 10 four-year universities, that amounts to approximately $34.7 million
dollars of new money for fiscal 2008, and $15.3 million for fiscal 2009. A
rigid application of the higher education funding formula would have
resulted in only a 6.3% increase, or $3.4 million, in new money for ASU-J
in the first year, and only 3.1%, or $1.8 million, in the second year. After some
intense negotiations with our colleagues representing the other
universities, Dr. Wyatt and I (with good advice from Robert Evans) were
able to increase ASU-Jís share that ADHE will recommend to the Legislature
to 7.2%, or $4 million, for the first year, and to 3.4%, or $2 million, for the
second year. Although we are not yet pleased with this share, it is a
significant amount that, if appropriated, will allow us to keep tuition
and fee increases lower than they were during the current biennium while
providing a pool of funds for wage and salary increases and other critical
needs on our campus. We are continuing to work to increase ASU-Jís share
of the new funding dollars that will be earmarked for higher education.
Second, ADHE has recommended $16 million of the approximately $23.5
million needed from state capital improvement funds for our proposed new
Humanities and Social Sciences Building that will allow other uses for
Wilson Hall. We are cautiously optimistic that both the Governor and the
Legislative leadership will support funding for this building in an amount
sufficient to allow us to begin construction during the upcoming biennium.
For this year, I am proposing that we follow the internal budget
building process established by the University Planning Committee
several years ago. This committee is broadly participatory, and its work should
result in allocations that assist in enhancing our initiatives, previously
identified in the strategic planning process. These allocations may be modified
compelling needs arise during the budgeting process. The
University Planning Committee, which is scheduled to meet first on March
16 at 9 a.m., will consist of the Faculty Senate president, the Staff
Senate president, the SGA president, a Deansí representative, a Chairsí
representative, the Director of Institutional Research, the Executive
Council members and some additional Finance and Administration personnel. UPC will review data, discuss policies, and make budget recommendations.
The Finance and Administration staff, informed by the discussions, other
budget requests, and presentations, will prepare a draft budget for review
by the Executive Council. At a final meeting scheduled for the latter part
of April, the UPC will then review and comment on the proposed 2007-08
budget that will then be finalized and presented to the President and
Board of Trustees for approval before July 1.
I commend the faculty, staff, and students who have so far met with me
on my "listening tour" across campus for being candid and frank on raising
issues they suggest on which we should take action to improve our campus.
- Graduate Assistantships need to be enhanced to be competitive with
- We need a more robust international program for our campus.
- Microsoft Campus Agreements should be maintained.
- Classrooms need to be improved across campus. We need more "smart"
classrooms equipped with the latest technology.
- Departments need more flexibility in purchasing office supplies with
vendors that offer the lowest price and in obtaining small facility
repairs from outside contractors.
- The dining hall needs to offer more "light" selections, including
- A process needs to be devised to allow departments to advertise for
new faculty positions "subject to availability of funding."
- A culture of trust needs to be developed on campus.
- We should adopt the Edinboro University planning model for
institutional effectiveness. Each year in the fall, the campus community selects a
few critical core processes it would like to see improved. Strategic
study groups would examine those core processes over the spring semester and
recommend improvements to reduce cycle time and increase constituentsí
- Services and supply budgets need to be enhanced.
- The Extraordinary Salary Adjustment Pool needs to be increased.
- Students should be allowed to evaluate faculty advisors.
As you can see, these and other suggestions for improvement of our
campus will be important to consider during our discussions this spring.
Finally, I want to thank those of you who suggested presenters we might
invite to campus to provide training and professional development
opportunities for senior level staff and faculty. Upon the recommendation
of Ms. Barbara Doyle, Director of Assessment, we have selected Dr. Tom
Angelo, from the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, to come
to campus April 4-5 to present workshops on best practices in assessment.
Thanks to all of you for your splendid contributions to the life of our
campus and the education of our students.