Dear Colleagues and Friends,
Please allow me to engage you in a conversation with two very important questions and then to give you a quick update on several key issues.
Two Questions: As requested by the Governor's Office, we are preparing to take a 10% budget reduction, perhaps even more. Even though state support is only 24% of our operating budget, it is the primary source of faculty/staff salaries. It is not possible to take a budget reduction of this nature without having an impact on our programs. Provost Antel and Dr. Carlucci have started the process of budget planning and reduction by engaging the faculty and staff leadership to ensure that we undertake this challenge in as strategic and transparent a manner as possible. I am coming to you directly and inviting your thoughts on the following two questions:
Q1. Do you have a good idea about how the university (a) can cut costs, (b) generate additional revenue, or (c) become more efficient? If so, please share your ideas with me via email. I will ensure that every reasonable idea is given serious consideration during the budget planning/reduction process.
Q2. With a reduced budget, it will become more important than ever that we avoid redundancy and work more efficiently. Have you encountered any practice or requirement in the university (at department, college or university level) that makes no sense to you or it seems redundant/unnecessary? If so, please send me an email describing the practice/rule. You can reply to this message or send an email to email@example.com and I promise to have the Cabinet look into it.
We will post all the ideas you submit on my web site -- in summary form -- under "Budget Discussion." Thank you for taking the time to respond and here is the update.
Legislative Update: Other than the budget, we have some big items on the legislative agenda and they include funding from the National Research University Fund (Tier One Fund), a new funding formula proposed by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, special items for research, and tuition revenue bonds. You can always get updates on our legislative agenda on the Government Relations Web site.
Tier One…One More Vote of Confidence for UH: Last week, the National Research Council released its nationwide study on the quality of doctoral programs. The Council refrained from providing a singular ranking (as it has done in the past); nonetheless, it has provided enough information for us to compare our doctoral programs against those offered by others in the state. I am pleased to see additional proof that we are leading the pack of the emerging research universities in Texas by a wide margin. It is just one more recognition for our outstanding faculty and staff and one more vote of confidence in our Tier One goal.
Endorsements for UH: Recently, Houston Chronicle editor Jeff Cohen spoke at the Wortham House as part of the Wortham House Lecture series. He was extremely complimentary of UH and its role as a Tier One university. We will send you a copy of his speech as soon as we receive it. I also invited President Larry Faulkner (President, Houston Endowment and former president of UT) to speak at the UH Leadership Retreat and he, too, had many good things to say about UH and its future. Finally, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, during her State of the Senate Address, spoke strongly about UH and our Tier One initiative. You may also have noticed explicit endorsements related to UH from candidates during this campaign cycle.
Student Success…More Work is Needed: We are currently educating 38,752 students, of whom 3,300 are freshmen. We are housing more than 6,000 students on campus with a projected plan of adding two new housing units in the next 2-3 years. Once a week, I eat my lunch at Fresh Food Co. and every time, I feel grateful for the work that you have done in supporting our students and making them feel special. While we have done a lot, we still need to do more to build a Tier One environment for student success on our campus.
Departmental Visits: I have been able to visit all but three academic departments so far. It has been an honor and privilege to spend some quality time with departmental faculty and to learn about their work and vision. Two general observations stand out in my mind: first, 98% of our faculty members have received their doctoral degrees from a Tier One (nationally competitive research) university; and second, most departments lack the critical threshold of faculty to become nationally competitive. We are good but small; and to become great, we will have to fill this talent gap. In times when public funding is becoming scarce, we (departments, colleges and the university) will have to build more partnerships with the industry and the community to accomplish our goal.
UH in Greater Houston: What role does and should UH have in meeting the educational and research needs of Greater Houston? To help answer this question and to build a Tier One model of engagement, we have retained a national consultant who is currently reviewing national best practices and is working with college deans. With our expanding visibility and rising brand, it is only natural for Houston communities to expect more from UH. A proactive and visionary model will help our direction and strategic goals.
Executive Searches: The search for the Vice Chancellor for Research is on schedule. The Provost is heading the search, and we hope to get candidates on campus soon.
Thank you for your contributions to the university.