Archive for January, 2010
Once a month during the academic year, I attend a meeting of the Faculty Council. On every agenda, there’s an item called “Questions to the President.” Sometimes these questions lead to very spirited conversations.
I thought Tower Talk readers might be interested in some of the topics that were on the faculty’s mind this week.
The first order of business was a group portrait of the Faculty Council.
Faculty Council members were curious about the distribution of faculty raises. Roughly one-third of tenure and tenure-track faculty received raises in January. These raises were primarily used to address structural concerns in our salary budget resulting from gender and equity issues, salary compression, and competitiveness. The Office of the Provost will post more information on its website when it has made a more detailed analysis.
The Faculty Council passed a resolution thanking the Regents “for their unanimous vote to retain the Brackenridge Field Laboratory at its present location.” Provost Steve Leslie, Dean Mary Ann Rankin, and I were also thanked for our efforts to preserve the Brackenridge Field Lab.
Also on the agenda was a request for more information regarding the Intercollegiate Athletics budget and trademark licensing income. Here’s a summary of my comments with a few extra facts added for clarity.
For this discussion, I referred to 2008-09, the most recent fiscal year for which we have actual data on revenues and expenses. Intercollegiate Athletics had revenues of $110.7 million in 2008-09 and total payments of $107.3 million. That left an excess of $3.4 million, which was retained as cash reserves.
I was asked to explain trademark licensing, which is generated by licensed products such as apparel, jewelry, and souvenirs. Trademark licensing, which is managed by Athletics, had revenues of $7.8 million for 2008-09. Of this, $1.65 million was transferred to my office to fund academic initiatives. During the past several years, these payments have funded programs such as undergraduate curriculum reform, including the first-year Signature Courses, the UT Film Institute, and an endowed chair at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. Trademark licensing also funds athletics operations and debt service. Excess revenues of $2.5 million were retained as reserves.
Intercollegiate Athletics pays all its expenses at UT, including $8.2 million in scholarships, $2.1 million in central administrative services, $14.7 million in debt service, and $2.6 million in capital expenditures. During the past 3 years, Athletics and trademark licensing combined have contributed nearly $6.3 million to academic initiatives.
UT is one of only a handful of schools in the nation where Athletics is self-sufficient and not dependent on financial resources from the university. It was not too many years ago that UT was required to subsidize Athletics, and we need to strive to continue to keep Athletics self-sustaining.
It’s important to understand that we field teams in 20 sports, but in recent years only 2 teams have consistently generated significantly more revenues than expenses—football and men’s basketball. Baseball normally breaks even. In 2008-09, football generated $87.1 million and its expenses were $21.3 million. The resulting net income was critical to the financial well-being of 7 men’s teams and all 11 women’s teams. For this reason, if you are a fan of women’s rowing or softball or volleyball—or men’s or women’s tennis or golf or swimming—you should be rooting for the football team, too.
I was also asked about cash reserves in Athletics and trademark licensing. Those reserves totaled $25.9 million in 2008-09, which is equal to 2.9 months of operating expenditures and 11.6% of outstanding debt. The debt comes from the construction and improvement of multiple facilities, including Royal Memorial Stadium. Athletics revenue is cyclical and unpredictable—just like win-loss records. This fact makes it prudent to maintain cash reserves.
Finally, the Faculty Council has been roaming the campus for meeting space during the past year while Main 212 was being renovated. The newly renamed Lee Jamail Academic Room in the Main Building will open next month, when it will again house the Faculty Council, as well as many University events for students, faculty, staff, and alumni. This renovation was funded jointly by revenue from trademark licensing and a generous gift from Joe Jamail.
This is the first week of class on the UT campus. Although the beginning of the semester is always very busy, I had a chance to sit down and answer a few questions from Student Government President Liam O’Rourke. A video of that interview is available below:
The first of two public forums on tuition will take place from 5:30-7:00 p.m. tonight (Wednesday). A second public forum is scheduled for 1:00-2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, January 26. Both forums will be held in the Avaya Auditorium in the ACES Building, Room 2.302. Members of the Tuition Policy Advisory Committee will make a presentation on their recommendations regarding tuition rates for 2010-11 and 2011-12.
The forums are open to all, and I’ll be there to listen to your comments.
Every year that I’ve served as president, I’ve spoken and marched at the Martin Luther King Community March in Austin. As many of you know, our students erected a statue of Dr. King on the East Mall of our campus in 1999. The statue is the starting point for this annual event. Here are my remarks from earlier today.
To everyone here, good morning. And to everyone here, from our campus or those visiting, on behalf of the entire University of Texas family, I welcome you to the UT campus on this special day. And it is a special day. It is our annual celebration of the life and achievements of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His dream of justice and equality is a meaningful challenge for us today. He worked courageously to open doors and make opportunities available to every citizen. On this day we celebrate his life and work, and we must rededicate ourselves to his dream.
We stand here near this powerful statue of Dr. King. It brings us together on common ground. With his presence here on the East Mall, and the presence of Cesar Chavez on the West Mall and Barbara Jordan under the Battle Oaks, we have on our campus symbols of diversity and inclusion. Tolerance and respect. A caring and welcoming community. Many voices and ideas. Justice for all. But they must be more than symbols. Today is a day to rededicate ourselves to make that dream a reality. To make the University of Texas a place that Dr. King would embrace.
Thank you all for taking part in today’s march and celebration. In the coming year, let us live the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and do our part to shape a community and a nation that lives up to Dr. King’s dream, which is the American Dream.
Governor Perry sent a letter to all state agencies today requesting that we submit a plan to cut spending of state general revenue and general revenue-dedicated appropriations by 5%. These plans are due by February 15. The request was prompted by a forecast of lower state revenue as a result of the recession. In light of a possible revenue shortfall, such a request is reasonable.
The governor does not call for cuts at this time, only that we prepare a plan that prioritizes reductions. More details will emerge in the days ahead, and we won’t know the impact of these actions until later in the year.
Having said that, the University Budget Council will meet as soon as possible to discuss our response to this request. The University of Texas System will submit a comprehensive plan for all component institutions.
I’ll keep the campus posted on new developments in Tower Talk.
One of the pleasures of being president of UT is spending time with fascinating people. Since I became president in 2006, I have held small dinners for faculty members at my home. We try to host them monthly, and this week was the first of 2010. Most often, we have eight early to mid-career faculty members along with Provost Steve Leslie.
The faculty members represent a cross section of academic disciplines. This last dinner, for example, included scholars in political theory, the cultural aspects of health care, medieval literature, cancer research, organizational behavior, criminology, gender and food, and social epidemiology. The group represented American Studies, Chemistry and Biochemistry, English, Government, Management, Pharmacy, Social Work, and Sociology.
Table conversation tends to revolve around the faculty members’ work, although sometimes we talk about university policy and campus news. Last night, there was a confessional moment when the group revealed what they watched on TV—and not all of it was broadcast on PBS. Even scholars have their vices.
These dinners are a constant reminder of what a strong faculty we have at UT. I think they’ve made me better informed and more aware of faculty perspectives. Moreover, I enjoy learning more about the research and scholarship performed on the campus, and I think you would, too. So I intend to write regular posts on fascinating people and research at UT.
I’m interested in all reader comments. I’ll try to respond to those raising issues of great interest to the community. Unfortunately, I cannot respond to all comments. There has been much commentary on the finances of intercollegiate athletics and the desire for a staff ombudsperson at UT. I’ll have more to say on these issues in future posts.
This has been an exceptional season for Longhorn football, even if we came up one game short.
Congratulations to all the players, Coach Mack Brown, and the entire coaching staff. Best wishes to Colt McCoy for a speedy recovery. Not only did the Horns have a remarkable season, they did it the right way—with integrity, good sportsmanship, and Texas pride. This team will go down in UT history as one of the best.
We also congratulate Coach Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide for their perfect season. Both teams played hard. Despite experiencing some bad luck, our team members played their hearts out against a fine opponent—and the fans exhibited Longhorn Pride throughout the game.
The Longhorn faithful can look back at this season with our heads held high, proud of our team for reaching the championship game. We look forward to another great season in 2010.
Hook ’em, Horns!
University of Alabama President Robert Witt and I have a friendly wager on the BCS Championship Bowl game. If the Horns win, he’ll send me barbecue from Tuscaloosa. If Bama wins, I’ll send him barbecue from the Iron Works in Austin.
This sounds like a win-win situation for President Witt. He received his doctorate from UT Austin and served as chair of our Marketing Department and dean of the McCombs School of Business. So he’s got a Longhorn pedigree. On the other hand, he misses our matchless Texas barbecue and would love to win this bet.
The New York Times published an article today about the 1965 Orange Bowl game between Texas and Alabama, which some of you may remember. Joe Namath was the quarterback of the undefeated Crimson Tide, and they had already been crowned as national champions prior to the game, which is how they did it in those days. Underdog Texas was ranked number 5. But linebacker Tommy Nobis and his teammates stopped Namath on two consecutive quarterback sneaks at the goal line, and the Horns won 21-17.
I hope Tuscaloosa barbecue is as tasty as ours. Go Horns!
Kim and I are in California for the BCS National Championship. I’ve noticed how many UT alumni and friends are using their iPhones, Blackberries, and other smart phones to stay in touch. Today we’ve launched our own Longhorn iPhone application, which features UT news, sports, events, videos, and more. The app is part of our effort to better engage our alumni, students, faculty, and staff. You can have a wide array of UT information at your fingertips, and it’s free.
To download the application, click on this link or search “UT Austin” in Apple’s application store and look for the Longhorn icon. Enjoy it and let me know what you think!
In addition, there’s a great story about a new scholarship program sponsored by the Texas Exes in today’s Austin American Statesman. The Exes are raising $150 million to underwrite 300 merit-based “full ride” scholarships to keep our state’s finest students in Texas—at UT! The 40 Acres Scholars Program will cover tuition, fees, room, board, books, and summer programs. We are often at a competitive disadvantage with private universities outside the state who offer generous scholarships to exceptional students here. This program will help us keep these future leaders in Texas.
Hook ’em Horns!
Many of you will be heading for Pasadena this week, and Kim and I look forward to joining you. The rest of the Longhorn Nation will be watching the BCS Championship Game on television this Thursday. I know there weren’t enough tickets to go around, and I’m sorry for that. We’re working with the BCS and the Big 12 to improve that situation in the future.
I remember the first time I saw the Texas Longhorns play football. Of course, I’d seen them play football on television. I remember growing up in California and seeing them on Thanksgiving, first on a little 10-inch console, black and white TV. That’s what you did on Thanksgiving. You watched the Texas Longhorns play football. That’s how America helped celebrate Thanksgiving.
The first time I saw the Longhorns play in person was when I was teaching at the University of Washington in the mid 1970s. The Longhorns were on the schedule, and I remember two things distinctly about the game. One was that Roosevelt Leaks just ran up and down the field. The only thing that made him change direction was the quarter. And the only thing that slowed him down was the goal line. The other thing I remember about the game: it was a big day for the Huskies because the Texas Longhorns had come to town. The fans recognized that they were seeing something special.
Think of the Longhorn logo on our helmets, and how recognizable it is. I love going to road games and seeing those simple white uniforms. Texas written across the front, and that logo on the helmet. It’s simple and instantly recognizable. You don’t have to think, what does it mean? Our logo is like the silhouette of the Coca-Cola bottle. When you see it, you know it.
But icons like that don’t convey a powerful message just because of their shape. It’s what they represent. Our logo represents winning, it represents academics, and it represents integrity. There are many programs in the country that have one or two of those, but there are very few that have all three. We’re in a small pantheon of universities. Our logo is unique and stands for excellence, and I’m proud of it.
Hook ‘em Horns!
In my previous post, I discussed our economic situation, priorities, and strategy. Today I want to talk about implementing the strategy.
Reallocation—No colleges or schools have experienced a budget cut for this academic year. They have been asked to reallocate resources to fund half of the faculty raise pool for 2009-10, as well as their internal strategic initiatives. Deans, department chairs, and vice presidents know their programs better than anyone. Instead of managing by presidential edict, I have asked the individuals with direct responsibility for our programs to make these decisions. This is very difficult and painful work. I applaud our faculty, department chairs, and deans for the progress they’ve made. Some areas, such as Information Technology Services (ITS), have already seen reorganizations and reductions in force. The changes at ITS alone will save more than $5 million per year.
Nevertheless, we face serious financial challenges through 2012, and we will need to continue working hard to address them.
The future—Unlike many of our national peer universities, UT Austin has not experienced severe budget cuts imposed by external forces. We are not facing a budget shortfall of hundreds of millions of dollars, which the University of California System is confronting. We will come out of this recession as a stronger and more efficient institution.
The recession has created uncertainty, which is hard on our students, faculty, and staff. We have tried to include representative voices from the campus community in all our planning and communications. Sometimes leaders must make tough decisions. I understand that these decisions have human costs and affect real people. But doing nothing also comes at a cost—a cost to the future of our programs, a cost to our aspirations, and a cost to the value of a degree from the University of Texas at Austin.
I believe we must strive for excellence, in good times and bad. I also believe that if we make strategic and disciplined decisions, we can emerge from the recession closer to our goal of becoming the nation’s best public university.