Sixth Annual State of the University Address
McMurtry Auditorium, Duncan Hall
October 21, 2010
Faculty Senate Speaker Susan McIntosh welcomed the faculty to the Sixth Annual State of the University Address by President David Leebron. McIntosh gave a summary of the Faculty Senate’s current activities prior to President Leebron’s presentation.
McIntosh stated that one major activity of the Senate is a self-study at this five-year point after transition to a representative system of faculty governance. Last spring, the Senate approved formation of the Working Group on Faculty Senate Governance, with Deputy Speaker Tom Killian as chair. McIntosh explained that this group spent many hours over the summer preparing its report, which is now posted on the Senate pages of the Rice University website. McIntosh thanked Killian and the entire working group for their efforts, and she stated that many of their recommendations have already been implemented. For example, each department at Rice now has a Senator assigned as its liaison. In addition, the Senate has instituted a wiki space where documents which the Senate is considering are available to faculty, including the Faculty Salary report, which was presented at a recent Senate meeting. McIntosh encouraged faculty to read the report and submit their comments in order to help shape next year’s Faculty Salary report.
McIntosh reminded the faculty that Senate meetings are open and that one does not have to be a Senator to be recognized to speak. Information on all of the Senate’s working groups, including the charge and members of each group, can be found on the Senate’s web pages. In addition to Senate Governance, the current Senate working groups include Appeals and Grievances, Communication in the Curriculum, Grade Inflation, and Teaching.
McIntosh announced that Senators are currently representing the faculty on a number of committees, such as the three Rice Initiatives, the Dean’s Council on Enrollment Growth, and several ADVANCE committees: Faculty Development, Faculty Retention, and Annual Performance Reviews. The Senate receives regular updates from these liaisons and they will be made available to faculty on the Senate’s web pages. In addition, McIntosh said that there are plans to update the Faculty Handbook. In conclusion, she stated that her remarks were a “healthy sample” of the Senate’s activities, not an exhaustive list. Above all, McIntosh said, the Senate is working to be the link to all groups which are making recommendations and decisions regarding the faculty. “We are your Senate,” she said.
McIntosh welcomed President Leebron to the podium and stated that following his remarks, there would be a question-and-answer session. In addition, she invited faculty to stay for a reception immediately following the plenary meeting.
President Leebron said that although the Senate invites him to make the State of the University Address each year, there are no guidelines as to what his report should contain. He said that there are many ways to evaluate the state of the university, including ways that cannot be quantitatively measured. Leebron cited three recent events in which Rice received positive feedback. The Fall 2010 Membership Meeting of the Association of American Universities (AAU) was held at Rice, during which many of the university presidents in attendance said they were struck by the beauty of the Rice campus and the enthusiasm of the Rice students. Parents of new students were recently welcomed to Rice, several of whom exclaimed that their children were not just happy, but happier than they had ever been. Finally, at the recent homecoming celebration, many alumni reported being very pleased with the developments at Rice.
Leebron presented a series of slides, beginning with the university’s mission statement and a general list of accomplishments that have occurred since the Vision for the Second Century (V2C) was instituted five years ago. In addition, each title slide showcased a new art installation at Rice. Leebron stated that although the last two years have been unusually challenging, it has also been a period of unusual accomplishment and growth. Leebron cited some programs Rice is undertaking in the community, including the Institute for Urban Research, the Rice Space Initiative, cancer research funded by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT), Nano 3-D: the Bio-Assembler, which was developed in collaboration with MD Anderson Cancer Center, and the $1 million National Institute of Health (NIH) award presented to Rice and the Texas Heart Institute.
Quantitatively, there are 537 tenured and tenure-track faculty members at Rice as of fall 2010, which is an increase of 54 individuals since fall 2004. The current student-faculty ratio is slightly lower than it was in 2004, and although it is expected to increase slightly, the ratio will likely remain in the range of six students per faculty member. Leebron presented new faculty hire information by gender and ethnicity, and he showed a slide taken from the Faculty Salary report prepared by the Faculty Senate. The information on this slide showed that the annual salary of full professors at Rice is in the mid-range of approximately 20 peer universities.
Qualitative measures of faculty productivity presented by Leebron included a sample of the recent articles and books published by Rice faculty, an increase of 37 percent in sponsored research project awards, a tripling of grants awarded to Social Sciences faculty, and the No. 1 ranking of Rice’s Materials Science Department by Times Higher Education. Leebron also presented slides recognizing various individual faculty members, including young faculty who have received National Science Foundation (NSF) awards. More broadly, Leebron cited the favorable rankings that Rice University enjoys in various publications: Princeton Review, US News & World Report, Times World, Kiplinger Report and the Wall Street Journal.
Leebron presented “New Faces” at Rice, including individuals who hold leadership positions such as new Provost George McLendon, Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson, newly elected Faculty Senate Speaker Susan McIntosh and Deputy Speaker Tom Killian. Regarding new students, the current freshman class totals 949 students and the next three classes should each contain approximately the same number of students. By ethnicity, there is no single majority represented in the entering class, although there are more Caucasians than other groups, followed by Asian-Americans. Geographically, there are 415 new students from Texas, 403 from other states, 107 from other countries, and 24 students whose origin was stated as unknown. Leebron also presented information on the number of students who received Pell Grants and a sample of the outstanding contributions made by Rice students, four of which received national media attention.
Information regarding Rice’s current financial situation was presented next by Leebron, who stated that the news is mainly positive. Operating revenues are up, and the university’s endowment status has improved since FY 2009, following a decline from the previous year, with returns on investments yielding almost 10 percent. In the past, when the endowment suffered a downturn, it was followed by a huge recovery, which Leebron does not expect to occur this time. Regarding contributions to the university, fundraising in general is currently more challenging.
Rice’s net revenue from undergraduate tuition is growing due to two factors: the increase in tuition and the expansion of the student body. Sponsored project awards surpassed $100 million in federal awards for the first time. Regarding construction on campus, with the exception of the Continuing Studies building, Leebron said that current construction projects are winding down. The V2C contained $800 million in board-approved projects; these are being completed on time and on budget.
Leebron stated that new endeavors include the three Rice initiatives: Bioscience and Human Health, Energy and the Environment, and International Strategies; he also cited Research Rice 2010, a recruitment program for future scholars. In addition, the BioScience Research Collaborative (BRC) now houses 250 Rice faculty, staff and graduate students, as well as several Texas Medical Center lessees.
In conclusion, Leebron quoted from a statement made by Edgar Odell Lovett:
“Rice is in a state of transition. It is a transition from good to better. Facing extraordinary opportunity, the institution is about to become braver, stronger, sounder and more beautiful. ... And at Rice the good life will continue to be lived, but better.”
Edgar Odell Lovett
March 4, 1946
After Leebron’s presentation, he opened the floor to questions from faculty members. The first request was for clarification about some terms Leebron has used when describing the ethnicity of students and faculty. Leebron assured the individual that he meant for the terms used for all ethnicities to be parallel. He said, however, that the faculty totals might be cited in a different way from the student totals. For example, the “Hispanic” new faculty hires could all be Hispanic-Americans.
Another person asked what the current annual subsidy is for the athletic program at Rice. Leebron replied that the subsidy is about $8 million in most years if athletic scholarships are not included, or $11 million per year if they are. Leebron referred to a decision made by the Rice Board of Trustees a few years ago that ended the escalation of athletic subsidies, and he said Rice has since been reasonable about controlling costs. Leebron said that part of the challenge of being a small university is trying to do many things well, including athletics. However, he said that athletics programs at Rice are part of its culture and its history, and alumni have a lot of enthusiasm and support for athletics. He also said that it is not clear that the Ivy League colleges spend any less on athletics than Rice, nor is it clear that Rice would save much money if it were to move away from its Division 1A standing.
The next person asked about Rice’s debt status. Leebron replied that Rice’s current debt is approximately $900 million. Rice’s Vice President for Finance Kathy Collins added that there are no plans in the near term to issue more debt.
The last question posed was whether Rice can lock in the current low interest rate for borrowing money. Leebron briefly described the difference between fixed and variable interest rates and said that Rice has a mix of the two types of rates. He said that the range of conservative practices Rice has employed has benefitted the University.
McIntosh thanked Leebron for his presentation and he received a round of applause. The meeting was adjourned at 5:10 p.m.
Please use this link to view President Leebron’s presentation: Sixth Annual SOU.