Eastern Illinois University President Lou Hencken outlined the status of the university during the Faculty Luncheon on Wednesday, Aug. 31, in the Grand Ballroom. Following are his remarks:
I would like to take this opportunity to welcome the new faculty in attendance today and to welcome back the excellent faculty members who teach at one of the best universities in America.
Those of you who know me best know how excited I get at the beginning of a new school year and that September is my favorite month.
It’s not that I dislike campus in the summer. The campus is lovely. The days are long and the campus slows down.
But it’s not the same in September, when the students have returned, classes have begun, and this remarkable institution once again swings into full operation, in a spirit of anticipation and renewal, just as it has been each September – year after year – since 1899.
Not only have we welcomed our new and returning students to the campus, but it is my pleasure to introduce a new member of the administrative team, Dr. Dan Nadler, vice president for student affairs. Dr. Nadler comes to Eastern Illinois University after serving 12 years at Tulane University in New Orleans. Please join me in welcoming Dr. Nadler to the campus.
I also want to take this opportunity to thank the past chair of the Faculty Senate. For the past two years, David Carpenter, professor of English, has done an excellent job serving as chair of the Faculty Senate, and I want to take this opportunity to thank him for his dedication to the university.
Believing that a picture is worth 1,000 words, I have a PowerPoint presentation to show you today.
Let me now turn to a negative aspect of the campus, one which I am confident you are all growing weary of hearing me discuss, and that is the budget. This is the fourth year in a row where we have not received any additional dollars from the state of Illinois.
It does not make us feel better when we know Illinois is not unique in its belt-tightening efforts.
As in the past several years, we will effectively allocate our existing resources. We have been able to operate by increasing efficiencies on the campus, by not filling a number of non-teaching positions, by increasing enrollment, and by unfortunately implementing higher than normal tuition increases.
I had the opportunity during the summer to send an e-mail to EIU’s 2004 Outstanding Young Alum, Capt. Carla Porch. Capt. Porch was a member of ROTC while a student at EIU, and she is currently stationed in Baghdad. It was during the month of July at a time when the temperature had been above 90 degrees in Charleston. I commented to her about the temperature in Charleston, and in her response to me, she very politely indicated, “I can understand about warm temperature. It has been over 120 degrees the last month in Baghdad, and just the other day a mortar shell landed outside my office building.” So, like the temperature in Charleston in July, I suppose the budget could always be worse. Please do not take this to mean that I have given up, and I am satisfied with the budget. I am not satisfied with the budget, and I will continue to fight for as many new dollars and new grant dollars as possible for our budget. However, recently higher education does not appear to be a priority for new money from the governors or legislators in many of the 50 states. As a side note, when asking Capt. Porch for permission to use her as an illustration, she commented that the temperature in Baghdad was now much cooler -- a mere 110 degrees.
Now, let’s turn from the negative and talk of the positive and exciting things occurring at EIU. As you are well aware, we completed our 10-year North Central re-accreditation process during the spring semester 2005. Provost Lord said it best when he said, “If grades could be given, we would have received a grade of A+.”
To quote from the North Central team:
“Eastern Illinois University is a well organized, well functioning university with a clear, well understood mission and direction.”
“The team identified few concerns demanding significant attention by the university and none requiring Commission follow-up.”
“This attests to the success of the university in fulfilling the criteria for accreditation and preparing for the future.”
I believe that we should all be pleased with the report from the North Central evaluation team. We just received official notification of our 10-year re-accreditation.
As you can see, fund-raising at the university has increased dramatically during the last several years.
Two years ago at Homecoming, we announced that we hoped over a three-year period to be able to raise $10 million. In the last 26 months, we have raised almost $9 million. The money that has been raised has gone to three main areas.
Not only has the fund-raising increased, but the number who are giving money back to the university has also increased. We have gone in two years from 8 percent of alumni giving money to the university to 10 percent giving money back to the university. This is also more impressive when you realize that in the last two years we have increased the number of alums by more than 5,000.
Not only is Eastern popular with our alumni and friends of the university, but we also have very popular institution with students.
Although attempts have been made to limit the freshman class this past year (and please remember that we do not announce our official enrollment numbers until the 10th day of the semester), I realistically believe that this is the largest enrollment in the history of EIU.
The facts that we offer small classes (99 percent of which are taught by faculty and not graduate assistants), that our faculty care about our students and that students tell us that they learn from the classes that you teach are some of the major reasons that our enrollment is up.
I assure you that we will continue to offer the same quality education this year and in the future as we have in the past, and our commitment to small classes taught by faculty will continue. Not only is the overall enrollment up, the number of honors students is up over last year, and the number of minority students has also increased significantly. Thank you to everyone involved – too numerous to mention by name – who worked diligently to ensure that these students received full schedules.
With prices of gasoline and utilities going up dramatically, we will need the extra revenue.
I have said it in several presentations this year, and I will say it again: “Construction fences are beautiful.” Construction fences show signs of progress at the university.
During the spring semester, we will re-open the completely renovated Blair Hall, and it also appears that construction is going very well on the new Doudna Fine Arts Building, in which we have every intention to offer classes beginning in fall semester 2007.
Is the construction on campus inconvenient? Yes. It is not possible to do $60 million of construction on campus without inconvenience, no matter how hard you try. Just ask the faculty who were occupants of Blair and Doudna.
I want to take this opportunity to thank those faculty who are teaching classes in converted grocery stores and an old gymnasium and have had to move their offices, while still maintaining their commitment to their students.
In recent years, we faced the same inconvenience during the remodeling of Buzzard Hall and Booth Library. Now, however, as we look at Buzzard and Booth, I am confident that we are pleased with the end result.
I am equally as confident that we will all be pleased with Blair Hall and Doudna, even though we all understand the great inconvenience that we currently face.
Not only do we have construction in the academic buildings, but we continue to make improvements in other parts of the campus. Through the fees that students pay to live in university housing, we have been able to install sprinkler systems in Carman North this past summer for the added safety of our students. As we continue to add sprinklers in university housing, next summer Carman South will have sprinklers installed. This summer, the North Tower of Taylor Hall was completely renovated in an attempt to meet the needs of the students of the 21st century, realizing that most of our residence halls were built in the 1960s. In addition, there were improvements made in sidewalk repairs and parking lots, and installation of new computer equipment in approximately 50 classrooms this summer.
Last year at this meeting, I announced two new initiatives that I thought the university needed to study to make us a viable institution in the 21st century. First was to emphasize the importance of volunteerism or service learning as a part of the curriculum. After that speech, I am told, we had an influx of volunteers for the Special Olympics Family Festival, and I am hoping that again students would volunteer their time to help again this year on Sept. 17. Students, see Dr. Shank to volunteer. I am pleased to report that Dean Bonnie Irwin continues to make progress chairing a committee to study ways in which to make service learning an important part of the curriculum.
The second initiative has to do with offering a B.S. in nursing, a nursing completion program, at the university. A consultant visited the campus during the spring and summer and made her report to Dr. Lord. Provost Lord will be sharing the report with various faculty councils during the fall semester as we move the process to fruition.
Lastly, one of the comments made by the NCA was that it might be timely to look at our mission statement. I believe that during this school year, we need to have a thorough discussion of the mission of the university. At the end of the discussion, it might be that our current mission statement might well remain exactly as it is, or it could be revised.
Nevertheless, I believe a thorough discussion needs to be held. Here are some of the questions that I think need to be addressed during the year. We can never be satisfied with our past achievements. We must continue to have plans for the future, or other schools will pass us by.
Questions to frame the discussion of “Institutional Mission”
I will say, as I have said over the last number of years, that although I am the principal spokesman for the university, all decisions involving academic matters will ultimately involve Blair Lord. It is highly unlikely that my recommendation to the Board of Trustees on such matters will be contrary to his.
In conclusion, I am optimistic about another fantastic year at EIU. Together, we can face almost any challenge we are presented. We are an excellent institution -- not only do we believe it, but others on the outside have reaffirmed that belief. Be proud that you teach in such an excellent institution. I am proud that you teach at EIU, and I thank you for caring about the students of this great institution.