A Letter From the President
January 31, 2007
I hope the new semester is going well for you in these early weeks of classes,
committee meetings, and attending to your scholarly commitments; and I hope
you find yourselves energized, as I am, to embrace the opportunities that UNH
has to offer. Before I write about these opportunities, as well as about the
challenges ahead, I must begin by acknowledging two significant losses in the
UNH family. Danielle Thompson, a speech pathology major and senior class member,
died of meningitis in early January, and our beloved Don Murray died unexpectedly
just before the New Year. It deeply saddens me to begin my letter with this
news, but hopefully we may all take comfort in knowing that we are a better
University because of Danielle and Don’s many contributions.
I spent much of the holiday break reflecting on my first six months as your
interim president and gave a great deal of thought to the work we have ahead
of us. As I stated in June, at the time of my appointment, the University of
New Hampshire is very much a dynamic university – one that could not
stand still even if it wanted to. The work of our faculty, students, and staff
advances the University’s mission in a variety of exciting ways. Some
of our accomplishments over the recent months attest to this:
- The University of New Hampshire’s Crimes against Children Research
Center and Verizon hosted a town hall meeting to discuss the design of a child-safe
Internet. Hundreds of leaders from academia; local, state, and federal government;
and the business community highlighted their partnership to meet the challenges
of an increasingly hostile Internet.
- UNH hosted an open house to showcase Project54, the voice-activated police
cruiser developed by University of New Hampshire engineers. Project 54 incorporates
several new innovations – including datacasting with New Hampshire Public
Television – putting law enforcement in New Hampshire and across the
nation on the very cutting edge.
- Alumni, businesses and industry have contributed more than $3 million so far
to the University of New Hampshire’s Kingsbury Hall renovation and expansion
project, which is helping to provide our students with the very best teaching
and research tools.
- A dedication ceremony was held for the Hamel Center for Undergraduate Research.
The Hamel Center makes a significant contribution to the undergraduate experience
at the University. In collaboration with other academic programs, the center
develops opportunities for interested, qualified students to participate in
research activities with faculty members and to prepare for advanced research,
senior projects, senior theses, and capstone experiences.
- The Carsey Institute, through its extensive research, determined that in forty-one
states, a higher percentage of rural children live in poverty today than they
did five years ago. This kind of research has a significant impact on state
and national social welfare policies.
- As of this writing, the number of applications for next year’s entering
first-year class has already exceeded the record number received at the same
time last year. However, we are committed to returning to projected first-year
class sizes of around 2700, to assure adequate housing and high quality classroom
experiences for our first-year students.
- And, as you all know, we won many exciting football games with record-breaking
attendance. Men’s and women’s hockey continue to build on their
stellar records. As of this writing, the men are ranked number one in the country.
I had the pleasure and the privilege of witnessing these and many more successes – from
the opening day of the new academic year right up to the last moments before
winter break, when I heard from so many of you at the holiday skating party
about your work and your love for UNH. I do not take credit for any of the
accomplishments; they are all yours and they are greatly admired.
This does not mean we are without our challenges – they were here when
we left before the holidays and they will be with us through the spring semester.
And I do take responsibility for addressing them. Knowing, and witnessing over
and over last fall, the incredible resolve this community has for making this
an exceptional university, I have no doubt good solutions will prevail. But
we ALL are going to have to roll up our sleeves and work together in order
to accomplish the tasks at hand. There are many, and I would like to summarize
some of them below.
The University System will make a case for its biennial budget request before
the state legislature in the coming months. The USNH request, if approved,
would hold tuition increases over the biennium to 4.5 percent each year and
expand need-based financial aid substantially above that rate. The System’s
proposed budget is based on a request for a 7.6 percent increase in general
funds for each year of the biennium.
As most of you know, the USNH Board of Trustees gave conceptual approval for
an innovative pipeline project which would transport methane gas from the Turnkey
Recycling and Environmental Enterprise in nearby Rochester. UNH staff and faculty
are working on the feasibility of replacing commercial natural gas with processed
landfill gas. If we conclude this is a viable and worthy endeavor, UNH will
reduce its exposure to fluctuations in the energy market and ensure a greater
measure of stability with respect to future energy costs. Our energy costs
have doubled in the past five years from $6.3 million to $12.5 million annually.
That’s an average annual growth rate of 18.9 percent.
Just prior to the holiday break, mediation ended between the administration
and the faculty union. Both sides are now working hard to identify a fact-finder
so the process can move along to what we hope will be an agreement later this
The University is undertaking two significant financial reviews over the next
nine months. The first completes the recommendations that resulted from the
RCM review process relative to hold harmless and strategic funding. The second
review requires that all units receiving funding from the general assessment
assess their operations and provide justification for funding via this mechanism.
My expectations are that we can reduce the rate of growth of the general assessment
and provide a clear rationale to the campus for the programs and services that
are funded via this mechanism. The process requires each unit to submit a report
to the CBC for review and analysis. The CBC will then discuss with unit management
and make recommendations to me.
Overall, the University’s financial health is good in the current fiscal
year. This is partly due to the growth in enrollment in our undergraduate and
graduate populations. However, significant financial challenges lie ahead in
FY08 and beyond. We are hopeful that we will receive good news from the state
regarding the University System of New Hampshire’s request for an increase
to our operating funds. We continue to be challenged with providing need-based
financial aid for our undergraduate students. We are expecting a significant
decline in research funding over the next few years. We are faced with increasing
medical benefits for our employees as well as funding the upkeep of our buildings
and infrastructure. We also need to keep salaries competitive with the marketplace
to attract and retain the best and brightest faculty and staff. To address
these challenges, we are seeking to grow our research activity and revenues
through competitive awards. We are working with USNH to come up with strategies
to address medical benefits. And, we need to increase our income from private
gifts to support the operations of the University. The work will be challenging,
but I am confident we will succeed.
Finally, results of a vote of faculty and staff taken last month in the College
of Life Sciences and Agriculture overwhelmingly endorsed the COLSA Strategic
Plan for 2007-2012. The vote among faculty and staff was 99 in favor of the
new direction, and one person opposed. The COLSA Strategic Planning Committee
is to be commended for their collective due diligence in this collaborative
process. Next, faculty and staff in the College will be voting from now until
the end of January on a new structure to support the plan.
While this may all seem rather daunting, we are accustomed to challenges and
opportunities and I am confident we will find workable solutions. But, let
me assure you that when I began leading this great institution last summer,
the list of challenges was as long, and perhaps longer. There were days and
weeks when I wondered how we would get it all done. But again, I had the privilege
of witnessing great achievements on this campus and I do know, going into this
second semester, we will accomplish all that we have set out to do. And, as
we have always done, we will do it together.
Best wishes to you all for a productive spring semester. Despite the winter
weather, Honors and Commencement are just around the corner. As you may have
heard, President George H. W. Bush and President William J. Clinton, the 41st
and 42nd Presidents of the United States, have accepted our invitation to be
this year’s keynote speakers. We are honored that they have agreed to
share this special occasion with our University community.
J. Bonnie Newman