University President Nils Hasselmo told more than 200 people in Rarig Center on Wednesday that the University is facing difficult times, but is well-prepared for the 21st century.
“We are being tested by some difficulties,” Hasselmo said, referring to decreased state funding and acrimony over proposed tenure reforms. “This will always be so, because the University plays such a central role in the life of this state.”
Hasselmo used his final “State of the University” address to speak of the “significant improvements” the University has seen since he assumed the presidency in 1988. Hasselmo intends to retire June 30.
The address, which was broadcast via satellite to the other University campuses, encompassed issues ranging from the biennial budget request recently approved by the regents to new and renovated facilities.
Despite his allusion to difficulties, Hasselmo only briefly mentioned the recent developments in the tenure debate and the long-lasting implications the impasse holds. Faculty members at the address didn’t really mention it either. During a question-and-answer session with the audience and long-distance observers via telephone, only one question relating to tenure was asked.
Hasselmo said increased donations and research grants to the University are two areas in which the University has excelled. Private donations exceeded $70 million over the past two years and grant money has reached beyond $300 million over the past year, he said.
Hasselmo reiterated his belief that the state needs to increase its investment in the University over the next two years. “Just as the University must be accountable and make changes, the public and the Legislature must now make a strong investment in the University,” he said.
On Friday, the Board of Regents approved and forwarded to Gov. Arne Carlson a $580 million per year request for funding. This represents a 17 percent increase over what the University now receives from the state.
Hasselmo and his staff have said previously that the request is in no way unreasonable because the vitality of the state depends on the University. Hasselmo said the University has made sacrifices and worked within its means, but increasing its standing among research institutions requires more state funding.
“We cannot shortchange the economic, cultural and educational future this University provides,” he said.
Following the question-and-answer session, Hasselmo said in a press conference that if the University’s budget request is not fulfilled, students stand to lose the most, because the University might have to raise tuition to offset any budget shortfall.
He added that the tentative agenda set out in the budget request could also be delayed by less state funding. The request calls for increases in faculty compensation and more reliance on computers in teaching and learning.
State legislators have said publicly that the University needs to prove it can handle the money it gets before additional money is provided. Hasselmo said the University’s tenure troubles are not helping that image.
“If this impasse is not resolved, then I think it will have a devastating effect on the biennial request,” he said.
Hasselmo told faculty he is “hopeful” a resolution t the tenure issue will be met quickly. He said the faculty is the most important part of the University’s infrastructure, a part it cannot afford to lose.
Hasselmo said three top University professors have told him they might leave the University, pending the outcome of the tenure debate. He declined to identify the professors by name.
With only nine months before Hasselmo steps down from the presidency, one professor from the Morris campus wanted to know what Hasselmo plans to do at 12:01 a.m. July 1st.
“I’ll probably raise a glass of Aquavit,” Hasselmo said referring to the popular Scandinavian drink.