Valuing honesty in State of the U

The University address should be honest and open and should address problems we face.

Last week, University President Bob Bruininks gave his State of the University address at Coffman Union.

He began his speech by speaking of the challenges of the 21st century and the University’s three-fold mission that is inscribed on Northrop Auditorium.

Many such addresses ignore problems and issues, and sway toward optimistic outlooks and inspiring words alone. However, it can often be more valuable for the speaker to remain honest and address problems the institution or organization is facing head-on, especially in regards to solutions to these problems.

In his speech, Bruininks did this a few times.

He spoke of extension staff members worrying about their programs and jobs, who, instead of rallying in protest, turned their energies toward students and their academic vision.

He spoke of the 27 percent of student athletes from 1999 to 2006 who left the University without graduating, and he said that the University is working on strategies to combat that rate.

Bruininks also alluded to the fact that the University is striving for more support from the Legislature, but he did not expand much upon that issue or the way insufficient funding from the state affects our University.

The rest of the time, he focused on the University’s plan to become one of the top three public research universities in the world, on how the incoming 2010 class is the best-prepared in history, on University partnerships, on the coordinate campuses and how well they’re doing, on the University’s academic goals and on our “exceptional faculty and staff,” to name a few topics.

The value of an address such as this is apparent. It’s meant to be informational and uplifting, but we do believe that University community members receive the most value from openness and honesty, especially when tackling tough subjects such as the problems the University is facing.

It is our advice that the next time the State of the University address rolls around, Bruininks and his speechwriters continue to be candid about the hurdles the University is facing and the solutions we are working toward.