January 11, 2010
Dear Howard University Community:
As we begin a new decade, a new year and a new semester, I am excited about our possibilities and am pleased to share information about where we stand and where we must go.
There is no question that Howard University is a unique and irreplaceable national treasure. Our tradition of providing a first-class education for people of color reaches back to our founding in 1867 when we began to prepare leaders to address some of the most urgent needs of our nation and beyond. Today, we continue that preparation while some of the challenges facing us are as tough as when we were founded.
As we compete for, attract and graduate the best and the brightest students, we understand the need to offer competitive programs that meet and exceed national and global standards. This requires a commitment from all of us and it particularly requires a commitment of appropriate resources for the job at hand.
Fiscal Challenges and Progress
Undoubtedly, last year was difficult for the world economy. Higher education, nationally and internationally, faced and continues to face significant financial pressure not only from investment losses in endowments, but from shrinking gifts from corporations, foundations and individuals. Howard is no exception; as a result of this and long-term structural demands, we continue to have a sizeable deficit to overcome.
We have made some hard choices to balance our budget and we have others ahead. As a community we have made some progress. Many individuals and units at the University worked to control spending, track expenses, and search for efficiencies in operations while improving the quality of services delivered. Others must accept the challenge. Across the University we are operating in a new culture of discipline as we make the tough choices.
Our priority, at this time, is to close the deficit as soon as possible, to balance our budget by the beginning of fiscal year 2011 and to move forward with an institution that is strong, well-placed and continuing a high quality educational experience for students.
Plan of action
Our multi-year plan of action is necessarily tied to our vision priorities of increasing the amount and quality of our research; encouraging studies in the high demand STEM areas, while building upon the arts and humanities; expanding our international footprint; and continuing to address service disparities in minority communities.
The Presidential Commission on Academic Renewal (PCAR), central to this plan, began its work last semester. Composed of representatives I appointed from within the University and from distinguished external academic communities, PCAR is engaging our entire University in dialogue about comprehensive academic restructuring. You can follow PCAR’s progress online. By the end of this academic year, we expect recommendations that will help shape the future of Howard University.
Complementing this effort for the second year is the Budget Advisory Committee (BAC), which I launched last year with members appointed from across the University and charged with budget development and review. The BAC is also responsible for sharing budget related accountability measures with the University community. Reports of their proceedings are posted on the Web site at www.provost.howard.edu.
Signs of Progress
Already this academic year, we have seen:
- Research conducted by our most recent Fulbright Scholars (Justin Dunnavant, Florence Maher and Kelly McCray) and our Truman Scholar (Hamilton Cunningham);
- Increased research grant productivity by faculty (Research awards were ahead of the same period a year before);
- Re-accreditation affirmed for 3 colleges/schools (Medicine, Dentistry, Communications);
- An invigorating visit by the Middle States team to re-affirm university accreditation;
- Ongoing commitments by students, faculty and staff to local, and national service (including WHUR’s $75,000 fund raiser “Food2Feed,” the Law School’s Law clinic, and the College of Medicine’s student-run Freedman’s Clinic);
- Alumni engagement in and commitment to the University (especially in New York; Atlanta; Prince Georges County, Maryland);
- Continued alumni success (including election of Kasim Reed as Atlanta mayor and Senator Edward Brooke awarded Congressional Gold Medal from President Barack Obama);
- President Obama’s appointment of HU family members to administrative positions (including Trustee Marie C. Johns as Deputy Administrator of the Small Business Administration and Economics Department Chair Williams Spriggs as Assistant Secretary for Policy, Department of Labor);
- Appointment of new additions to the administrative leadership team;
- Appointment of the Environmental and Sustainability Council;
- Multiple awards, distinctions and rankings for faculty, students and staff from all divisions of the campus.
In his inaugural address in 1926, Mordecai Wyatt Johnson, the first African American president of Howard University reminded us of the vibrant intellectual community that was Howard, even as he affirmed his administration’s commitment to further developing it. Johnson and the other visionaries set the course and modeled excellence. Today, we continue to build upon their efforts and upon the legacy of generations of others as we do the hard work of reshaping and retooling Howard University.
Thank you for the part you have played already and, in the spirit of the new year and the new decade, I invite you to join me in a recommitment to assure that our University will thrive.
Happy New Year.
Sidney A. Ribeau