December 2, 2010
Dear Howard University Community:
As we approach the close of the fall semester and the beginning of the
next phase of our academic renewal process, I want to take a moment to
thank you for your involvement in the process and to update you on our
This is a good time for us to reflect on the reasons we embarked on the
exciting enterprise of academic renewal. It is vital that every university
must periodically review and assess itself to respond to the changing
needs of our nation and the world. At Howard, we are doing just that.
We must maintain the highest standards of academic and administrative
excellence. After a comprehensive self-study between 2007 to 2009 –
involving all parts of our community -- and a site visit by the Middle
States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), Howard University was approved
unconditionally for reaffirmation of its accreditation. The MSCHE final
report acknowledged that Howard is a “national treasure” and
charged us to “position Howard to not only survive, but to thrive
in the coming decades.” They noted that we must continue on the
path of renewing our academic programs.
When I became president of Howard in 2008, the Board of Trustees charged
me with renewing the academic enterprise. In late 2009, I established
the Presidential Commission on Academic Renewal (PCAR) and Howard began
a historic predominantly faculty-led, year-long comprehensive review of
all academic offerings. The overarching goal was to ensure that all of
our programs are aligned with the mission of the University and that our
resources are aligned with our academic priorities. Our community stepped
forward in an unprecedented way, gathering data and giving feedback, as
part of the deliberations. In early fall, as I had asked, PCAR submitted
to me its report. I then shared with you my preliminary recommendations
for academic renewal.
Since October, we have been engaged in a period of additional review of
those recommendations. The Provost and Senior Vice President for Health
Sciences have led rigorous dialogue open to all members of our community
and have received your many suggestions and comments. From the numerous
documents submitted and the more than 50 meetings held in the past two
months have come innovative and creative suggestions about our academic
programs and the future direction of our University. Many thoughtful and
well-reasoned statements have been the result.
Now that the public comment period has ended, the academic leadership
is sharing with me the results of their conversations. I can assure you
that all of your ideas will be given close consideration as this process
moves forward. I plan to review all of the suggestions we have received.
I will submit my final recommendations to the Board of Trustees and share
them with the campus community. The Board will make the final decisions
in late January.
To be clear, we face a number of undeniable challenges. The short list
includes: a domestic and global financial downturn; outdated and outmoded
classroom and research facilities; inadequate professional development
support for faculty; a salary structure in need of alignment with that
of our peers; underfunded libraries and other academic support facilities;
and costly and cumbersome administrative structures and procedures. These
affect the quality of our programs and our ability to continue to recruit
and retain the most promising faculty and undergraduate, graduate and
professional students. Academic renewal will help address those challenges.
Our goal is to position Howard for the future by enhancing, transforming,
and restructuring undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs.
As in the past, Howard University has a special role to play in the cultural,
political and economic renaissance that must take place in the African
Diaspora. With this legacy and the current needs of our communities, we
have a responsibility to be a leader in the interpretation of the history,
culture, current condition, and possibilities for continental and Diaspora
African populations and to work across disciplines to achieve excellence.
The educational value of these humanities and social sciences undergirds
our entire academic enterprise. As such, interdisciplinary Diaspora studies
is one of the academic pillars forming the foundation of academic renewal.
Also critical are the emphases on the health sciences and the STEM disciplines
of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Howard has a long tradition of providing quality education to our students,
and the accomplishments of our alumni bear that out. The changes that
we are discussing now are intended to insure that Howard continues to
provide a high quality education in an ever more competitive environment
in higher education. Quality and excellence are the cornerstones of our
academic renewal and the keys to building a future as great as our past.
Although difficult decisions remain and the work of implementing change
has only begun, I am confident that with your continuing support and commitment
we will succeed in assuring that Howard University remains a strong and
influential university through the next generation and beyond. I look
forward to working with you to achieve all of our goals.
Sidney A. Ribeau