May 7, 2007
By Elizabeth Boyle and Mary Alice Casey
In announcing a restructuring of his administration to bring greater focus to Ohio University's academic mission, President Roderick J. McDavis today appealed to an overflow crowd in Baker University Center to join him in pursuing the institution's "shining future."
The changes broaden the role of Provost Kathy Krendl, set new goals for her and the university's deans, spell out a greater external focus for McDavis and emphasize that any additional state funding would be spent on academic priorities.
More than 350 people filled Baker Ballroom B for the 30-minute speech, which prompted a standing ovation and immediate audience reaction. The live webcast, available from the university's front door, drew 526 viewers who watched the full speech online and about 80 more who saw a portion of it.
"My heartfelt appeal to you today is for you to join me in creating a climate of positive change in the university community and in working together to build on our historic commitment to Ohio University's academic mission and core values," McDavis said. "Our strength is in our people, and every one of you is a building block in our firm foundation."
Referring to his own alumni status, McDavis -- a 1970 graduate and only the second alumnus to serve as the university's president -- added, "I'm passionate about the need for positive change not just because the black and gold sign on my door says 'President.' I'm passionate because the green and white essence of my being says 'Bobcat.'"
The restructuring, which McDavis said he has had under consideration since fall, gives Krendl the new title of executive vice president and provost. In addition to continuing to serve as chief academic officer, she will oversee the Office of Research, the Office of University Outreach, the Office of Equity and Diversity, and regional campuses. The changes take effect immediately.
McDavis said Krendl would work closely with the deans, who will advise her on key decisions related to academic budgets; priorities for growth or reductions in undergraduate and graduate programs; collaborations with the Faculty Senate; and enrollment targets.
"With these changes, the entire academic enterprise will report to Dr. Krendl, and she, in turn, will report directly to me," he said. "I'll work closely with our academic leaders to see that they have the tools to achieve success."
McDavis said the challenges facing Ohio University and higher education in general, including budget shortfalls and a shrinking pool of college-aged students, must not rely on solutions of the past.
"We face difficult challenges that require new ways of thinking and new ways of doing business," he said. "And I am convinced that the best way to face these challenges is for all of us to stand together and to work together to resolve our problems."
McDavis said he is encouraged by recent funding proposals set forth by Gov. Ted Strickland and House Speaker Jon Husted.
"Ohio's top leaders are now proposing $100 million in new scholarships for students and $224 million in new support for public colleges and universities over the next two years," he said. "For us, this could mean an additional $2 million in subsidy this July and an extra $10 million next July.
"If we do get more money from Columbus, we'll invest the majority of it where it matters most -- our academic programs," the president said. "We will go back to the proposals you put forward in the academic planning process, and we will fund the ones that you identified as most promising."
Noting a near-$20 million decline in state support since 2001, McDavis said the university faces a challenging financial environment that has necessitated deep budget cuts. These realities, he said, have made it hard to advance the university community's shared goals.
Despite realigning the budget for the 2007 fiscal year, reinvestment funds are limited because of fewer-than-expected transfer and continuing students. Although the university remains committed to using some of the realignment funds to improve faculty salaries, most of the remaining money may be needed to close gaps in the budget for the 2008 fiscal year that begins July 1, McDavis said.
"I know that you are saddened, as I am, that we haven't yet succeeded in breaking the cycle of annual budget cuts," he said. "I apologize for raising those expectations -- and I want you to know that I and other leaders of this institution will work even harder to strengthen the university's financial footing."
McDavis noted that his own focus would swing more toward external relations.
"It's time for me to turn more of my time and energy toward the university's most crucial external mission: planning, communicating, advocating for and raising funds for our mission," he said. "In other words, I'll do more to connect with our alumni, make important friends for the institution, and tell our story in Columbus and in Washington."