October 5, 2012

Rice University

State of the University Address

McMurtry Auditorium, Duncan Hall

October 5, 2012

2:00 p.m.

Faculty Senate Speaker Carl Caldwell welcomed faculty members to the annual State of the University Address by President David Leebron. Caldwell gave a summary of the activities of the Faculty Senate over the past year prior to President Leebron’s presentation.

Caldwell stated that last year was another busy year for the Senate, and he highlighted three important accomplishments. First, he said that after much time and effort, the Senate approved the recommendations from Chair Helena Michie’s Working Group on Communication in the Curriculum. He added that the first two aspects have already been successfully implemented: the First Year Writing Intensive Seminars and the Center for Written, Oral, and Visual Communication. Caldwell said that it takes time and patience from faculty members and the administration to undertake such a major reform, and he thanked everyone for their efforts.

Second, under former Speaker Susan McIntosh, the Senate organized three impressive and intensive discussion sessions entitled “Rice 2032, Building the Vision in Disruptive Times.” The sessions focused on teaching, internationalization, and research at Rice over the next twenty years. The sessions were attended by faculty, administration, and Board of Trustee members. Caldwell said that he hoped for continued discussion among these groups in the future.

Third, Caldwell stated that the Senate’s Working Group on Retirement Planning, chaired by Kathy Matthews, produced an extensive report containing recommendations to Rice’s retirement policies for faculty. He added that Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Paula Sanders reported on the implementation of these recommendations in the Senate meeting held two days ago. Caldwell thanked Matthews and the entire working group.

Caldwell briefly listed additional Senate accomplishments over the past year: an Open Access Policy; a Syllabus Standards Policy; the extensively revised Research Misconduct policy; revisions to the Faculty Senate Constitution to allow for more representation among non-tenure-track faculty; the approval of a new category for graduation honors, Distinction in Research and Creative Works; as well as the approval of many new majors and minors.

Caldwell then stated some of the issues that the Senate plans to address in the coming year: Conflict of Commitment, Conflict of Interest, organization and process of the Promotion and Tenure Committee, faculty salaries, non-tenure-track faculty, and laboratory safety.

In summary, Caldwell said that the Faculty Senate exists to represent the faculty, and he stressed the importance of shared governance. He said that faculty voices have to be heard, not just the voices of their representatives. He encouraged the faculty in attendance to be in touch with him, with the Deputy Speaker Jane Grande-Allen, and with their senators.

Caldwell then welcomed President Leebron to the podium. Leebron began his presentation by stating that it was the Senate which enacted the requirement of an annual State of the University Address. Leebron said that he planned to address three areas: higher education in general; a look back over the past decade at Rice; and a look forward to the next decade.

Regarding higher education, Leebron stated that 2012 was a watershed year, and he discussed the following factors:

  • the higher education financial model is under pressure
  • declining reputation and public support
  • governance issues, such as at the University of Virginia
  • ethics and compliance issues, such as at Penn State University
  • online education is gaining momentum
  • new overseas campuses for American universities such as Yale, NYU, and Duke.

Looking at the last decade of Rice University’s first century, Leebron cited the following items:

  • growth in Rice’s research funding and profile
  • enrichment of the academic program
  • 30% growth in the undergraduate student body, with increased quality and diversity
  • 37% growth in the enrollment of the graduate student body
  • growth in international students, relationships, and programs
  • substantial expansion and renewal of the physical plant and the campus
  • improved shared governance through the Faculty Senate
  • growth in philanthropy
  • greater visibility and reputation
  • high ranking in student and alumni satisfaction
  • increased engagement with the city of Houston.

Leebron provided further detail on changes at Rice University over the last 10 years:

  • the admit rate at Rice in 2002 was 24%; in fall 2012, it was 17%
  • in 2002, the undergraduate student body was 55% Caucasian; in 2012, it is 40%
  • in 2002, international students made up 3% of the student body, today it is 11%
  • 11% of Rice students received Pell Grants in 2002; today it is 19%
  • In 2002, students who were the first in their family to attend college made up 6% of the Rice student body; today they comprise 15%
  • the percentage of tuition being discounted was 37.9% in 2002; in 2012, it is 49.1%.

Leebron listed the five courses that are currently being offered online by Rice professors via Coursera, and he noted that the current total of 90,000 students taking these courses is more than have ever graduated from Rice during its 100-year history.

Regarding faculty, Leebron stated that over the past 10 years, there has been a 14% growth in tenure-track faculty. Among the non-tenure-track (NTT) faculty, there were 97 NTT faculty members in 2002, while there are 179 in 2012.

Leebron also cited growth in research revenues, he gave details on operating revenues, and he discussed the return on the endowment, which he described as good over the 10-year period.

Leebron said that several building projects on campus are forthcoming: a new building for the Glasscock Center for Continuing Studies, the Klein Hall for Social Sciences, and a new tennis facility. He also listed projects that are subject to fund-raising, including an art building, a new end zone for the football stadium, and an opera theater. Leebron said that Rice’s Centennial fund-raising campaign, which has a goal of $1 billion, is currently at $888 million.

Leebron then discussed shared governance and the Faculty Senate, which was created in 2005. He listed some of the accomplishments of the Senate, including participation in the merger discussions with the Baylor College of Medicine, the development of a procedure for regular review of deans, and the development of processes for creating and changing graduate and undergraduate programs.

Regarding the decade ahead, Leebron stated the following points that he would like to see occur:

  • improve teaching, learning, and mentoring in the digital age
  • expand our impact through online education
  • enhance our research capability; strengthen faculty and research support
  • foster more collaboration with the Texas Medical Center, museums, and industry
  • build deeper international partnerships
  • invest in infrastructure and maintenance
  • support the entrepreneurial spirit; lead, innovate, create, build
  • develop interdisciplinary, inter-institutional arts initiative

In summary, Leebron presented the university’s mission statement and its values, stating that they are more important than ever. Finally, he invited everyone to attend the upcoming centennial events. To view the slides presented at the meeting, use this link: SOU Slides. To view the summary prepared by Rice’s Public Affairs Department, use this link: SOU.

Following the presentation, President Leebron accepted questions from the assembled faculty. The first question asked was regarding the increasing international percentage of the student body, noting that the majority of the international students come from two Asian countries, and far fewer from Latin America. Leebron was asked what he is directing the admissions department to do, if anything, to increase the number of students from Latin America. Leebron replied by stating that the majority of the international students come from more than two Asian countries, but he also cited several reasons for fewer Latin American students choosing to come to Rice. First, he discussed China’s uneven distribution of wealth and its one child per family policy. He said that while such a family might be able to afford tuition for one child, conversely, in countries such as India or Mexico, where families are likely to have multiple children, tuition can be cost-prohibitive. Leebron also said that the proximity of Latin America makes Rice not as attractive to students who are interested in studying abroad. However, he stated that Vice President for Enrollment Chris Munoz has taken steps to improve Rice’s profile in Latin America, and a new program with Brazil will bring both undergraduate and graduate students to Rice for one to two semesters. He said that Rice has remarkable strength in Brazil.

Leebron was also asked his opinion as to the future of universities; for example, whether universities should pursue online education or remain as localized campus entities. Leebron said that there are approximately 4,200 institutions of higher learning in the United States, ranging from community colleges to large research universities. He said that one does not usually see mergers and acquisitions in higher education, due mainly to its not-for-profit structure; colleges are not judged by how much money they make. However, Leebron predicted that some changes are coming, and he noted that student mobility is a big factor. He added, though, that he does not think the multi-campus idea being pursued by some universities will be very successful. Leebron predicted that partnerships and consortiums will continue to develop among universities. As for Rice, Leebron said that he thought it very important for Rice to be creative in building international partnerships.

There were no more questions, and the meeting was adjourned at 3:00 p.m.