September 7, 2005 (State of the University address)

Attendance: Approximately 185


Faculty Senate Speaker Marj Corcoran called the meeting to order in McMurtry Auditorium of Duncan Hall at 4:02 PM. She described this Presidential State of the University address as the beginning of a new tradition mandated by the new system of faculty governance at Rice. She welcomed President David Leebron, seventh president of Rice University, to the podium.

President Leebron began by talking about the ways the University mobilized to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina, as well as the ways that students, staff, and faculty helped in the relief efforts. He thanked all who helped in these endeavors and encouraged continued assistance in whatever ways possible.

Leebron opened his address with measures of the state of the University in financial terms discussing Rice’s endowment, budget, capital needs, and salary pools. He then moved to measures in terms of faculty recruitment and retention. On the admissions front, he discussed intensifying competition, trend lines for applications, quality of students, and regional composition of the student body. Leebron viewed the most important measure of the University as contribution made to teaching and research, as well as contributions made to the larger society. He felt the state of the University to be strong when measured according to the fundamentals of producing knowledge and training minds.

Leebron next elaborated on areas he believes will be important and where progress is necessary. He talked about the reorganization of undergraduate education, the need to once again have a conversation about curriculum, the importance of making a Rice education available to diverse segments of society regardless of financial means, and the need to spend, and therefore raise, more resources to support scholarships for students from financially disadvantaged backgrounds. Leebron discussed the need to make Houston a prominent part of the Rice experience and have it recognized as one of the advantages of attending Rice. He also discussed graduate programs in relation to the caliber of faculty and programs offered, financial support provided, and other things that can be done to more fully support and integrate graduate students into the Rice community. Leebron commented on two issues he believes to be essential to Rice’s success: diversity of faculty, across a range of categories and perspectives, and the support provided to those with families. He discussed future capital needs on the campus, estimated total construction costs over the next ten years, the status of the Collaborative Research Center, information technology infrastructure improvements, and other projects.

Leebron spoke of the importance of strengthening Rice’s efforts at internationalization and the need of devoting resources on a University-wide basis to developing strategic relationships with selected universities both in China and in Latin America. He shared plans to create a faculty travel fund for faculty members willing to travel to universities in these areas to pursue opportunities to build relationships.

The President’s address ended with discussion of the Call for Conversation document and his aim to present to the Trustees, in December, the basic elements of a strategy for Rice over the next 7 to 10 years.

Corcoran opened the floor to questions and comments.

There was discussion regarding the need for ongoing improvement to the Rice infrastructure, enlarging the size of the student body and increasing the number of faculty, international alliances in the form of cooperative educational and research relationships with other universities, availability of travel funds for use in forming international alliances, need for curriculum reform, space issues within the arts and other departments, and the need to optimize the use of physical facilities and create locations that maximize people's experience and exchange on the campus. There was also discussion on strategic decision making processes, how to more effectively support and encourage research at Rice, the increasing difficulty of securing research funding, and athletics.

After extended applause, Corcoran thanked President Leebron for his participation. The meeting was adjourned at 5:24.

Respectfully submitted,

Janis L. Cain
Secretary to the Faculty