State of the University Address 2000
January 12, 2000
by Michael F. Adams, President
The University of Georgia is today one of the best public universities in this country because of a 215-year commitment to three timeless principles: Wisdom, Justice and Moderation.
Good afternoon. Thank you for coming.
The University of Georgia is today one of the best public universities in this country because of a 215-year commitment to three timeless principles: Wisdom, Justice and Moderation. Found on the Great Seal of the State of Georgia, these principles are so fundamental to our mission that we have cast them in pillars of iron and erected them at the entrance to this campus. We announce our commitment to these ideals at The Arch: The path to a great education begins here.
Two years ago, when I first spoke to you about the state of our University, I announced an administrative restructuring.
Last year, I focused on instructional organization. This year I'd like to offer some thoughts on the fundamentals of wisdom, justice and moderation and the foundation they lay for the future.
While this year I am neither overhauling the senior administration nor creating new colleges or schools, no one should assume that I have finished thinking about this university and what it must do to serve its students and this state even better than we already do. As you must know by now, I am not unwilling to create a bit of a dust storm in order to stimulate discussion, generate ideas and facilitate progress.
I do believe that really great universities move forward by constantly asking whether they are doing everything possible to serve their constituents at the highest level. To the ancient Greeks, hubris, or excessive pride bordering on arrogance, was a fatal flaw. At an institution like this — where bold, new ideas are created but far too rarely applied to our own operations — complacency, not arrogance, may be our fatal flaw. Indeed, if others had not asked such questions about the mission and direction of the University of Georgia 100 years ago, this would be a much different place, were it even still in operation.
This has been a very good year for the University of Georgia. I'd like to take a moment to remember some of the highlights of this past year:
- The size of the student body for the fall of 1999 was the largest in UGA history at 30,912, and the fresh- man class set records for both average SAT score (1195) and high school GPA (3.62).
- The University continued to fare well in national rankings. U.S. News & World Report ranked us 22nd among public national research universities, ranked our undergraduate business program 26th and our overall graduate program in education 18th. Kiplinger's ranked us in the top 20 for combining high quality with low cost.
- Mikhail Gorbachev spoke to an overflow crowd of UGA students and faculty, area residents and schoolchil- dren from around the state in Stegeman Coliseum, one of the most remarkable events in the history of this University.
- Four UGA athletic teams won national champion- ships — gymnastics, men's golf, men's tennis, and women's swimming and diving.
- A UGA graduate, Andy Baumgartner, a kindergar- ten teacher in Augusta, was named National Teacher of the Year.
- Sponsored programs received $91 million in external grants and contracts, the second-highest total in 10 years.
- All three branches of Georgia state government are led by alumni of the UGA Law School: Governor Roy Barnes, Lt. Governor Mark Taylor, Speaker of the House Tom Murphy and Chief Justice Robert Benham.
Last year, I addressed six specific areas that I think this University needs to consider in order to improve both undergraduate and graduate education. There has been some discussion, some debate and some progress on those proposals, and I'd like to review them briefly at this time.
Exploration of the development of a School of Public Policy
In 1999, I gave my personal endorsement to a pro- posal that came with the signatures of 56 representa- tives of the faculty, some administrators and some student leaders. That proposal very forcefully made the case for a School of Public Policy and pointed out the numerous ways in which such a school might undergird what we already do very well in this field. The problems faced by public officials in this state, this country and the world will only increase in their complexity. The Univer- sity of Georgia has a strong tradition of preparing its graduates for positions of leadership and public service; a School of Public Policy, devoted to the best teaching, research and service in both domestic and international public affairs, seemed to me to be a natural step for this institution.
I am pleased to report that the committee that grew out of these early discussions is nearing a final proposal on just such a school. I want to commend the faculty for their dedication and hard work on this proposal. We are well on our way toward creating a school that will reinforce and strengthen this University's leadership role in the area of public policy.
Explore a closer working environment for collaborative research and education in the biomedical sciences
Second, I challenged the Regents, the Chancellor, the leadership of this University and that of the Medical College of Georgia to create an environ- ment conducive to collaboration in what is undoubtedly one of the hottest areas of scientific research today. A recent article in Fortune magazine said that "we live in a bionic world." There is no doubt that the 21st century will see revolutionary advances in biomedical research, much as the 20th century did in moving from sulfa drugs, leeches and compresses to antibiotics, heart transplants, laser surgery and arthroscopy. Given the fact that the University of Georgia is home to two-thirds of a traditional medical school — a College of Pharmacy and a College of Veterinary Medicine — and many research programs in other colleges and schools that are related to human and animal medicine, I said that it made sense to pursue a formal research relationship with the Medical College of Georgia, which is home to the core of a traditional medical school. Other factors played into that challenge as well. The National Institutes of Health is virtually the only federal agency whose annual budget is increasing dramatically in real terms. Rather than competing with our colleagues in Augusta for those dollars, shouldn't we team up? Shouldn't we leverage state dollars for even more federal dollars?
There has been progress on this front. The Regents included $4 million in this year's budget for joint ventures between UGA and MCG, which is certainly a positive and encouraging first step. A friend of the University, Sanford Orkin, has recently made a gift of $750,000 to endow a chair in the College of Pharmacy, and we plan to make this chair a major component of our biomedical initiative. My friend and colleague at the Medical College of Georgia, Fran Tedesco, has been a partner in these efforts.
I also want to commend the provost for her leader- ship and creativity in this area. I knew when we hired Karen Holbrook that great things lay ahead; I had no idea that we would be tallying them this quickly. There is no doubt in my mind that her expertise in the field of biomedical research has been a powerful catalyst for this process.
College of Communications
One of my hopes when I stood before you last year was that my comments would spark discussion about the direction we should take in critical curricular areas. That has certainly happened in the Grady College, where the faculty have been engaged in some very productive discussions, particularly in the area of new media. Specifically, the idea for a New Media Institute deserves further study and has my support. A University-wide, interdisciplinary Institute such as this would bring together the strengths of faculty from the Grady College with those of faculty from diverse departments across campus.
The Grady College has a long history of reflecting change in its offerings. Since the Grady College was founded in 1915 as a school of print journalism, it has evolved to include radio, television, mass communica- tions, public relations, advertising, and its own Dowden Center for New Media Studies. To reflect appropriately its students' course of study, the Grady College now awards a master's degree in "Journalism and Mass Communication." This adjustment in official degree name was approved last spring by University Council. The wording of the degree is of course meant to echo the official College name set in 1988, but both speak to the rapidly expanding nature of media studies over the past few decades.
As we enter a new century in an era known as the Information Age, the Grady College must continue to reflect in its curriculum the remarkable changes that have taken place in the way people receive, send and use information. I truly believe that matters of the curricu- lum are best handled by the faculty. I will take opportuni- ties such as this, however, to be part of the conversations, even to start them on occasion. Georgians will naturally look to the Grady College for leadership in this world of evolving technology. I would urge the Grady College faculty to continue the discussion of substantive issues related to that college's role in training students for the media and information environment where they will work. In addition, I would invite faculty from all fields of study to consider the potential breadth of an interdisci- plinary New Media Institute initiative at UGA.
College of Ecology and Environmental Science
Along those same lines, my fourth proposal was a college that would bring together our resources in an area of great need in this country and around the world. Environmental concerns impact virtually every decision made in the public arena and cannot be cordoned off from land use policy, urban sprawl, agriculture, municipal planning, water use or biodiversity issues. I was thinking in terms of a college that would be able to bring to bear on environmental issues all the resources of the University in a comprehen- sive manner. This college would produce environmental leaders capable of solving environmental problems through a broad-based approach and preventing other problems through collaborative and creative planning.
I am pleased to say that this proposal has also sparked a great deal of productive debate and discussion and even, if I do say so myself, some enthusiasm on the part of many of our faculty in the environmental and ecological areas who have, I think, longed for administra- tive recognition of the fact that environmental issues cannot be studied or addressed in a vacuum. A study group is working on a proposal and I am eager to see it.
Fifth, I proposed a College of Fine Arts. I believe this University would be better served by a smaller, more focused College of Arts and Sci- ences and a separate College of Fine Arts. We have some of the finest resources in the arts that I have seen at any university. In particular, the Hugh Hodgson Concert Hall has been praised for its acoustical clarity.
I enjoy every opportunity I have to attend the inspired programming at the Performing Arts Center. Each time I see a calendar of events, I appreciate further the quality and variety of events that come to our campus, and am disappointed that I can't attend more.
As impressive as the facilities are the curricular innovations in the arts. The Center for New Music — commonly called the "black box" — has been widely cited as a leader in the area of new music and has allowed us to attract a number of 20th century composers to the UGA campus. There is continued discussion among the faculty about an Institute for Advanced Creative Research in Arts and Technology, which would expand the traditional curricular framework of the arts. This interdisciplinary program would introduce students and faculty to the latest technology in art, music, drama and dance. Such honors and innovations, of course, reflect the dedication and talent of the faculty in these areas.
My proposal for a College of Fine Arts still stands. I am not endorsing a professional school; I believe the arts are learned best in the context of a liberal arts education. There are advantages to a fine arts school for both students in those disciplines and the student body as a whole. I encourage the faculty to continue the discus- sions they have been involved in; you have my support.
Finally, I said that the University of Georgia must play a larger role in feeding people into this state's high-tech workforce. There is a staggering demand in Georgia, the United States and the world for people with advanced computer skills and the ability to keep up with the pace of progress in that field. The Atlanta Constitution reported in November that the state of Georgia would add 7,500 high-tech jobs this year. While we have a number of programs that address this subject, they are small and scattered across several departments, schools and colleges. We are not close to producing the quantity of well-trained people that this state needs.
Additionally, high-tech fields require graduates with business and accounting skills. Atlanta's role as a hub in the emerging high-tech market means that the Gwinnett Center provides an opportunity to prepare a larger and more diverse group of students who may wish to return to school to add a professional business degree to their technical degrees.
I see opportunity after opportunity for the University of Georgia in this area. I also see that the Governor has the same goals — an increasing number of well-trained graduates to support the growing high-tech industry in Georgia. There are some specific steps that we can take and some we have already taken to meet this need. First is the recognition that computer skills for our students are a fundamental obligation of this institution. There are very few jobs that will not require some level of computer comfort. I know I should have adjusted by now, but I am amazed at the level of computer sophistication and savvy in our students. As an example, our admissions Web site had almost 25,000 hits in October 1999 — 25,000 hits in one month! There were also 13,000 hits on the page that allows students to check the status of their applications. Almost 20 percent of our freshman applications are received electronically. If high school students today have the skills to apply to college electronically, what will they expect — and require — when they enroll? How are we answering that question?
It is a challenge for us to keep up with the infrastruc- ture demands, but we have no choice; we must do it. To that end, we are moving toward having 100 percent of our dorm rooms wired into the campus network. Project VENUS is improving the network backbone to meet current curricular and extra-curricular computing needs and to anticipate and support future needs.
The provost is looking into how we can improve our curriculum in computer science. We simply must increase the number of students graduating from that program, both to help meet the demand for employees with those skills and to demonstrate our responsiveness to such needs.
At about the same time I delivered this speech last year, Governor Barnes was announcing the formation of the Yamacraw Project, a statewide effort to make Georgia a world leader in telecommunications research, produc- tion and employment. The project takes its name from Yamacraw Bluff, the hill overlooking the Savannah River where General Oglethorpe established the colony that would become Savannah in the state that would become Georgia. As the Governor said in his announcement, the Yamacraw Project marks "the dawning of a new era for Georgia." Governor Barnes and the Legislature clearly recognize the role that higher education plays in achiev- ing the goals of the Yamacraw Project, and the University System has already hired more than 20 faculty members for the project. The ball, so to speak, is now in our court.
The first Yamacraw professor we hired was Dr. David Gries from Cornell University, a nationally recognized expert in computer science. A second Yamacraw professor is scheduled to arrive this term from the University of Southern California, where he has just earned a doctorate in computer science. Additionally, the computer science department, under the direction of Rod Canfield, is in the process of hiring four tenure-track positions, two of which will be dedicated to Yamacraw Project programs. We must continue to broaden our course offerings in this critical area quickly and strategically.
Strategic Planning Process
Now, having said all that, I want to take a moment to talk about the strategic planning process under way on this campus and to acknowledge what some may see as tension between a bottom-up university-wide planning process and a president who stands at this podium each year and announces his desire for this new college or that new program.
I do not think those two are in conflict at all. The strategic planning process is absolutely crucial to the continued success and growth of the University of Georgia. For the past year or so, every unit on this campus has been doing what I mentioned at the start of my remarks: Asking the hard questions about what they are doing, how they are doing it and how they can do it better. If my suggestions become a part of a unit's plan, so be it; if not, so be it. The point is to have the discus- sion, to ask the hard questions. In some cases, my proposals have sparked conversations that have gone in directions I never could have imagined.
The result of this process will be a set of unit priori- ties which I will review as we develop the University's strategic plan. We must take this process seriously. In a moment, I will speak about moderation and the necessity of doing everything we do well, but not trying to do everything. This strategic planning process will help us do just that.
It is important to note here that we are also under- taking a self-study as we seek reaccreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Entitled "Creating a Climate of Inquiry: The Undergraduate Experience at a Public Research University and Its Relationship to the University's Mission," this study offers us a chance to reflect on the undergraduate experience at the University of Georgia. I anticipate that much of what we learn in the self-study process will resonate with what we hear in the strategic planning process, and will help keep us attuned to the complexity of serving our growing undergraduate population.
I understand that the timing of these two processes means that many of you are doubly burdened with the tasks required of both strategic planning and reaccredita- tion. I am sympathetic. But I also recognize that these two processes provide an opportunity for the faculty to shape the future of this great University. I appreciate what many of you have already done and I thank you in advance for the work yet to be done. You know already of the respect I have for you and your role in this process.
I also recognize that these processes require a tremendous amount of staff support and expertise. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the staff of the University for all they do, not just in the areas of accredi- tation and planning, but for the critical role they play in every facet of this institution's operation.
A quick history lesson
Before we look together at the future of the University of Georgia, I'd like to take you back 100 years, to the 1899-1900 academic year. Patrick Henry said, "I know of no way of judging the future but by the past." To thrive in the future, the University of Georgia must hold true to the principles of its founders, the principles which have guided us through more than two centuries.
I must confess to you today that I succumbed to the reflective mood surrounding the dawn of the Year 2000. Much of my reflection has focused on this University, both its future and its past. I have thought a lot about the University of Georgia at the start of the 20th century and, particularly, its chancellor at that time, Walter B. Hill.
1899 was one of the most significant years in the history of the University of Georgia. More than a century after its establishment by state charter and 98 years after Josiah Meigs taught the first class under the trees just outside that door, this institution was not the University of Georgia in the sense that we use that phrase today. Today, this is the flagship institution of the University System of Georgia — the largest, most comprehensive and, I believe, best overall university in the state. Proud to be a land-grant institution, we take seriously our obliga- tion to teach our students, carry out research on a stunningly broad range of topics and connect that research and teaching to the people of this state through a commitment to public service.
Indeed, we are today THE University for most of the people of Georgia.
In 1899, that was simply not true. Nash Boney, in the marvelous narrative which accompanies "A Pictorial History of The University of Georgia," writes that "as the (19th) century ended, the University of Georgia seemed increasingly obsolescent; it looked more and more like an antebellum institution trying to live beyond its time." The University lagged behind other American institu- tions in upgrading and updating its curriculum to reflect a more outward approach to education. In 1899, the University of Georgia's curriculum was purely classical. The course catalog for the Fall 1900 term details the content of the entrance examination: conjugation and declension of Latin and Greek verbs, essays on Latin and Greek literature (exam takers could choose the four books of Caesar's Gallic war or the orations of Cicero for their Latin essay; when they reached the Greek section, they were required to analyze "40 pages of simple Attic prose." And some people today think the SAT is an unfair instrument.) Problems in arithmetic, algebra and geom- etry followed; then an English composition and grammar quiz. These exams were administered statewide, often by UGA alumni.
The enrollment for that term was 280, which included 52 students in the law school and five graduate students. There were about 18 faculty. Students paid no tuition, which had been eliminated by the Legislature in 1881.
The average student fee total was about $200, which included a $10 matriculation fee, a $5 library fee, and a $2 fee for initiation into one of the literary societies. Fees for laundry, board, furnishings, books, stationery and utilities varied depending upon usage (the catalog offered a range from "low" to "very liberal"). Every student also paid $16 for his uniform for drill.
The campus consisted of essentially what one can see from the front door of this very building: Old College, New College, The Chapel, Demosthenian Hall, the Ivy Building and the library (which were later incorporated into the Academic Building), Moore College, Phi Kappa Hall and the iron fence along Broad Street. Construction was under way on the Science Building; destroyed by fire in 1903, it sat where Terrell Hall is today. The football team was 2-3-1, but the two victories were both shutouts, over Clemson and — given the late unpleasantness on North Avenue, it gives me glee to say — Georgia Tech. (The lesson here for the coaches is that if the other team doesn't score, they can't win.) For all practical purposes, the first-state chartered institution in this country operated more like a private college than a public university. Its student body was, obviously, all white and all male. But even within that clique those admitted to UGA were overwhelmingly wealthy. There was no effort on the part of University administrators, faculty or trustees to reflect the heteroge- neity of the white male demographic, much less the population of this state as a whole, which was approxi- mately two million. So the University of Georgia was a place known to most but open to few. There were two groups, however, who were particularly critical of the University: the ecumenical schools and the agricultural community.
The elimination of tuition at the University in 1881 had outraged the private and ecumenical schools, who had traditionally charged less than we did. There were cries of unfair competition from our colleagues at Emory and Mercer. The tuition waiver heightened feelings to the point that the president of Emory University proposed an end to all state funding for public higher education.
The other group that expressed criticism of the University of Georgia was the farmers of this state through the Farmers' Alliance, which found that al- though the University was nominally a land-grant institution and eagerly accepted the federal funds that came with that designation, those funds were in large part simply passed through the agriculture college and used for the general fund. In fact, at one point, the State College of Agriculture had a president and only one faculty member — a frightening ratio for them both, I am certain.
The antipathy of the agricultural community was most evident in the decision to place the state Agricul- ture Experiment Station in Griffin instead of Athens.
Into that climate stepped Walter B. Hill, named chancellor of the University in July of 1899. The first alumnus and the first non-minister since Josiah Meigs to hold the position, Hill had made a name for himself as a railroad lawyer and judicial reformer. He was also some- thing of a progressive thinker, favoring advanced educa- tion for African-Americans — although separately from whites — and advanced education for women in a coeducational setting.
He also had some progressive thoughts about higher education. I am convinced that few figures in our history deserve more credit for where this University stands today than Walter B. Hill. He nudged — no, he shoved — us in this direction. He recognized that the insular University was a beast slouching toward extinction; that in order to survive, much less grow, this place had to reach out beyond the Old College quadrangle and offer itself in service to the people of this state. Without sounding self-serving, I want you to know that the 21st President of this university knows this principle — serve the people of the state well and you prosper. Ignore their needs and the entire enterprise suffers.
Hill said, and I quote, "The University of the 20th century will be differentiated from its predecessors in this: It will connect its activities more closely with the business and life of the people." Though almost a century old, those words ring true for us today. In less than 30 words, Walter Hill described perfectly the role of the land-grant university in the year 2000. The word "vision- ary" is often used too freely, I think, but Chancellor Hill was a visionary, for he saw the future, articulated it and then did the hard work of making sure that the Univer- sity of Georgia was a part of that future.
And he developed a relationship with one of this University's single greatest benefactors. In June of 1901, Hill organized a reunion weekend for the alumni in honor of the centennial of the start of classes at UGA. Oscar Straus, an alumnus of the University, brought along a friend. His name was George Foster Peabody. The millionaire banker and Georgia native recognized that Hill was a man of vision and action, and soon became one of the University's greatest supporters, single- handedly paying for the construction of a library and purchasing 400 acres of land to expand the agriculture college. His legacy continues today through the annual Peabody Awards which recognize excellence in radio and television production.
Walter B. Hill was, in my opinion, the first modern president of the University of Georgia. His vision for a University that served the people of this state by provid- ing access to the expertise on the faculty and by directing research toward the problems and needs of society is one that lives on today in the public service work that we do in this state, this nation and the world. A visionary, he saw a future for UGA that was quite different from its past. A politician, he lobbied the legislature on behalf of this University and his own vision for it. A fundraiser, he almost tripled the total amount of money raised both privately and publicly for UGA before his arrival. A diplomat, he smoothed over the tension between UGA and the denominational schools that resulted from the elimination of tuition.
In the course of history, there are often single individuals whose actions shape the future. For the University of Georgia, that individual was Walter B. Hill. The steps in the growth of this place were trod on the path that he began in 1899. Where will that path now take us as we begin a new century?
Three pillars for the future
Predicting the future is a dangerous business. Larry Sabato, a widely quoted political scientist at the University of Virginia, has said that those who live by the crystal ball should prepare to eat ground glass. Walter B. Hill saw the future of the University in broad terms — in order to survive, he said, the University must involve itself in public service and research.
I cannot predict what 2099 will be like. The Univer- sity of Georgia must, however, hold true to those prin- ciples I cited earlier: Wisdom, Justice and Moderation. The writers of the state constitution in 1798 took those words from Plato's Republic; they describe the great — and good — leaders needed to govern an ideal society. The changes at this University in the next 100 years will be in many ways as dramatic as those that have taken place over the past 100 years. We may not increase in size 100-fold — in fact, I doubt we will be a University with an enrollment of 3 million in 2099. The curriculum will change, of course, as the research done here and else- where changes the knowledge base. The delivery system will change. The infrastructure will change. Student life will change; athletics will change; financial aid will change.
What will not change is what is at the very core can breed fear, which can breed hatred, which can breed of what we do: Teaching young people to be discriminating thinkers, teaching them with wisdom so they may pursue and attain wisdom, the first principle on our seal. That is the ideal upon which this University was founded; it is what Walter Hill preserved for us and it is what we are charged with carrying into the next millennium.
Daniel Boorstin, former head librarian of the Library of Congress, said of this Information Age: "We are drowning in data but starved for knowledge." And that ocean of data is only going to get deeper, as more and more research creates more and more data and more and more facts, and the Internet helps disseminate it at our fingertips. Facts alone are valueless; data without discernment is dangerous. Our task is to equip our students to evaluate the data before them and to discern its value.
The best education is one that prepares the student to be a critical thinker. It is a liberal education, not in the political sense of that word but in the sense of liberation. It is an education that frees the student to pursue excel- lence, to attain personal goals and to be of beneficial service to the community and the world. As a land-grant institution, we can leave no greater legacy than students whose own lives reflect and perpetuate the ideals of our three-part mission of teaching, research and service.
When I graduated, most of my colleagues were destined for single careers with the same employer. The graduates of the class of 2000 are likely to change jobs five, seven, 10 times, and they won't just take different positions within a single company or organization. No, many of them will change careers completely, essentially starting over each time. My generation sought stability; this generation thrives on change. We at the University of Georgia will have done our job if we have prepared them for those options, if we have imbued them with the ability to learn, if we have given them not just facts but knowledge, if we have brought wisdom to their lives.
But wisdom is more than the ability to analyze facts and make good decisions. Wisdom must also be reflected in the way we live our lives. Our students need an under- standing of and appreciation for people who are different from them. Not in a competitive or comparative way that results in one culture or set of traditions being valued over another, but in a way that recognizes that ignorance violence. I believe we have a responsibility to equip our students for the global environment they will enter when they leave us. It is just as likely that a UGA graduate this spring will work in Berlin, Germany, as Berlin, Georgia, or in Cairo, Egypt, as Cairo, Georgia.
How do we do that? We do it overtly and covertly. Overtly, we offer courses in a wide range of modern languages so our students who do go overseas have the language skills to immerse themselves in the culture. We must increase the number of students who spend at least one semester studying outside the boundaries of this country. More importantly, we must eliminate the institutional and financial barriers to the study abroad opportunity. No student should be denied this opportu- nity because he or she didn't know how to apply or couldn't afford it.
I feel very strongly about the value of having our students study overseas. No single experience has a greater impact on one's self-image than to leave the comfort and familiarity of this American culture for a new and unfamiliar one, and it helps students gain wisdom, not just knowledge. I have heard it time and time again from students: "That semester I spent in France or Japan or Argentina changed my life." I think we ought to be changing more lives this way. In the fall of 1999, we opened the first of what I hope will be a series of residential study abroad facilities. The UGA at Oxford Study Abroad Center is the first such facility owned and operated by an American public university and is another part of our effort to make such experiences possible for our students.
So, what do I mean by covertly? I believe that many of life's greatest lessons are learned unintentionally. There is great value in learning a second language in the classroom setting and tremendous value in spending a summer abroad. Those intentional, planned, formal academic endeavors are crucial to the success of our effort to internationalize the curriculum and this campus. But there is equal value in learning that your suitemate is a native of Paris and wants to help you study for your French 2001 exam. There is equal value in learning that your urban entomology professor just returned from a year in Buenos Aires studying mosquito control techniques. There is equal value in sitting down on the first day of your Econ 2105 class and learning that the young woman sitting beside you spent the summer in Istanbul; her excitement and enthusiasm are so conta- gious that, before the semester is half over, you're already planning to spend the spring overseas.
That's covert action. That's how we create a self- sustaining culture of internationalization, where stu- dents recruit other students through word of mouth about their own positive experiences, where faculty are encouraged and supported in their efforts to do research overseas and come back better teachers and good sales- people for the overseas experience.
The second component on our seal is justice. While the concept of justice applies to every decision we make, I'd like to talk about justice in the context of what I said on September 30, when I announced that we would continue to include race as one of the factors we use in assessing a small percentage of applicants to UGA. The University's primary purpose is to foster a high quality academic environment. I believe we can do that while simultaneously striving for a student body that is geographically, ethnically and socioeconomically diverse. Indeed, the fact that the quality of our student body continues to rise proves that we can do just that.
Justice compels us to help this state find a way to serve all its people educationally. Justice compels us to recognize that in some cases, factors other than a strict academic record can and should impact a student's chances to enroll at the University of Georgia. Justice compels us to acknowledge that there is great disparity in the quality of public education in this state. And justice compels us to act in a way that maintains our standards and our ideals while offering a chance that otherwise would not be offered.
To be known as a University that is committed to those principles of justice is not, in my mind, a bad thing. To educate students in an environment of justice is the right thing to do.
I don't know what the state of Georgia will look like in 2099, but I know that it will be even more multi-racial and multi-ethnic than it is today. Demographers tell us that in just a few years, there will be no majority in Georgia; we will be a state of pluralities. As Cynthia Tucker, editorial page editor of the Atlanta Constitution and this year's Holmes-Hunter lecturer, has written, "It would be foolhardy of us to prepare a leadership class that is lily white." We have to prepare our students for the world they will encounter when they leave this place. In that world, it is not so easy to surround yourself with people of your own choosing, people who grew up where you did or like you did, people who look and think and talk like you do. In that world, our students will be working and socializ- ing with people of all backgrounds. We have a responsi- bility to prepare them for those experiences. One of the ways we are doing that is to try to develop a diverse student body, a student body that is reflective of the population of the state which supports this institution. Certainly the academic experience of attending the University of Georgia is paramount, but there is more to a UGA education than that which happens inside a classroom or lab or seminar. If we are truly serving our students and, by extension, the society they will enter when they graduate, we are also educating them about life and we do that through the experiences they have outside the classroom. In other words, to have a wealthy, white, private school graduate from Atlanta's northern suburbs sit down at lunch with an African-American public school graduate from rural South Georgia is just as important as making sure that both of them have the academic experience they came here to receive. Finally, we are guided by the principle of modera- tion, both as individuals and as an institution. To me, moderation implies a sense of balance, a sense of self-assuredness that comes from being a well-edu- cated person. Today too much of the media and too much of our politics are played out on the extreme ends. Somehow, to be a moderate has become a thing worthy of derision and ridicule. Well, I am here to say that I am a moderate and proud of it.
Moderation is a trait which many would do well to adopt. I'm not a fan of the Jerry Springer Show or the WWF. I don't like the politics of the far right or the far left. Most of the problems we face today are complicated and require study and thought. They cannot be solved in 30-minute sitcom format or in a contentious interview on a Sunday morning news show.
I want students at the University of Georgia as we enter the 21st century to exhibit their wisdom and solidify their concern for justice by also recognizing the value of moderation. I am not in any way suggesting that a university, and especially this University, not be broad enough for students and faculty of all viewpoints. Indeed, one of the virtues of a great university is that all view- points are heard and considered. One of the hallmarks of a good education is the chance to encounter viewpoints different from one's own. I am suggesting that, in a democracy, most solutions do not come at the fringes, but are found in the middle. Collegiality and coopera- tion, cherished principles of the academic environment, are just as important in the off-campus world. If our students leave this place with a sense of balance, they may well serve as touchstones between extremes in their personal or professional lives.
I believe this principle of moderation also applies in personal conduct. Part of maturation and the educa- tional process is learning the value of moderation. I do not believe we have an overwhelming problem with drugs at the University of Georgia. We do have a problem with some individuals who still exhibit excessive behavior — even this year we have lost a student in an apparent alcohol-related incident. Students who still function "at the edges" have missed something in their UGA educa- tion. We want students of substance and personal moderation in their behavior.
The principle of moderation also applies to this University. We cannot be all things to all people. I am absolutely committed to providing a top-quality educa- tion to all of our students, and we do that. We must be good across the board, and we are.
But we must also be prepared to commit to those seven or eight areas where we are truly excellent, truly of national and international quality. The strategic plan- ning process I spoke of earlier is encouraging — some might say forcing — departments and schools and colleges to make some very difficult choices, and I commend Don Eastman for holding the line on this issue. This is a large public university — 31,000 students, 1,800 faculty, 10,000 employees. We must have a focus and we must be accountable for what we do, how we do it and why we do it. The strategic planning process will help us do that.
Now, I've been on both sides of the strategic plan- ning process. I've seen my specialty put on "the list" and I've seen it left off. I know how that feels. Whenever a university makes a list of focus areas, lots of areas get left off. That doesn't mean, however, that we are not commit- ted to quality in those areas. It simply means that we shine brighter in some areas. Wisdom, justice, moderation — three principles that guide how we educate students today, three principles taken from our state constitution 200 years ago, three principles of a life well-lived.
The year 2000, because it is the first major change in calendric nomenclature in 1,000 years, has brought a different sound even to how we acknowledge our dates. It has, as I indicated earlier, spurred a lot of us to reflect; it prompted a spate of newspaper and magazine stories; and it created a cottage industry for Y2K experts.
Throughout its 215-year-history, there have been constants at the University of Georgia. Always at the top of that list has been the quality of our students and faculty, like those today who give me great hope for the future. This has sometimes been a place that has asked the tough questions about justice. We have successfully walked the fine line between recognizing and embracing the newest and best research, scholarship and knowledge, without falling victim to the academic fads that come along periodically. At our core, we are still about teaching young people to think critically, write well, speak articu- lately and to leave here imbued with a sense of service that will benefit both them and this state.
As long as we remain true to the founding principles of wisdom, justice and moderation, cast in iron and symbolized by the three pillars of The Arch, whoever stands here in 2099 will be able to acknowledge the role we have played together in building a great university.
Download PDF of speech: 2000 State of the University.pdf (49.5Kb)