U. president praises successes, admits shortfalls
During Friday's President's Annual Address, University President Richard L. McCormick focused his speech's attention on Rutgers' goals, accomplishments, efforts and an additional $13 million dollar donation to the school.
McCormick used the day to emphasize the University's commitment to its mission of "Jersey Roots, Global Reach," while at the same time stressing the University's need to strive for more.
"We have so many reasons for pride in what we do at Rutgers, and each of us has so many causes for gratitude to be here and yet so much to accomplish," McCormick said.
During the address, the president announced the University's latest and largest donation to the institution - a whopping $13 million primarily for use by the Rutgers Business School.
An anonymous University graduate allocated $10 million to go toward construction of the new building on Livingston campus, and $3 million to endow a professorship and establish the Bennett L. Smith Endowed Chair in Business and Natural Resources.
In keeping with the University's reliance on private funding, McCormick said the University is honored to receive such a prolific donation.
"With this great gift, we are closer than ever to realizing our vision for Livingston," he said.
This vision includes expanding the Rutgers Business School to a four-year undergraduate program - something McCormick said has been demanded for years by an influx of Business School applicants. With the program as it is now, only about 400 students may enroll in an upper-division program. But McCormick said the within next academic year, the University will enroll 400 first-year business students, so that over the next five years, enrollment may grow to 3,200 undergraduates.
While McCormick heralded some of the University's accomplishments since the summer - including the unification of the Rutgers' alumni associations into one and the start of College Avenue's greening process - he also emphasized its overall commitment to education.
"These are the stuff of our dreams and ambitions at a place called Rutgers," McCormick said. "And at the center of these ambitions, as always, is the education of our students."
But McCormick said more needs to be done.
"The transformation of undergraduate education is not yet complete, and there is important unfinished business," he said.
McCormick said while the University is making an effort to improve student affairs services, funding cuts by the state have affected the depth and availability of offices on every campus. McCormick also cited a weakening of campus identity and less than ideal arrangements for nontraditional students as issues that need to be addressed.
But the president did promise that these concerns would be addressed within budgetary limits. Students, deans and administrators would work together to build on each campus' sense of identity, he said, and administrators are looking for ideas on strengthening the University's commitment to adult learners.
"The transformation of undergraduate education will not be complete until it benefits all our students," he said.
McCormick also made it a point to note what the University can give back to the community on far-reaching levels.
Nutrition, especially with concerns about obesity and its health effects, is an issue at the forefront of state, national and worldwide concern, McCormick said, and it is his intent that the University contribute to the battle against the epidemic.
While the University's nutrition and food science departments were established more than half a century ago, McCormick said the University must continue to build on its strengths in order to establish nutrition research that is the best in the world, and deliver educational and outreach programs on a daily level.
This would be accomplished through the University's establishment of the New Jersey Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health on Cook campus, with the aim to address such questions about portion control, low calorie diets for children and health risks normally associated with adults found in children.
"The answers developed at Rutgers will contribute to better nutrition around the world, but, as appropriate to our role as the state university, the first beneficiaries will be the people of New Jersey," McCormick said.
The president also announced several major construction projects around the University in addition to the business school.
One, of particular interest to students in New Brunswick: the construction of a new Rutgers bookstore and a new building for the Rutgers Business School on Livingston campus.
McCormick said students need a bookstore that may be a destination in itself and announced after several months of competition between operating companies that a new bookstore will operate in the Gateway building at the corner of Easton Avenue and Somerset Street by a yet-to-be-announced business.
McCormick went on to discuss an issue at the forefront of many people's minds: the shortcomings revealed last February during an internal audit within athletics.
"There are areas where we should have done things better and more transparently," McCormick said.
To avoid problems similar to the controversy over Rutgers football head coach Greg Schiano's contract, McCormick said the University is now developing new rules to ensure transparency.
The University will appoint a new chief financial officer for athletics that will have responsibility for fiscal oversight in that department, and the University is preparing a comprehensive manual of policies and procedures for athletics.
"In athletics and across Rutgers, my administration will continue to ensure increased awareness of, and compliance with, the University's highest standards," he said.
While many audience members gave McCormick a standing ovation, others voiced their concerns during a 40-minutelong question-and-answer session after the speech, and asked McCormick to address some of the University's perceived shortcomings.
Of the controversy over the University's spending on athletics, Richard Gomes, vice president of the part-time lecturers chapter at Rutgers, told McCormick he thought spending for the football program is not proportional to spending on academics and pay for faculty.
"When the part-time lecturers ask only to raise our modest compensation, we are told of financial constraints," Gomes said. "But when it comes to the stadium, coaches' perks and special deals, it seems there are no limits and no rules."
But McCormick said decisions about investments and athletics are complicated
"Competing at [a national level] is expensive," he said. "The decision to invest in the expansion of the Rutgers stadium, and the decision to recruit our outstanding coaches … are investments required to maintain our competing at that level."