Hyatt Regency - Capitol Hill
Wednesday, February 5, 2003, 7:30am
I would like to thank each of you—including the members of Michigan’s congressional delegation and their staffs, and our alumni and friends—for joining us today.
I have recently celebrated the six-month anniversary of my move to Michigan. This morning, I will share with you some of what I have observed in this first half-year.
The Regents asked me to come to Michigan to lead one of the top research universities in the country. It seems a week doesn’t go by that we’re not celebrating a major achievement or special event! Here are just a couple examples of great news from your University this year:
- U-M anthropologist Eric Mueggler became the 19th U-M faculty member
in 12 years to win the prestigious MacArthur Foundation “Genius Award.”
- Discover Magazine recently named Mercedes Pascual, U-M Assistant
Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, one of the “Top 50 Women
in Science.” Professor
Pascual’s research has revealed links between El Niño climate
fluctuations and cholera outbreaks.
- Our C. S. Mott Children’s Hospital, which treats 10,000 children
every year, has recently been named one of the top five children’s hospitals
in the country,
with special honors going to Mott’s pediatric cardiology unit.
- In March, London’s Royal Shakespeare Company returns to Ann Arbor
for their second biennial residency, which will include performances of two
Shakespeare, as well as the American debut of the stage version
of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children.
- Then, shortly after the RSC leaves Ann Arbor, we will announce
the year-long celebration of the tri-centennial of St. Petersburg, Russia.
will feature special academic, cultural and arts programming
throughout the academic year, including a vast portion of the Czars’ western-art
that will travel from the Hermitage to our Museum of Art during
- Our research funding was up 10% in our most recent academic year, 2001–2002. That’s the greatest level of funding and research productivity in the history of the University of Michigan.
But even amidst all the good news and the continued national leadership on so many fronts, we all know that we face tough economic challenges ahead. This is a difficult time to try to lead any organization, whether it is a nation or state, an industry or a university.
The economic challenges we face today are serious, so I want you to leave this room clearly aware of how very concerned I am for all of us who must find our way out of the thick fog of economic gloom.
Two months ago, the National Governors Association released a comprehensive report on the deficits facing the entire nation. The governors concluded that today, “States face the most dire fiscal situation since World War II.”
Universities confront a particularly vexing problem during a downturn in the economy: just when jobs become more scarce, people look to universities to make a career shift, or to obtain advanced degrees. So at the very moment when we must accommodate increased demand, we often are looking at a flatline or reduction of state funding.
When any of us thinks of a university, we tend to think of the education of undergraduate and professional students, and the excitement of learning in classrooms and laboratories. Indeed, teaching will always be a primary mission of any university.
But the oversight of a modern research university is similar to the management of a highly diversified corporation. At the same time we balance the needs of teaching and learning, we also must attend to management of a highly complex health system, the continued growth and excellence of our research program, the recruiting of researchers who are the best in their fields, and critical new initiatives such as our partnership in Michigan’s Life Sciences Corridor.
Given my own research background in biological chemistry, it is especially meaningful to me to be leading the University of Michigan at a moment of such growth in the Life Sciences.
As many of you know,
the state’s significant investment
in the Life Sciences Corridor has complemented the development
of major initiatives in the life
sciences at U-M.
The discoveries and the innovations that will result from this enormous venture can scarcely be comprehended right now, but we know they will change our lives and those of our children.
Several years ago,
the University saw the direction of future opportunity in the life
sciences, and decided
to adapt itself
to the anticipated
rise of bioscience.
Our Life Sciences Initiatives at U-M will play a considerable role in transforming the future of health care, and also will provide a stimulus to the economy.
In 1980, Congress passed the Bayh-Dole Act to foster a closer collaboration between universities and industry. That legislation has created many opportunities for technology transfer, which is the process of converting research into commercial ventures.
In some states, technology transfer has generated significant economic benefits. When university research moves into the marketplace, it generates new products, new companies, new revenues, even new industries. It gives established industries and companies new ways to do their work, as well, and generates new work for them to do.
In the past three years, 25 new start-up companies have been generated by U-M. These companies operate independently, just as the Bayh-Dole Act envisioned.
Also in the past three years, we have applied for 254 patents, and have had 222 licenses issued for our discoveries—a considerable increase over the preceding period.
Just as Michigan’s automotive industry spawned
a host of related jobs in the oil industry, manufacturing,
can add strong new components to the economy
However, we have stiff competition.
Other states—and by relationship, other state schools—are coping with even larger deficits than Michigan. However, they realize that they need to invest even more in higher education to speed their recovery from the economic downturn.
We need to ask ourselves—How well positioned will we be when the current economic situation turns around?
We must assure the next generation access to the same outstanding quality of education and research that exists for the current generation.
If short term economic challenges eat away at the University’s core academic quality and our ability to maintain the important national leadership we have established, it will diminish the future of our children and it will deplete the future of our nation and our state.
The outstanding education students receive at U-M opens doors to employment and to opportunity. We must not allow any reduction of funding to reduce access to those doors or to lower the high quality that students find behind those doors. It will weaken the future of Michigan if that occurs.
Also, our doors must remain wide open to the broad array of races, nationalities, and ethnicities that make up these United States. As I am sure you know, our cases before the U.S. Supreme Court on affirmative action admissions will affect just about every public and private university in the country.
We agreed with President Bush when he stated that he, “strongly supports diversity of all kinds, including racial diversity in higher education.”
Where we differ is how best to achieve that diversity.
In the admissions process, the University of Michigan considers the whole student. We look at a broad range of factors and a student’s entire background. In this process, academic qualification is by far the overwhelming consideration.
And let’s set the record straight: We do not have, nor have we ever had quotas or numerical targets in either the undergraduate or the law school admissions system.
The development of a diverse, highly qualified, student community is essential to a comprehensive, top-tier education—just the sort of education our economy requires to drive the industrial and technological revolutions of our global future.
This debate will be important and robust, and in the end, we believe the Supreme Court will carefully consider and look favorably upon our arguments—because we believe our admissions policies are fair and legal under the Constitution of the United States of America. I will be back in Washington next Monday to speak to the American Council on Education about what’s at stake for all of higher education, and to preview the briefs the University and its amici will file with the Supreme Court on Tuesday, February 18th.
Apart from the national spotlight that now focuses on our admissions practices, we are hard at work in classrooms, laboratories and offices, continually enhancing the educational opportunities available to our diverse community of students.
But even as we anticipate new opportunities for the future, we must come to grips with the difficulties of today. I would like to close with a few thoughts about the ability of the University to remain strong in challenging times.
The remarkable quality of our faculty, staff, and students provides us with the strength to create an economic engine based on innovative research that has an impact on lives, health, and policies throughout the world.
Strong research universities will nourish and sustain a strong economy. And a strong economy is necessary to maintain strong universities.
None of us will thrive separately without the other.
At U-M, we will do our share to create efficiency and to operate under constrained circumstances; but we must make sure that we do not undercut the future as we make tough choices in our budgeting process.
We cannot—we must not—allow short-term problems to become long-term impediments.
In all seriousness, I would like to suggest that we want to be in about the same strategic situation as the Michigan Wolverine varsity basketball team which, under the inspirational direction of Coach Tommy Amaker, is making the best of a very tough year. The University was forced to place sanctions on itself a couple months ago, and I am personally pledged to renewing the stellar reputation of the Wolverines.
The NCAA will decide later this month if our self-imposed sanctions will suffice. In the meantime, every single person responsible for the sanctions is far far away from Michigan now, while our scholar-athletes perform valiantly on and off the court throughout this most challenging season. We can see in their spirit and spunk that they are positioned for greatness in coming years. We need to take a page out of Coach Amaker’s book to get our University, our state, and our nation ready for the greatness that is to come.
We must keep our eye on the ball while we build our future. Because that future will come, and the Wolverines will be victorious!
Again, thank you very much for inviting me to speak with you today.