President's Annual Address to the Faculty 2005
October 11, 2005
It’s a special pleasure to be here today giving the first faculty address of my tenure. If I have learned anything in my short time as President, it is that in this office I must speak to many groups, each of which brings its own perspective and has its own set of concerns. I will admit that I find myself more sympathetic to the concerns of some groups than others—though I will not name names. But the group gathered here today is special. The work and interests of the faculty are at the core of this, or any university. Teaching, writing and research. That is what you do, and that is why we are here. So I am particularly happy to address you about matters which are central to Notre Dame.
I am also delighted to be here today because here I am speaking to colleagues. I have known many of you since I joined the faculty 16 years ago. Some of you here today even taught me as an undergraduate. If there are complaints during my tenure as President about my reasoning on any issue, or about the conclusions I reach, I will direct these complaints to you, my former teachers.
So, today, I address you as President of the University, but also as your faculty colleague, and in every case, I hope, as an ally, who shares your love of learning and your commitment to scholarship.
I imagine there is always some curiosity about the changes that will come with the arrival of a new President. Here at Notre Dame, however, we have the benefit of great continuity. We were founded to seek God, study the world, and serve humanity. Our job today is to fashion that mission for our times—to become a great Catholic university for the 21st century.
To achieve our aim, Notre Dame must be the university that combines the highest level of disciplinary expertise with the resources of its moral and religious tradition.
This goal makes two categories of demands on us. Let me deal with them broadly here, and in more detail later in my remarks.
The goal of being a great university means that we must in all instances and by every measure insist on scholarly excellence. We must play host to the greatest scholars we can attract, strive to give them the resources to do world-changing research, and make sure our students enjoy every benefit of their intelligence and instruction. Excellence in our academic endeavors must never become subordinate to other aspects of our mission. If we, for any reason, become content with an inferior scholarly status among the world’s great universities, we will dilute the impact of everything else we do on behalf of our mission.
At the same time, we must be a distinctively Catholic university, with everything that means. We must be a university that fosters a dialogue between faith and reason, and preserves an intellectual tradition shaped by that dialogue. We must strive to suffuse our culture and corporate ambitions with a sense of a transcendent God and the mystery of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection. We must be a community that finds a special place for prayer. We must be a university that serves the Church and the world, and one whose research agenda reflects that service, as we work on non-violent resolution of conflict; economic development and democratization; the environment; sacred music, art, and architecture; or the moral issues arising from scientific and technological development.
These are aspects of our mission that long predate our meeting today. The question for us now is what will receive our attention and what initiatives will be undertaken in the coming year.
Today I want to talk about our plans for the current year under five headings: 1) undergraduate education; 2) graduate studies and research; 3) diversity; 4) our distinctive Catholic mission; and 5) fiscal constraints and opportunities.
In the recent strategic plan, Fulfilling the Promise, the pursuit of excellence in teaching was appropriately the first goal listed. It is a traditional strength and a defining characteristic of Notre Dame. It is the quality of teaching—the personal exchange between professor and student—that will encourage students to become fellow inquirers with the faculty, ultimately giving them the ability to form their own views, test their own theories, and stand their own ground in open debate.
As we advance the scholarly mission of the University, we must together ask how we can further strengthen our teaching mission. This question will be central in coming years.
In any area, we cannot make systematic progress unless we have some indication of how well we are doing and how we can improve. Led by Dennis Jacobs, the associate provost who assists in overseeing undergraduate studies, and Jean Ann Linney, the associate provost who oversees faculty affairs, we will seek more informative and comprehensive measures of the effectiveness of teaching at Notre Dame. Teacher Course Evaluations, which measure whether students are satisfied with the way they are being taught, are one indicator of the quality of instruction in a particular course. But we must find ways to supplement the TCEs by occasionally including faculty peer review of an instructor’s course design and implementation with attention to the student learning that ensues. We will be exploring other practicable ways to improve our evaluation of teaching.
We will also strive to evaluate the quality of learning at the curricular level. For the Core Curriculum—the courses required of every Notre Dame student for a baccalaureate degree—we will identify and designate those courses that are consistent with the rationale for each core requirements. We will also continue to review and improve the design of the curricula for our undergraduate majors. The goal of these various efforts is to cultivate a spirit of “reflective teaching” at Notre Dame, where faculty articulate learning goals for a course or curriculum, assess their success in achieving these goals, and strive to find innovative ways to enhance student learning.
We will strive to increase undergraduate participation in research. In the coming campaign we will seek increased funding to support undergraduate research opportunities. However, even prior to the realization of such funding, we must together seek ways to instill in our students an excitement about the challenge of inquiry and the rewards of insight, discovery, creativity, and problem solving. In the coming year we will survey student participation in research activities and, based on an analysis of the data gathered, formulate recommendations for enhancing the level and quality of such participation.
The Office of Student Affairs, under the leadership of Rev.. Mark Poorman, C.S.C., will continue to provide our undergraduate students with an experience of community and opportunities for spiritual growth that are distinguished in American higher education. The Office of Student Affairs has joined with the Provost’s Office to provide an equally distinguished experience of intellectual engagement, debate, inquiry, and creativity outside the classrooms. This year these offices have jointly instituted a pilot residential scholars program in which 27 faculty will have bi-weekly dinners with a women’s and a men’s dorm, through which, we hope, intellectual life in the dorms will be enhanced. In addition, as you know, we held an academic forum in connection with the inauguration ceremonies in which visitors of varied religious and national backgrounds addressed issues around the theme, “Why God? Understanding Faith and Enacting Religion in a Plural World.” In coming years, we want to plan similar forums around significant topics that will engage and stimulate the thinking of our students.
One further, more sobering initiative concerns academic honesty among our students. National surveys of the incidence of academic dishonesty among current college students are disturbingly high. [From what we can discover, the behavior of Notre Dame students is not much better.]
There is no higher value for a university community as such than the respect for truth, and there is no greater offense against that value than academic fraud. This is an issue which all of us—administration and faculty—must be aware of and seek effective strategies to address. My administration will explore ways to address this issue at a University-wide level. And I ask each of you to emphasize in your classes the paramount importance of academic honesty, and to respond with appropriate gravity when dishonesty has occurred. We must not, and will not, look the other way when confronted with this issue.
Graduate Studies and Research
In the areas of research and graduate studies, we have ambitious but achievable goals. We must hire truly distinguished faculty; some of our departments and graduate programs must be in fact and in perception among the very best in the nation; we must build infrastructure for science, engineering, and quantitative social science so that we may achieve a goal of $100 million in annual externally sponsored research funding; and advance those institutes and centers that can become national leaders. We will strive to achieve the reputation in graduate studies and research that we enjoy for our undergraduate programs.
We also have to find an accurate way to assess our progress. We cannot rely on our own opinion of our success; we must seek objective measures. Yet the National Research Council rankings of research-doctoral programs, the most widely accepted measure of graduate programs and research, is a project under review, and its future is uncertain. Moreover, the distinctive mission of this University, as well as its emphasis on teaching along with research, may demand a broader and more individualized set of measures.
In the coming year, we will work to formulate the most appropriate measures of our progress toward key goals.
We will also work to ensure that we have the highest level of reflection and discussion leading up to key decisions about academic priorities. We will not attempt to lead and make decisions by consensus, but all important decisions must be preceded by open, full discussion of issues. In the coming year we will be seeking the forums and structures in which such discussion will be fostered, and decisions, once taken, can be explained.
Jeff Kantor will be working with others to undertake an assessment of the experience of our current graduate students through a survey and focus groups. We will be seeking to make the experience of our graduate students as positive as possible.
On the subject of research and graduate studies, I want to acknowledge and thank Jeff Kantor for his service as dean of the Graduate School and vice president for graduate studies and research. Jeff has announced that he will be leaving that position at the end of the current academic year. Under Jeff’s leadership, research awards to the University have increased an average of 15 percent annually, reaching over $81 million. His commitment to improving research infrastructure has led to new animal care facilities, increased capitalization for new faculty, a new BSL III facility to support research on infectious disease. He helped bring the new IU School of Medicine Building to the entrance of campus. He strove to revitalize licensing and patent activity through his commitment to technology transfer and protection of intellectual property. In difficult financial times, he found funds to support stronger graduate stipends and began a program of subsidizing health care insurance premiums for graduate students. Jeff has been a strong and successful advocate for research and graduate studies, and a valued colleague in the administration. On behalf of the whole University, I want to congratulate Jeff on his accomplishments, and thank him for his dedicated administrative service to the University.
Tom Burish recently announced the formation of a committee to study our administrative structure for the oversight of graduate education and research to ensure that we have the most efficient and effective administrative processes and structures to lead and support research and graduate education. We will strive to build on recent advances.
I want to recognize the contribution of another extremely important academic leader at Notre Dame. Since 1998, Frank Incropera has served as the dean of the College of Engineering, and has recently announced that he will leave that position and return to research and teaching. A search for his replacement has begun. Frank came to Notre Dame from Purdue University, where he won several major university teaching awards, as well as a national award. Although his wife, Andrea, is known to still rooting for the Boilermakers, Frank is thoroughly Irish! He is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and a member of the National Academy for Engineering. During his tenure as dean of the College of Engineering the amount of externally sponsored research has grown from a level of just over $7M to nearly $21M Frank led the effort to institute a innovative course, EG111, for first-year undergraduates, which moved the retention of first-year fall semester engineering intents to sophomore engineering majors from 55 percent in 2000, to 73 percent last year. Under his leadership, the college is on the way to becoming one of the best—and perhaps thebest—undergraduate engineering programs in the nation. He has overseen a period when the hiring of women and minorities in the college has received increased attention with the number of women faculty tripling and the number of women graduate students doubling. And Frank has kept a keen eye on the distinctive mission of Notre Dame, leading in the establishment of an ethics curriculum for undergraduates, and making very high level interdisciplinary work in the areas of the environment and energy a signature strength of the college. We will have other occasions to thank Frank for his efforts, but I want to take this opportunity in the presence of the assembled faculty to acknowledge and thank Frank for his leadership.
One final note under this heading. One of the greatest services you as faculty can offer to society is to become involved in the public intellectual discussions of our time. We ask you to be open to commenting to the press on developments in your field, and, when opportunities arise, submitting oped pieces to major publications. Articles and statements are put on our web page, and often wind up, sometimes months later, as references in the New York Times or Chronicle of Higher Education. We urge you to work with Notre Dame’s News and Information Department on this. We need to get your voice, and Notre Dame’s voice, into important public discussions.
Every strong university in the country is committed to enhancing the diversity of its student body, staff and faculty. But we at Notre Dame have a deeper rationale for embracing diversity and multiculturalism. We believe every human has been made in God’s image, and every culture reflects God’s grandeur.
Through diversity, we can enrich the intellectual life of Notre Dame with the inclusion of voices from groups which have not always been included, and offer opportunities to members of some groups which have been denied them in the past. We still need to make progress in this area, but it is important to recognize the progress that has already been made under Fr. Malloy’s administration, and to note the initiatives currently underway. We have made noticeable progress. In 1994 2 percent of our faculty were Hispanic; in 2004, that number is 5 percent, compared to an average of 2 percent among the top 20 universities. The Institute for Latino Studies has become a national center for the study of Latino culture in this country; it has attracted strong faculty across disciplines, and greatly enriched our intellectual life at Notre Dame. African Americans constituted 1 percent of our faculty in 1994; they constitute 2 percent today, although this is below the top 20 average of 3 percent. Upon the recommendation of a 2002 report by the Committee on Cultural Diversity, the Department of Africana Studies has recently been created, chaired by Richard Pierce, and we will work to make it a strong intellectual center. Among Asian Americans, we moved from 5 percent to 6 percent on our faculty, but in the same time the top 20 cohort moved from 5 percent to 9 percent. And among Native Americans, our data reflect trends that are low nationwide.
Among undergraduate students, we are highest among the top 20 universities in Hispanic students, though we lag behind in African American and Asian American students. The current first year class includes the largest percentage of total ethnic minority representation in Notre Dame’s history, and we are hopeful that these increases in the diversity of the student body will continue for future classes while we strive to increase representation of groups that are less well represented at Notre Dame. It is also important to note that we recently became one of only a few national universities which are “need blind” in our admissions, which increases the socio-economic diversity of our student body. Currently nearly half our undergraduate students receive financial aid. Finally, 4 percent of our students are international.
Regarding gender diversity on our faculty, Notre Dame is slightly higher than the top 20 schools in the percentage of women at the assistant professor level. We are, however, significantly lower at the associate and full levels. The data point to problems with retention of female faculty at Notre Dame, and this is an issue to which we will give attention.
We will seek ways to increase the diversity of our students and faculty; to improve on the retention of minority and women faculty; and to help the new Department of Africana Studies advance. To advance this effort, we have reconvened and reconstituted the University Committee on Cultural Diversity. Staff and faculty were invited to nominate themselves for this committee, and the current committee includes both faculty and staff who have previously served and an enthusiastic group of new members. In addition, I will be meeting regularly with a student advisory group through the year to seek ways in which the diversity of student life can be enriched. In this and other areas, our objective will be to discern the next steps we must take to advance.
The overarching goal is not simply to increase numbers from certain groups, or to create new committees, or include discrete new areas of study. The mere gathering of a diverse groups has no value unless the group is a community in which the gifts of each individual enrich the lives of every individual. Our goal is to make Notre Dame a place that welcomes members from a variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds and enables them to flourish and reach their full potential, and whose intellectual life is more rich and vibrant because of this diversity.
Enhancing this diversity is my responsibility and that of my administration, and it is one we will take seriously. Ultimately, though, making Notre Dame a richly diverse, multicultural university is the responsibility of each and every one of us, and in a special way, of you, as the scholars and teachers of this University. I ask for your help.
Our Distinctive Catholic Mission
Notre Dame’s Catholic character is, I believe, a genuine academic strength. It identifies a tradition that gives direction and depth to our work as a university. It enables us to attract strong students and faculty. Certainly, a Catholic university is not for everyone, but some faculty and students who would be welcome at any university in this nation choose Notre Dame because of its distinctive mission. Moreover, the generous and loyal support from many alumni and friends of the University is tied to our Catholic mission.
Certainly, there are challenges our Catholic character brings with it. It is never easy, institutionally or individually, to be different, to chart a different course. We do and will meet misunderstanding and skepticism from many peers. And our mission may in the short term limit options which are open to other institutions.
In the end, though, whatever opportunities or challenges our distinctive mission presents, it defines what we are. Notre Dame was founded to be a university with a religious character; its statutes state that it should retain this character “in perpetuity”; and it is a priority of mine to retain this character. The challenge for us—for all of us—Catholic and non-Catholic—is to see our distinctive mission as an opportunity to differentiate this University and move us forward.
An issue to which we must give attention is the hiring of Catholic faculty. In the 1970s, the percentage of Catholic faculty was near 85 percent; in 1984 it was 62 percent; it is currently 53 percent. With the retirement of senior faculty who are Catholic in greater percentages, it is likely to drop further.
Teaching and research, the work of faculty, is the core mission of Notre Dame. A Catholic faculty member brings valuable attributes to this core enterprise. She ideally brings a faith commitment and some intellectual formation that enables her to relate issues in her discipline to the beliefs, practices, and unresolved questions in the Catholic tradition. Secondly, a Catholic faculty member is part of a global Church, and is particularly able to assist a university that strives to serve that Church in its academic and intellectual endeavors. And, finally, a Catholic faculty member participates in the liturgical and spiritual life which is at the heart of the life of Notre Dame or any Catholic university. The mass and other liturgical practices are not private and isolated formalities for personal inspiration; they are sacramental acts that bind us to one another and to God in ways that shape our lives cognitively, emotionally, and spiritually, and thus influence our lives and work outside the liturgy. It is for these reasons that we seek Catholic faculty members who, in addition to their academic expertise, contribute to the life as a Catholic university.
As I speak of the contribution that a Catholic faculty member brings, however, I want to emphatically reaffirm the contribution of non-Catholic faculty. We are a better university, and a better Catholic university, because of the talent and dedicated service of these faculty, and because of the varied perspectives and experiences they bring. And, certainly, many non-Catholics embrace, support, and advance the values and tradition of a Catholic university.
Given the sort of university we are, and the contribution we want to make to the world and the Church, we seek a faculty that includes a diversity of perspectives and commitments, but which has a preponderance of Catholics. I will work with academic leaders to find ways to attract and hire highly qualified Catholics to our faculty.
In areas in which we have attained excellence at Notre Dame, there has generally been a connection with our Catholic mission, whether this is in theology, philosophy of religion, or Dante studies. To achieve our goal of being a center of Catholic intellectual life, it is important that all units where it is reasonable have some aspect of their work relate to our Catholic mission. Whether this is in environmental studies, ethics in the professions, religion and literature, or biological research on diseases which afflict the world’s poor, our academic work should show dimensions which reflect our mission.
As a Catholic university we have as our heritage a broad and rich intellectual, spiritual, moral, and aesthetic tradition, and we must find ways to make all our endeavors enriched by that tradition. One sometimes detects a tendency to define our Catholicity narrowly by the latest battle in the culture wars–whether this is gay marriage, stem cell research, or euthanasia. Certainly, these and other issues are important and highlight pivotal principles. We will strive as an institution to be faithful to the Catholic tradition. Yet the Catholicity of Notre Dame must always be defined by the full breath and depth of an ancient and living tradition. We will strive to define it as such.
Fiscal Constraints and Opportunities
We realize that our high aspirations will require shrewd management of our fiscal resources and sound allocation of those resources in accord with our priorities. We are fortunate to have exceptional leadership in John Affleck-Graves, our executive vice president; Scott Malpass, our vice president and chief investment officer; and John Sejdinaj, our vice President for finance. With them we will work to attain our goals. I will speak briefly about the opportunities and challenges ahead.
You see from this slide that in the past decade our annual expenses have grown from $292 million dollars to $669 million dollars. That is a growth rate of 8.6 percent annually, more than double the rate of inflation. Of that $377 million increase, $278 million—which is 74 percent of the total increase—has gone to academic and student life. Currently 70 percent of our budget goes to academic and student life, compared with 64 percent 10 years ago. The remaining 30 percent in the current budget goes to a variety of needs, including utilities, custodial services, food services, and non-academic administration, such as the Human Resource or Controller’s Office. We will strive to continue this trend of making academic and student life our primary fiscal priorities.
This slide illustrates some shifts in the composition of our revenue sources since 1994. Note that tuition and fees now constitute 4 percent less of our total revenue than they did in 1994, though this number is still roughly 10 percent greater than the reliance of our peers on tuition and fees.
In the past decade, we have been able to fund growth in the academy by raising tuition aggressively.
This next slide shows why we were able to do that. In 1994 we were 12 percent below the average of peer institutions. Increases in the past 10 years have brought us to within 1 percent of the market rate, and we do not plan to raise tuition over market. We will need to seek other ways to fund academic growth.
A resource of increasing importance for us has been our endowment, which has grown in the past decade from 10 percent of our total revenue to 18 percent. The endowment will remain an increasingly important revenue source for us.
Another important source of growth for us is our grants and contracts. As you can see from this slide, our growth in this area since 1997 has been dramatic. This growth is due to the talent and hard work of you, our faculty, and on behalf of the whole University I want to thank you for efforts and congratulate you on your success. We believe this trend can continue, and we will work hard to provide you with the support and infrastructure to make further growth possible.
This next slide shows that our annual budget has a $67 million dollar shortfall that is made up for by two sources: unrestricted giving that comes from our development office, and auxiliary operations. Auxiliary operations include a number of different sources: food services, the bookstore, the Morris Inn, and others. An extremely important auxiliary source for us is our athletic department.
Reliable financial information for athletic budgets at other universities is difficult to find. It is clear that most universities give significant subsidies to their athletic departments, while a few break even. Notre Dame is unique in that its athletic department revenues cover all athletic expenses: grant-in-aid for student-athletes, the salaries for coaches and administrators, and even intramural sports—indeed, all athletic costs to the University. In addition, the athletic department contributes a significant amount to the academy.
This next slide shows that in the past decade athletics has contributed $127 million to the academy, and the endowments its resources have created for student financial aid have grown to $219 million dollars. We expect such support for the academy from athletics to continue and even increase.
Finally, to reach our goals we must not only strive to increase revenue; we must also seek efficiencies which will enable us to do more with less. We will undertake an ongoing review of various units to ensure that they are as efficient as they can be. If we are able to achieve savings through greater efficiency, we will move resources to the central University priorities.
Universities have become complex institutions, and the issues we face are numerous and varied. But we must never allow that complexity to distract us from our core mission. We are a place that affirms that knowledge is good in itself; we strive through our teaching to instill knowledge and love of learning in our students, and through our research to increase knowledge and understanding. We are a distinctively Catholic university, and so we are committed to cultivating a constructive dialogue between faith and reason. And we are an institution that seeks, through our academic work as well as other ways, to serve the world and the Church.
In all these activities, it is your work that is at the heart of what we do. Our students are well taught because of the long hours that you, the faculty, put into preparing classes, teaching, correcting assignments, and meeting with students. Great books and articles are written, key experiments are conducted, creative works are produced, because of your long and hard labor in the office, library, laboratory, or studio. Notre Dame has its biggest impact on the world through what you do.
In this year and in coming years, I, along with my administration, will work to enable you to be as successful as you can be. I and those who work with me will no doubt have some successes and some failures; have some good ideas and others that are not so good; make some decisions which are popular, and others which are much less so. But I pledge to you that in all we do we will strive to keep in mind that your work of teaching and research is the core activity of the University. We will try to make decisions and undertake initiatives to make the core academic enterprise of Notre Dame truly preeminent.
Thank you for your efforts to this date. Thank you for your presence and attention today. I look forward to working with you in the future.