President's Annual Address to the Faculty 2012

September 18, 2012

Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome. Thank you for joining me today in this beautiful theater. One month ago the Professional Company of our Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival staged an excellent production of Hamlet. At nearly 30,000 words, Hamlet is famously the longest of Shakespeare’s plays. I will be briefer than that today — and, I hope, somewhat more decisive and upbeat than the play’s main character.

The setting is appropriate, for we all have our roles in a drama—the evolving, growing enterprise that is Notre Dame. Your presence here today is a tangible expression of your commitment to this drama. And I want to welcome warmly our new faculty, the new players in our story, who will add energy, expertise and fresh perspectives.

The plot is certainly thickening. I recently returned from Notre Dame’s triumphal visit to Ireland. It was triumphal not only because of our victory on the football field or because, with 35,000 Americans coming for the game, it was the largest international migration for a single sporting event in history. Prior to the game our faculty ably and successfully organized and led several academic conferences in conjunction with Ireland’s premier academic institutions, attracting some of Ireland’s leading intellectuals and academics. The Taoiseach, Ireland’s political leader, as well as other prominent politicians and business leaders, participated in events surrounding the game. And, perhaps most importantly, our presence was warmly embraced and celebrated by the Irish people. It was an expression of the growing internationality of Notre Dame.

Several weeks ago we welcomed our talented first year students. Building on the commitment of my predecessor, Fr. Edward Malloy, we have tried to enhance racial, ethnic, gender, socio-economic and geographical diversity at Notre Dame. This year, for the first time in Notre Dame’s history, more than 1 in 4 of our entering freshmen is a student of color.

Our task this year and in coming years is to continue these positive developments in the story of Notre Dame. Last year, I spoke to you shortly after the conclusion of a $2 billion campaign, which as you know, was the most successful fundraising effort ever mounted by a university without a medical school. The closure of the campaign marked the conclusion of a comprehensive strategic planning and subsequent fundraising effort I inherited from Fr. Malloy.

The time has come now for us to envision Notre Dame’s future once again. It is our turn to ensure that whoever reports to you about the University’s many endeavors 10 or 20 years hence may approach this podium with the same confidence and hope with which I can speak today about who we are and where we are going.

To that end, I will talk at greater length about the strategic planning process we have begun together and about our preparations for the next development campaign. In a moment I will begin by introducing two University leaders who have played and will continue to play prominent roles in the preparation and execution of this new plan. I will briefly address the academic opportunities that we hope will arise from our recent decision to enter the Atlantic Coast Conference in Athletics. I will conclude with some thoughts on the tragic saga of Penn State and its implications for us.

I. New Leadership

Four years ago in this same forum I introduced Erin Hoffman Harding as our inaugural Associate Vice President for Strategic Planning. In that role, Erin’s purview included institutional research as well as strategic planning and her leadership has been critical in shaping our current planning process. Erin proved to be an effective administrator who re-organized our Office of Institutional Research to provide increasingly robust data on everything from Course Instructor Feedback reports to our ImproveND survey of satisfaction with campus services. She has worked with colleges, schools and divisions to develop and manage from their plans, helping us make more informed, sound decisions across the University.

I asked Erin to take on a new role this year as Vice President of Student Affairs, which she assumed on August 1. Student Affairs oversees student life outside of the classroom, from student clubs and organizations to the disciplinary system and our 29 undergraduate residence halls and two post-baccalaureate communities, which have been formative in the lives of generations of Notre Dame graduates.

Among Erin’s most important tasks will be to retain the rich experience of residential life, cherished by generations of Notre Dame students, while seeking creative ways to integrate more fully various dimensions of the lives of our students. She will lead the effort on the third Enhancement of our plan—to enrich the integration of students’ intellectual, extracurricular and residential experiences–and will need to work with you, our faculty, in this undertaking. I ask you to give her your cooperation and support. I want to thank Erin for agreeing to lead this critically important area of our educational efforts at Notre Dame.

Father Bill Lies, CSC , has been for ten years an exemplary leader of our Center for Social Concerns. On his watch, the Center more than doubled its endowment and significantly expanded its traditional offerings of service-learning seminars and courses with a robust program of community-based research for students and faculty alike. He recently received the Award of Appreciation from the College of Arts and Letters for his work at the Center for Social Concerns.

Although I was reluctant to move Fr. Bill from a job he was doing so well, I created a new office for Mission Engagement and Church Affairs and very much needed Fr. Bill to assist me as Vice President and be its inaugural leader. He graciously agreed to help, and will assist me in enhancing the coordination of the many activities at the University intimately associated with our Catholic mission, serve as my liaison with the Catholic hierarchy locally and around the world, and work to support the spirit of the Congregation of Holy Cross at Notre Dame.

Notre Dame has a prominent place in the Catholic Church nationally and internationally, and I think it is fair to say that the Church faces serious challenges in the U.S. and around the world. Fr. Bill will work with me and many others to fashion a role for Notre Dame of genuine assistance to the Church, and, in this regard, he will coordinate our efforts on the first enhancement in our strategic plan, to convene and lead world-wide dialogue that serves the Church and is relevant to ]the Catholic intellectual tradition.

II. Update on the Strategic Plan

I would like to turn now to the progress we have made on the university-wide strategic plan, which the University undertakes every ten years, and our preparations for the development campaign to come. The best institutions of higher education in this country are those that over time have clear objectives, collectively formulate workable plans to achieve them and are nimble in seizing opportunities and responding to threats. At various levels of the University we must remain focused on developing strong plans and making decisions in accord with them.

As many of you know, I was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska and I went back this summer to preside at the wedding of a childhood friend’s daughter. At that wedding, I had the chance to speak with perhaps the most famous Omahan, Warren Buffett. I’m sorry to say he did not agree to double our endowment with a single contribution, but we had an interesting conversation nonetheless.

Mr. Buffett is the most successful investor over the long term in the nation today, and he is as congenial as he is successful. When he buys a company, he usually leaves their existing management team in place and does not intrude in their decisions. He gives the leaders only one directive: “Run this company as if it were your family business, and indeed your family’s only major asset.” I take that simple instruction to mean at least three things.

First, take a long-term perspective. Don’t look for a quick profit. Build value that will last for generations.

Second, ensure that your business reflects from top to bottom your family’s most cherished values. Always act with integrity. As Buffett often says, it takes twenty years to build a reputation and five minutes to destroy one.

Third, because the business bears your family’s name, strive for true excellence in what you do.

Notre Dame has the character of a family business. It was founded by the Congregation of Holy Cross, my religious family, whose members throughout its history, have given their lives to it and are buried on its grounds. Generations of faculty and staff have also dedicated their lives to the University. And because Notre Dame engenders such a strong sense of community, students, alumni, parents and friends all feel deeply a part of this University. It is with good reason that we speak of the Notre Dame family.

Buffett’s succinct directive should guide us also as we think about our future. How do we make Notre Dame a great university not just for five years, but for generations to come? How do we ensure it reflects our deepest values? How can we make this University truly excellent in fulfilling its mission? Our strategic plan is an attempt to answer these critical questions.

In the last academic year, Tom Burish, Erin Harding and I met with every academic department and the leaders of major institutes to review the priorities of our university-wide strategic plan. We had over forty such meetings, and they were extremely valuable in helping formulate our priorities. As we explained at these meetings, our priorities included both enduring commitments—objectives that remain priorities but do not require major additional investment of effort and resources—and enhancements—objectives that will require new investment.

As we explained to you, the university-wide enhancements are not intended to replace the priorities of individual colleges, schools and divisions, but are meant to compliment them by addressing areas that require cross-college or cross-divisional efforts or demand new resources beyond the scope of a college or division.

The enhancements we have identified give us a direction for the future, but they do not constitute a strategic plan in and of themselves. For that we must develop strategies and tactics to make progress on these enhancements. We are working on these now and hope to finish them early in the next calendar year.

When we complete the strategies and tactics, they and the enhancements will constitute our university-wide strategic plan. The plan will not, however, be absolutely finished. While we expect the planned enhancements to remain constant, the strategies and tactics will be reviewed and periodically revised and updated as necessary. If a strategy or tactic is ineffective, we will revise it. If a change in the environment renders a strategy or tactic obsolete, we will replace it. And we will continually monitor progress toward our objectives.

The great danger of university strategic plans is that, after much labor, they are published in glossy booklets, distributed and promptly relegated to bookshelves where they gather dust and have little impact on the institution’s most critical decisions. We must not let that happen. With regular reviews of progress and clear lines of accountability, we will strive to make this plan one that will inform our decisions and our efforts.

III. Funding our priorities

Of course, decisions about the allocation of resources are among those most critical to the successful implementation of any plan. If we list a number of key priorities and do not ensure that our budget decisions are aligned with those priorities, then we must ask ourselves: are these really our priorities? Because our commitment to this plan is genuine, we must ensure both that it is informed by financial realities and that it informs decisions about the allocation of our resources.

To that end, I formed this summer a Strategic Planning Funding Committee, co-chaired by Tom Burish and John Affleck-Graves. It was charged with three tasks. First, it was to identify funding priorities based on a review of the University-wide strategic priorities and the college, school and division plans. Second, it was to identify the various sources of funding for making progress on these priorities, including not only possible new funds from the next development campaign, but also from other sources, such as the reallocation from lower priority items to higher priority items. Third, it was to offer an initial recommendation of the level at which we can fund priorities, indicate sources of funding and specifically recommend preliminary campaign priorities and financial targets. They have made recommendations to me and we will continue to discuss these as we finalize our strategic plan.

Last year, I reported to you about the success of the Advancing Our Vision initiative in reallocating $30 million in recurring operational savings to fund new faculty positions. I want to thank once again everyone who contributed to this effort. Many people were asked to make sacrifices to help us reach our goal, and I was deeply gratified by the generous response we received across the University. This generous spirit is perhaps our greatest asset at Notre Dame.

As we move forward, we will set goals for our next development campaign that will build upon the success and momentum of the Spirit of Notre Dame campaign and we will work extremely hard to meet these goals, but we will continue to look for opportunities to reallocate funds that will help us meet our highest priorities.

IV. The Atlantic Coast Conference

Last week we announced that Notre Dame would join the Atlantic Coast Conference as a full participant in all sports except football and hockey. Notre Dame has committed to play five football games each season against ACC teams, but we will retain our independence in football, which will allow us to maintain traditions and rivalries that go back nearly a century. It will not surprise you to learn that that the schools of the ACC , primarily from Southern states, do not field hockey teams, and so, beginning in 2013-14, Notre Dame will compete in the new Hockey East league.

Our membership in the ACC provides a strong competitive home for our athletic program in a conference that, on the whole, is among the best among NCAA Division 1 in maintaining high academic standards while graduating its student athletes.

The considerations and discussions leading to this decision by the ACC and Notre Dame were complex and sometimes difficult, and I want to recognize Jack Swarbrick, our Athletic Director, for his excellent work in bringing us to a successful conclusion. I also want to publicly acknowledge the pivotal role played in our discussions by Nathan Hatch, the current President of Wake Forest, the former Provost at Notre Dame, and a friend of mine and of many here.In addition to the attractiveness of this conference for our athletic programs, there are at least two other benefits for Notre Dame as a whole in our arrangement with the ACC .

Our recent trip to Ireland, which I spoke of earlier, is just one example of how Notre Dame’s football program can serve as an effective means for promoting the University as a whole and building for it valuable relationships. In the nineteen teens and twenties, two coaches, Jesse Harper and Knute Rockne, developed the strategy of playing a national schedule, traveling to both coasts and many other parts of the country by train. Indeed, in the early 1920’s the team was known not as the “Fighting Irish”, but as “Rockne’s Ramblers” because of its extensive travel. The strategy succeeded. Because of the team’s celebrated victories on a national stage, it developed a following well beyond its region. Thus a previously unknown Midwestern school became a household name across the nation, which in turn helped Notre Dame academically.

Notre Dame has continued to play this national schedule, and thus the University has a loyal following in New York and Los Angeles, as well as Chicago and Detroit. The ability to join the ACCand play on the Atlantic coast region while retaining a national schedule for other games will allow us to continue to build relationships across the nation and, indeed, even internationally.

In addition, we hope that Notre Dame’s membership in the ACC also opens up the possibility for academic collaboration with a strong group of institutions. The ACC established in 1999 a collaborative effort, the International Academic Collaboration. Though somewhat limited in scope, the ACC Presidents with whom I spoke expressed interest in strengthening this collaborative effort, and Tom Burish and I will work to develop this collaboration.

V. Integrity

We must acknowledge that college athletics, beyond the television and fanfare, also has a dark side, as revealed by recent scandals. And perhaps it is not only college athletics that have been tarnished. For most of us in this room, our adult lives have been marked by demonstrations of what can happen when an institution fails to live up to its values and fails the very people it exists to serve. Government, the Church, the finance industry, institutions of higher education and others have provided us with object lessons in moral failure that have undermined our confidence in these important institutions.

The highly publicized case at Penn State was a tragedy in so many ways, most of all to the young people who were victims of sexual abuse. Over against the sensibilities, good judgment and attentiveness of the many in the Penn State community, the active evil of one man and the failures of the few to report what they knew and respond appropriately tarnished a proud university, its athletic department and its storied football team. Long after the media spotlight has turned away from State College, people will remain there whose lives and livelihoods have been damaged by what we learned in the last months of 2011.

I am not here to offer special insights into the causes or consequences of what happened at Penn State; but only to say that together we must redouble our vigilance in reporting and responding to inappropriate or unethical behavior, not only in athletics, but across the University. We cannot be complacent or pretend that we are immune. We must first understand — and accept — that bad things can happen here and that good people, unprepared, can fail to take effective steps to stop them.

Last January, I wrote a letter to the University community calling upon everyone to take a stand against all forms of questionable conduct. My letter construed the problem holistically, as a matter of importance and broad concern to every unit of the University.

Our Athletics Department, with its extraordinarily high prominence, is an area in which we must be particularly vigilant. I want to emphasize that I know of no instance of impropriety — financial, ethical or in the area of regulatory compliance — in our athletics department that has not been handled appropriately. We have, however, taken further preventative steps to increase our vigilance and reduce the likelihood of misconduct in the future. Our athletic director, Jack Swarbrick, has on his own undertaken an internal review of oversight within his department to strengthen potential weaknesses. In addition, I have formed a committee consisting of John Affleck-Graves, our Executive Vice President; William Shaw, a Trustee and the chair of the audit committee of the Board of Trustees; Marianne Corr, our General Counsel; and Roger Mahoney, the Director of Audit and Advisory Services. Their charge is to review the University’s oversight of the athletic department in terms of its finances, NCAA compliance and ethical conduct, as well as recommendations from the Freeh Report at Penn State. The committee will report to me and I will share its findings with our Board of Trustees. We will take steps to make improvements in any area in which we can better meet our oversight responsibilities.

Finally, let me take this opportunity to remind you once again about the University’s Integrity Line, a service available to every member of the faculty and staff. When talking to one’s department chair, dean or immediate supervisor is not an option or does not resolve a problem, the Integrity Line facilitates the anonymous reporting of any behavior that is ethically or professionally problematic. You can find the number (1-800-688-9918) and more information on the Human Resources website. It is not necessary to leave one’s name, just a description of the behavior or situation in question. The calls are received by an outside agency that makes a direct report to a committee consisting of Bob McQuade, our vice President for Human Resources, Marianne Corr, our General Counsel, and Roger Mahoney, the Director of Audit and Advisory Services. They are charged to follow up as appropriate.

We in the administration are committed to do all we can to make ethical oversight as strong as it can be, but we can only maintain the integrity of the University when everyone is prepared to report problems so they can be handled appropriately. Whatever the strength of the bond we may feel toward this University, we must agree that it is never an act of loyalty to Notre Dame to overlook or hide behavior that is not in line with our deepest values. No matter how embarrassing or painful in the short term, we are a better and stronger University community when people take the long-term perspective and speak up about problems they encounter in the workplace, giving us all the chance to work together to address them.

VI. Conclusion

I spoke earlier of Warren Buffett’s simple directive, “Run your business like it is your family’s only major asset.” As with a family business, we hold Notre Dame in trust from those who sacrificed so much to build it and cared so deeply about it, and for those who will come after us. We must, therefore, try to build something of value that will last for generations, ensure that it reflects our most cherished values, and strive to make it truly excellent.

As we complete the University-wide strategic plan and look forward to the next stage in building Notre Dame, we recognize that success will certainly require intelligence and expertise, but those qualities alone will not be enough. It will also demand courage, commitment, a collaborative spirit and innovation. As we dedicate ourselves to writing the next chapter in Notre Dame’s story, we must look within us for these further qualities.

I am proud to be working alongside you and am confident that we can accomplish much. And at the end of the day, I believe our greatest reward will be the satisfaction of passing on to the next generation an institution of which we are truly proud.

Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.
President, University of Notre Dame