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Chancellor Greets Faculty & Staff With Good News

Aug. 24, 1998

As UW-River Falls prepares to start the fall academic year, the institution remains healthy but will continue to be challenged in its fiscal resources, according to Chancellor Gary A. Thibodeau.

The chancellor made his remarks in the opening address to some 400 faculty and staff that marks the start of the academic year. Classes begin next Wednesday, Sept. 2, for an estimated student body of 5,426 students. That will include one of the largest and best prepared incoming classes in recent years, with an estimated 1,200 first-year students.

Thibodeau said he was excited by the prospects and rewards the new academic year will bring.

“In our interactions with each other, with our disciplines, and especially with the students we serve, it is my hope that in the year ahead we can measure ourselves by our very best moments. We practice in a profession that allows us to enter the lives of others and to influence them for the better.”

Educating students and sharing faculty expertise with the University’s service area will continue to be an intellectual challenge, Thibodeau offered. He noted that since 1960, information has been doubling every five years, and is accelerating.

“Some futurists suggest that by the time our current freshman class reaches the midpoint of their careers in 2020, human knowledge will double four times each year.

“You may argue, as I do,” Thibodeau continued, “that what is being described here is information rather than knowledge. The challenge truly is change and the new economic currency is knowledge—not just the accumulation of information.”

To assist that effort, Thibodeau particularly emphasized the need for faculty, staff and students to advance the University’s budgetary needs as the Legislature convenes in January. It will set a two-year budget that goes into effect on July 1, 1999.

Thibodeau termed that budget the most critical to UW-RF in the past 10 years. He noted that higher education will have to continue to intensively compete with other state initiatives, including property tax relief, K-12 funding, corrections and welfare reform. He said it will be up to the academy to educate legislators and the executive branch to re-emphasize public higher education and to recognize the urgency of providing funding in face of the extraordinary changes in education because of expansive use of technology and the explosion of information in a global society.

“If the State of Wisconsin is to sustain one of the very best public educational systems in the nation it simply must make the hard decisions necessary to increase state support of our efforts. Resources are available. What is required is the commitment to set the priority. I want you to know that I will work exceptionally hard in the months ahead, in every arena and in every way possible, to advance the case for support of public higher education in Wisconsin. I look forward to joining forces with our governance groups representatives, with each of you individually, and with our students in this cause.”

The chancellor outlined the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents budget request that was forwarded last week to Gov. Tommy Thompson that calls for a 3.4 percent increase in state taxpayer dollars, for a total of $43.4 million. It also has set tuition at 4 percent per year.

The initiatives include:

•$12 million to enhance libraries, which have had stagnant funding for the past 10 years.

•$28.9 million for expanded instructional technology support, including money for staff support and an improved replacement schedule for desktop computers.

•$4 million for increased academic advising, which students have placed as their top priority.

•$7 million to for the System’s 2008 Implementation to support diversity by expanding pre-college programs, financial aid and student recruitment.

•$11.5 million for enhanced international education for financial aid for study abroad programs and other initiatives in international education.

•$3 million to aid local governments by lending faculty technical expertise in such areas as land use, zoning, water quality and urban renewal.

Despite these challenges, UW-RF remains strong, Thibodeau said. He noted that the University through its strategic planning process reallocated $1.2 million last year to departmental budgets. The plan has targeted shifting 12 percent of tax dollars from salaries into academic and department support by next year. Thibodeau said the University is closing in on that target with 10.3 percent in base reallocations.

He also recited a host of capital improvement projects that are either underway or planned over the next several years. The 11 projects total more than $30 million in new buildings, remodelings and classroom improvements.

Thibodeau concluded, “What we experience as a part of the University of Wisconsin System and here at this University on an ongoing basis—the quality of our academic life and work—is the envy of many working professionals—including a vast majority of our higher education colleagues at colleges and universities throughout this country.

“True, we have pressing resource needs, we must work hard to implement difficult strategic planning initiatives, and we must become more proactive and successful in advancing the priority of higher education in Wisconsin and nationally. However, I truly believe we can be successful in these areas, and my most convincing reason involves my assessment of the people assembled here this morning.”

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