|June 1, 2004
With the 2004 commencement season behind us and the fiscal
year drawing to a close, I would like to take this opportunity
to thank you for another year of success, commitment, and
What a momentous year this has been! Each of you should take
great pride in the outstanding accomplishments that distinguish
the University of Miami.
This letter is the first in a series of correspondence that
I will write to keep you informed of some of the opportunities
and challenges we face as an institution of higher learning.
I am calling this letter "Dialogue," since most
of the topics will relate to conversations I have had with
faculty and staff members and that I think merit being shared
Our boldest move by far this year was the launch of the billion-dollar
Momentum campaign in October. With more than $606 million
already raised - a record $249 million this year alone - we
are well on our way to reaching our goal by 2007. Of particular
note was the spectacular $33 million gift from Phillip and
Patricia Frost to name the School of Music.
All measures of quality are on the rise and breaking records.
We had 18,500 applications for 2,020 slots for next fall's
freshman class, which translates into a greater degree of
selectivity, which in turn translates into higher quality.
The mean SAT score for entering freshmen last fall was 1234,
up dramatically from 1208 just three years ago. We also continue
to be extremely successful in recruiting outstanding individuals
from around the country to join our stellar faculty. The faculty
is increasingly more productive in terms of peer-reviewed
research, and this year's sponsored program expenditures are
expected to significantly exceed last year's $243.8 million.
The long-anticipated University Village student apartment
project on the Coral Gables campus was approved this year,
following successful mediation with our neighbors. We broke
ground on an impressive new Clinical Research Building and
Wellness Center at the medical campus; our medical school
colleagues also will get their long-awaited Faculty Club.
Before the end of the year, we intend to get approvals for
a new wet lab and a biomedical research resource center on
our medical campus. The Jorge M. Perez Architecture Center
is now under construction on the Coral Gables campus and will
be followed shortly by the M. Christine Schwartz Center for
Nursing Education. Planning is under way for a new Student
Center, a new Alumni Center, and additions at our Schools
of Business Administration and Communication, and serious
renovations are being planned for the Cox Science Center and
the Merrick Building. The Rosenstiel campus facilities also
are undergoing a review, as are School of Education and art
The University also was selected to host the first Presidential
Debate, which will take place on campus on September 30. There
will be some disruptions to parking and academic activities
that week, but I'm certain our community will handle them
with grace and good humor. Earlier in the fall semester, James
Carville, Mary Matalin, the Dalai Lama, and others will be
on campus for presentations. This is a once-in-a-lifetime
oppor-tunity for our University community - especially our
students - to experience firsthand one of the most historic
events of our time. Our theme for the debate is "Celebrating
American Democracy and Diversity."
We think this slogan captures perfectly the spirit, purpose,
and resolve of our nation. And what better place to celebrate
the ideals of democracy and diversity than right here in our
South Florida community.
Like universities around the country, we also faced several
challenges this year. In true Miami style, however, we are
facing them decisively and head-on. Among our ongoing challenges
are finding a solution to the complex issue of medical malpractice,
developing an equitable plan for a community hospital, addressing
pressing space needs University-wide, and continuing to build
suitable housing for our students.
We will have two major dean searches commencing this summer.
In the School of Communication founding dean Ed Pfister is
completing two decades of fine leadership. And in the College
of Arts and Sciences James Wyche has chosen to step down to
return to his research and teaching. We wish them both well.
Another challenge that we faced this year was an under-funded
defined benefit retirement plan. As you know, our staff are
members of this plan; the faculty participate in a defined
contribution plan. Defined benefit plans in universities as
well as in corporate America have taken a beating - experiencing
significant investment losses in the past few years. The University
of Miami is no exception. As recently as two years ago, our
UM plan was over-funded. However, this year a combination
of negative investment return due to declines in the stock
market, coupled with gradual increases in staffing, resulted
in an under-funded situation.
I cannot stress strongly enough that we are fully committed
to maintaining the retirement plan for current participants.
The University, therefore, made a significant contribution
to its defined benefits retirement plan this year. Most of
the funding came from a low-interest loan. The debt service
on the loan is being funded by the schools, colleges, and
administrative units, which is why most units throughout the
University are experiencing tighter budgets for the upcoming
fiscal year. We are also exploring the possibility of new
employees entering a defined contribution plan.
Employee health care costs are a continual challenge for
the University. We have at least two study efforts under way:
Faculty and staff are looking at how we can contain skyrocketing
costs while still providing attractive benefits. It will not
be easy, but we will try to develop a plan that strikes the
Universities are pillars of strength, and the University
of Miami has always been exceptionally strong. That strength
comes from our incredible work force - our people. We are
nimble enough to seize opportunities as they arise and ambitious
enough to create opportunities where none existed.
It is a privilege to work with such talented and dedicated
people. Your collective efforts are what make this University
a terrific place to work and to learn. Thank you for your
continued commitment. Feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
regarding this periodic update or any other University issue.
Donna E. Shalala