The financial crisis and subsequent budgetary cuts, Miami University’s achievements and strategic changes for the future were among the themes President David Hodge discussed in his annual address Tuesday afternoon.
Hodge addressed a crowd of more than 150 Oxford and Miami community members in Hall Auditorium.
“When we gathered a year ago, we couldn’t have imagined the rapid and devastating decline in the economy that was before us,” Hodge said. “We knew we needed to make significant cuts to permanently fix a large deficit that existed for several years … but as the economy and our revenues moved sharply downwards the size of Miami’s budget deficit doubled.”
Hodge said necessary reductions were met by reducing operational
budgets, delaying and reducing capital projects, foregoing salary increases, canceling or delaying selected faculty hiring and eliminating staff positions.
Hodge said as the economy worsened, another $10 million in cuts became necessary – half this year and half next year.
“It’s a painful process with a significant impact on all of us,” Hodge said. “In total our core budget has been reduced by 7 percent during this recession, which unfortunately reflects a common pattern for American universities.”
Hodge said despite these hardships, Miami’s faculty and staff continued their commitment to improve Miami.
These improvements included a new review process for Miami Plan Foundation courses, revisions to the student handbook, a new course scheduling system and the opening of the Voice of America Learning Center.
The University Honors Program has also undergone significant changes, Hodge said.
“The program’s curriculum transformed from a traditional course-based model to a three-tiered outcomes-driven model promoting scholarly, personal and professional maturity,” Hodge said.
Members of the honors program also helped in recruitment efforts by writing letters, creating a video and improving the Web site and brochures, among many other things.
“It worked and the program’s enrollment exceeded the target of 400 students this fall,” Hodge said.
Tuesday afternoon Hodge also commended the university’s faculty for their distinguished accomplishments through grants, rankings and awards.
“They deserve a huge amount of credit for pushing ahead in these hard times,” Hodge said. “Creative and strategic thinking can move us forward under any circumstances.”
Hodge discussed Miami’s future and told the audience he wanted to pose questions and ideas to them rather than answers.
“During difficult times it is human nature to shorten our field of vision and to think and act in a manner that tends to reinforce rather than challenge the status quo,” Hodge said. “Given the major forces that are affecting higher education it would be a grave mistake for us to react to our challenges in this matter. We need to push ourselves to imagine and create a sustainable future that builds on our strengths.”
Hodge said to do this Miami must allocate and use its resources responsibly by making more judicious choices about major operations and capital investments.
“We must contain costs,” Hodge said. “It’s necessary to stop doing some things in order to do other things at the high quality we demand at Miami.”
Hodge said by focusing on energy conservation, the university can save $250,000.
Hodge said within five years Miami plans to raise its graduation rate from 81 percent to 85 percent.
Hodge ended his address on an optimistic note.
“This is neither a time to be complacent nor a time to be immobilized by our distress,” Hodge said. “Working together we will make Miami stronger so that Miami will build a better future for the world we serve.”
First-years Jordin Luke and Jordan Whitaker attended the address Tuesday as part of their political science class.
“I liked how Hodge was critical about the university because it shows his initiative to better the university,” Luke said.
Whitaker said she liked when Hodge talked about Miami celebrating its 200th year because it demonstrated Miami’s legacy.
Bob Cottrell, Miami class of 1954 and resident of Hamilton, said he enjoyed Hodge’s address.
“He’s a positive thinker and as a leader he’s an excellent listener,” Cottrell said. “I’m very impressed with his focus and the ‘engaged learning’ because that’s where the future is.”