Forgiveness and Healing
by KEN ELZINGA, Economics Professor
I am an unlikely person to speak at this rally. By nature, I am not drawn to demonstrations or collective action of this sort. In addition, as a person who for many years has served on the board of trustees of another college, I have great respect for the principle that the board hires and fires the president of a college or university. A board of trustees (or a Board of Visitors, in our situation) has only a few responsibilities. Selecting the president is one of them.
But I believe our Board of Visitors made a mistake in calling for Terry Sullivan's resignation. From my perspective, Terry Sullivan's performance as president of this institution has been exemplary.
I have been told that I have taught more students at UVA than any other faculty member in the history of this school: around 40,000 students. I cannot say I have heard from all 40,000 of them, but I can say that every communication I have received from former students has been one of disappointment at Terry Sullivan's forced resignation and desirous of her reinstatement.
UVA has had only eight presidents. I have served under five of them. It would be inappropriate for me to rank the five by some metric of performance. But I will say this: in every circumstance I have encountered Terry Sullivan, whether it has been at a lunch at Carr's Hill, or speaking before hundreds of alumni, or the winsome manner in which she attends and watches a UVA wrestling match, or listening to her speak to an audience of faculty, or her compassion in caring for the parents and grandparents of a beloved student of mine who died from a fall off the roof of the Physics Building—whatever the circumstance—Terry Sullivan strikes me as the complete package.
I hope the Board of Visitors is able to realize that a mistake has been made, to admit this, and remedy the mistake. It is not easy for any of us to admit we made a mistake. I can tell you that, as a board member at another college, it is not easy for a board to admit error and walk back from a mistake.
While I teach economics, I think of the world in theological terms. I have tried to look at this event through a biblical lens. The Scriptures are all about atonement, grace and forgiveness.
I hope the Board of Visitors will atone for its mistake and reinstate Terry Sullivan. If the Board were to do so, it would not diminish the Board or its authority. Just the opposite: the Board of Visitors would be enhanced. This is the great paradox: if the Board were to reinstate Terry Sullivan, most of us would come away with a renewed appreciation for the Board—because its members demonstrated the courage to walk back from a mistake and atone for an error.
If the Board were to reinstate Terry Sullivan, the virtue required of us—faculty, students, staff and alumni—is that of grace toward the Board of Visitors, not condemnation. Part of the genius of this University is that, as Mr. Jefferson instructed us, this is to be a place where (in his words) we "tolerate error." So more than any other institution, we should "tolerate error" graciously and when error is corrected, to accept this with gratitude.
And may I mention one thing that we must ask of Terry Sullivan if she is reinstated—and this also is not something done easily. To flourish as president, she must be able to forgive those who sought her resignation.
Very few people can demonstrate, outwardly and in their hearts, true forgiveness. It is not easy to do. But the Bible says it is not supposed to be easy. Recrimination and revenge: they're easy. That is why true forgiveness is so noteworthy when it happens.
Forgiveness, and then healing, is what our University needs at this time. Not lawsuits; not commissions; not investigations; not years of ill will. Those of us at this rally must model our forgiveness so there can be healing. And I believe Terry Sullivan, with all her administrative skills, is the kind of person who can forgive. In closing, I'll cite one of the last speeches given by Robert F. Kennedy. Paraphrasing words from the Gospel of John written above the columns of Old Cabell Hall, Kennedy said "For today, as it was in the beginning, it is the truth that makes us free."
The truth of the matter is that all of us regret the forced resignation of Terry Sullivan, all of us respectfully ask the Board to atone for its action, and all of us are prepared to respond with gratitude, forgiveness, and renewed enthusiasm to be part of UVA.
Fighting For Honor
by LARRY SABATO, Politics Professor
You never fully know an institution until you see it in crisis. And there was a full-blown crisis when the Board of Visitors unexpectedly, and with only the thinnest explanation, dismissed President Teresa Sullivan on June 10. When I received the email that Sunday morning, I thought our system had been hacked, so inconceivable was it that the first woman president, much beloved around the University, had been sent packing after less than two years at the helm.
Somehow the computer servers and telephone networks survived the glut of messages when everyone contacted everyone else. "What do you know?" "How could this be?" "Was there a hidden problem?" I received a large number of calls, emails and tweets from classmates, other alumni and both current and former students. Shock gave way to anger as people gradually realized there was little justification for the firing.
That first evening, I had occasion to sit on a pavilion balcony with a number of University officials. The group included President Sullivan and her husband, law professor Douglas Laycock. The good grace with which Sullivan absorbed this terrible, undeserved blow will always remain with me. This, I thought, is an example to follow when adversity strikes. The rest of us in attendance were not so saintly, and as Sullivan and Laycock left, some asked, "Can this decision be reversed?" It's too late, everyone said; what's done is done and Lazarus cannot rise.
How wrong we all were. We underestimated the outrage, energy and, most of all, the integrity of the University of Virginia community. We did not foresee how alumni, faculty, students and residents of Charlottesville would rise up and demand that this wrong be made right. The palace coup would be defeated by a grassroots rebellion.
As the days passed, organizations sprang up, leaders emerged and big events came off seemingly without a hitch. Everyone played a role suited to them, and thousands embraced opportunities to express themselves. The emotions were genuine and heartfelt.
Some from the outside suggested that we accept reality, move along and prepare for a new administration. While sincere, this advice was wrongheaded. Those at the top needed a lesson that would last: In a community of trust, a midnight knifing with no warning, justification or transparency was unacceptable, and would have to be reversed. Most recognized that this fight was not just about a single individual, but what the University would look like in the 21st century.
Many individuals impressed me through the two weeks of the fight. Among the students who took part, the Honor Committee chair, Stephen Nash (Col '13), was especially concerned about the Board's violation of the University's concept of "community of trust." As Nash put it, "The lack of information given by the Board of Visitors is troubling because it is perceived as running counter to the standards to which we hold each other accountable as members of this community." That was at the heart of the popular movement to reinstate Sullivan.
Other students in the secret 21 Society offered the Board a way out by hanging a large banner from the balcony railing of Pavilion IV for one of the Lawn rallies. Of course, they looked to Thomas Jefferson for guidance, and emblazoned their banner with an appropriate bit of Jefferson's wisdom: "It is more honorable to repair a wrong than to persist in it."
That was precisely what a beleaguered Board of Visitors decided to do. When the uprising began, few thought it would succeed. To the best of anyone's memory, a college president, once fired, had never been restored to office in the United States. How wonderful that the University of Virginia has become the first to do so—another in a long list of achievements that delights us all and fulfills our Jeffersonian mandate: "For here we are not afraid to follow the truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error as long as reason is left free to combat it."
I have been asked whether other colleges could have achieved a similar result. I do not know for sure, but history tells us none ever has. As the Honor Committee chair suggested, perhaps Virginia's new distinction has something to do with the unique society that exists at the University. We are taught from our first day here that the preservation of the community of trust places obligations on each of us to act when we see a wrong. At a very basic level—in our gut—we knew instantly that President Sullivan's firing was wrong, that we should not tolerate such an action in our midst and that we were obliged in whatever ways we could to right the wrong.
I wish President Sullivan's unwise removal had never happened. The debacle wounded us deeply and will have long-term adverse consequences. But if it was destined to occur, then I am glad it played out the way it did. The University of Virginia community—including thousands of loyal alumni who rose to the challenge—showed the world we mean what we say about honor and trust, and we will fight for both.
The Role of Faculty in Shared Governance
by JOHN SIMON, Executive Vice President and Provost
To be sure, the best of American higher education, which by objective measures includes the University of Virginia, remains the envy of the world. But the events of this past June strike at the core of how we view ourselves and challenge us to find the right balance in terms of how we organize our academic and financial infrastructures while retaining what has made Jefferson's university one of the best.
At the core of the excellence of this—or any—great university is the faculty. It is the very freedom to ask questions and to challenge conventional wisdom that characterizes the great faculties like ours that has fueled the advances and innovations that have contributed to the strength of our nation in virtually every field of scholarship or endeavor.
The best universities are characterized by shared governance and decentralized decision making. Decisions are made by the people who have best expertise and often have firsthand knowledge of situations on the ground. Top-down administrative models are rarely as effective.
That does not, of course, mean that leaders of our institutions have little role to play. They have a very large role in helping the faculty shape and define institutional processes and direction, in bringing the reality of external challenges and opportunities to Grounds, in articulating and defending the principles of academic freedom and in encouraging innovation and collaboration across intellectual disciplines.
The simple truth is, however, that American colleges and universities are far more decentralized in their decision making than is widely understood by the public or even those who may be closer to higher education. This makes instituting fundamental changes in our infrastructure more complicated than it appears to those less familiar with the culture of the best academic communities.
I have been asked often in recent times, "What does a provost do?" There are many quips I use in responding to that question, but in truth, the primary role of the provost is to partner with the deans and faculty to ensure we continually strive for excellence, that we mobilize our human resources in strategic ways and to encourage the faculty to influence the direction of the University. Surely this summer, we have seen the dramatic latent power of the faculty in university governance.
I remember well sitting in the May meeting of the Board of Visitors, when the Chair of the Faculty Senate, George Cohen, read his powerful and effective statement.
"Faculty want our service to matter; otherwise, we will not commit the time and energy necessary to our tasks," Cohen said. He explained that although the Faculty Senate has little formal authority, its ability to represent and advise had the potential to have an important effect on the University. "The Faculty Senate can provide a meaningful check on the necessary authority the University administration exercises, by raising appropriate questions and serving as a conduit for faculty concerns," he said. "The administration ignores these questions and concerns at its peril, as I believe our current team well appreciates."
Faculty have the ability to come together and speak with one powerful voice when an issue of true institutional significance is on the table. Although many outside the academy see this decentralized form of governance as odd and inefficient, and decidedly unlike the more top-down process used by traditional businesses, it is structured to ensure that the pursuit of "what is best" at Jefferson's university is enabled by the thoughtful and high-quality faculty discourse that manifested itself this summer.
Lest one have any doubts about the importance of faculty governance in the academic and financial strength of the University of Virginia beyond the ivory tower, it is instructive to read the June 28 report released by Moody's called "Virginia Dispute Highlights Governance Stress and Economic Threats Facing US Higher Education."
The report stated, "While UVA's reputation temporarily suffered from these events, the final resolution affirms the stability of the university's faculty-centric governance model that will allow it to continue to effectively compete with the nation's leading universities." The report suggested that the events of June highlight "the stabilizing effects of the counterintuitive 'shared governance' model." Unlike in top-down corporations or even democratically elected governments, university decision making is shared among administrators, boards and faculty, and even alumni, students and donors.
Moody's got it right and I suspect Jefferson would agree.
The United University
by HEYWOOD FRALIN (COL '62), Former Rector and Board of Visitors Member
While acknowledging that mistakes were made, there were many positives resulting from the events of June and it is my desire to focus on the positives and the future. The University community has never been more united than it is today. Many expressed their support for the president by standing on the Lawn during Board of Visitors meetings, and reportedly thousands watched the June 26 BOV meeting on the Internet. There is no problem the University may face that we can't solve together.
The University faculty is a major component of this unified community. They are distinguished and have served far too long without adequate compensation. Many have reached retirement age and cannot be replaced with young rising stars unless the University finds the necessary dollars to hire the distinguished faculty our students deserve. Addressing adequate faculty salaries should be UVA's No. 1 priority.
UVA has a strong financial base, one that is better than almost all public universities and even better than most private universities. It is one of only two public universities that has an AAA bond rating from three rating agencies. However, the recent events have further publicized a major reason for the University's funding challenges. Funding support for all of the colleges and universities in Virginia has been reduced significantly. The current governor has been very supportive of higher education by not only analyzing the issues facing all public colleges, but also by increasing the funding for the state's public colleges in an amount that exceeds $100 million annually.
However, even with the funding increase, Virginia's public institutions are not receiving today the level of support they received 20 years ago. The reduction to UVA's funding has caused major issues. Tuition has risen to levels that make it difficult for some to attend the University while at the same time scholarship support has been challenging to raise. Coupled with faculty salaries remaining flat, these issues have become a major problem for the University.
We all understand the University has to operate in an efficient manner and costs must be controlled. However, UVA is routinely recognized for being one of higher education's best buys and for its efficiency. Nevertheless, many reforms should be considered, such as more effective utilization of technology, combined degrees, partnership with other universities in research and better utilization of our community colleges' two-plus-two programs. There are many more possibilities, and the faculty has recognized them and demonstrated a desire to be a part of the solution. In the end, however, cost savings cannot be allowed to jeopardize the quality of education. UVA competes with the best universities in the world and the maintenance of quality is paramount.
While we all hope otherwise, it is likely that state financial support will continue to decline in the coming years. There are not enough state dollars to adequately fund all of the needs of the commonwealth and it is unknown if higher education will remain a top funding priority. So what is the solution to the funding issue? As previously stated, the faculty at UVA have been great. They recognize the necessary changes coming to public colleges and are willing to implement them. However, the ultimate answer lies with our alumni and friends who have provided enormous financial support in the past. If the case for what the University needs to retain its position as a top university is effectively articulated and if priorities are established for the utilization of additional support, I'm confident that UVA supporters will answer the call. We all believe in the mission of this university and wish for future generations to benefit from the quality education UVA provides.
The last point of discussion is the necessity of making the College of Arts & Sciences a funding priority. The majority of students attend the College; in fact it educates 69 percent of UVA undergraduates and 42 percent of its PhD candidates. All of the schools at the University are important and each has been successful. In my opinion, however, the College is the heart and soul of the University. As goes the College, so goes the entire University. The public perception and ratings of the University are very reflective of the standing of the College. Many of its needs have not been adequately addressed in recent years and most of those needs result from inadequate funding.
The recent events at the University have caused all of us to better focus on the higher education issues facing all public universities. UVA's president recognizes the issues. When she prioritizes solutions to these issues after seeking input from BOV members, faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends, I am confident that all of us will step forward to answer the call. It is our University and we are rightfully very proud of it. However, the past funding model is broken and we all need to help fix it. United, we can and will regain our position as the No. 1 public university in the country.
How to Organize a Movement
by SUZIE MCCARTHY (GRAD '18)
At that time, I didn't know how the Board was appointed, but I knew that as a public university, the Board was tied to the governor. Media pressure, therefore, could be an effective way get Gov. Bob McDonnell involved.
I started the Facebook group "Students, Friends, and Family for the Reinstatement of President Sullivan," and the goal of the group was to get a critical mass of members so we could draw media attention and put pressure on the BOV to reinstate President Sullivan.
To be honest, I wasn't sure in the beginning that Sullivan's reinstatement was possible. But calling for her reinstatement was powerful because it was a simple message and one that a large number of stakeholders—students, faculty, alumni and staff—could agree on, regardless of their theories about the reasons for her ouster. In those early days, we had no idea what had happened. Rumors abounded on the Web, ranging from gender discrimination to Wall Street collusion.
The next step was to let people know that the Facebook group existed. We needed the group to include a cross-section of the UVA community, so we could present a united voice. Individual groups can be placated, but a united front would require action.
In the age of news customization, we choose to read stories that interest us. News sources that had been running the resignation story, therefore, would be read by people interested in the ousting. Google news alerts helped me and other members of the group keep up with the coverage. I posted a brief message with a link to the Facebook group in the comments sections of related stories. I also emailed reporters who were writing about the resignation and told them what we were doing.
The Faculty Senate's decision to come out in favor of reinstatement gave us a lot more room to maneuver. By positioning our group alongside the Faculty Senate, we were able to secure a greater degree of legitimacy for our message.
The power of the Facebook group to draw people to an event became clear during the Rally for Transparency that was held on the Lawn during the June 18 BOV meeting to appoint an interim president. Several thousand members of the UVA community gathered on the Lawn, some driving several hours to show their support for Sullivan.
The next day, I woke up at 5 a.m. to find that an interim president had been named by the BOV. The general atmosphere of the Facebook group was one of despair. "It's over" was a common post.
Gov. McDonnell was returning from Europe and we quickly began "Operation Firestorm." Group members called the governor and emailed both their local delegates and members of the BOV. The mood of our group changed when the Cavalier Daily began to tweet the contents of emails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act between Rector Helen Dragas and Vice Rector Mark Kington leading up to Sullivan's ousting. The tenor of the group's messages on Facebook changed from depression to outrage. We announced a Rally for Honor would be held on Sunday, June 24. The goal was to create an event to showcase the unity of the University through our values of honor, transparency and civility.
The organization of the rally took place entirely on Facebook. Along with announcing the event, the Facebook wall listed our need for a sound system, flyers and speakers. Responsive posts and emails poured in. A community organizer was put in charge of the on-the-ground organizing—everything from sourcing electricity to garbage bags. This was a great example of "crowdsourcing," which happens when members of an online group contribute services, goods or ideas. Within the UVA community, we have experts in every field imaginable.
The day before the Rally for Honor, emails from University community members poured in regarding the civility of the event. They were concerned that the rally would be disorderly and discredit the message of civility that was so important to getting the Board to reverse its decision. All of us were near an emotional breaking point. I went online and posted an appeal, which explained the situation and pleaded that all of us act as our best selves at the rally.
The next day, as I stood on the steps of the Rotunda, I looked out at the crowd gathered peaceably on the Lawn and I felt great pride in the UVA community. Not only were we a group that demonstrated our values through our actions, we were also one that achieved positive change.
Currently pursuing a PhD in comparative politics at the University, McCarthy studies the dynamics of social movements. She is credited as a driving force behind the use of social media to organize rallies on the Lawn.
When We Are Needed Most
by MARIE GRIFFITH (COL '89)
Three factors combined, in my case: affectionate admiration for the University that educated me and inspired my academic vocation, empathy for my professional colleagues who have continued to teach there despite long-term financial challenges, and grave concern about the current direction of American higher education more broadly. It's fair to say that it took all three of these to get me on the plane from Bangor to Charlottesville; any one or even two alone would not have sufficed.
Like thousands of other alumni across the United States and beyond, I was stunned and then angered by the unexplained ouster of President Teresa Sullivan that took place less than two years into her celebrated appointment. And I was jolted into awareness of how little I'd really been paying attention to things in Charlottesville, and how little responsibility I had felt as a constituent of the University to do my part.
As the story unfolded and gained traction in the public media, my fellow alumni and I reflected at length on what it really means to be stewards of UVA. I concluded that alumni stewardship comes down to at least five things: paying attention to the institution's growth and change, clarifying its challenges, prioritizing where my contributions—money, time and ideas—can be of greatest use, following through on those gifts and holding the institution accountable to its mission.
Thanks to technology, these things can be done from a distance; but the urgency of the situation in June, combined with my sense of identification with the UVA faculty, meant that I needed to be present there with them, somehow. Most of us now know that UVA faculty compensation has fallen behind that of peer institutions, despite their recognized excellence throughout academia. To their credit, Rector Dragas and the other Board of Visitors members cited this reality as a serious impediment to the University's future. I knew already, through my friendships with faculty in religious studies and other departments, how demoralized people have been by years of flat salaries and tightening of already gaunt budgets. I wanted to make clear how much their well-being matters to those of us elsewhere in higher education, and to do that I felt I had to stand vigil with them during the critical June 26 Board meeting, which Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell had made clear would be the final word on President Sullivan's standing within the University.
I awoke at 4 a.m. on Tuesday, June 26, to catch my flight from Bangor to Philadelphia, and then from Philly to Charlottesville. Hours later, I was walking along Grounds with professorial friends and peppering them with questions about reaction to the Board of Visitors' recent actions. At 2:30 p.m., we gathered in front of the Rotunda for a silent vigil, then tapped into our electronics to listen in on the 3 p.m. public Board of Visitors meeting. Within minutes, as it became clear that the Board was reinstating Sullivan, we cheered her, the Board and the University, grateful that the civil but persistent actions of thousands had helped enable a small but significant justice in the name of due process.
Our continuing challenge, as alumni scattered far and wide, is to determine what we can do to support UVA's current students, faculty and administrators so that the University remains one of the greatest in the world. Education should not be simply a product purchased and consumed for self-gratification, although it is all too often treated that way. The greatest good of a college education should be preparation for moral citizenship and the cultivation of ethical humanity in a world that will always, by its very nature, embody something like tragedy. We've always known UVA is not a for-profit enterprise, but recent events prove it needs our financial help to stay that way.
The social media networks that helped spawn this unusual summertime revolution have quieted since June, but ongoing engagement is critical. The University, and President Sullivan, have found themselves in a national spotlight not of their choosing, and there is considerable pressure on all parties to restore confidence and bring solutions to the financial and educational crises we now know they are facing. After the reinstatement, countless numbers of us made donations to the University in Sullivan's honor, as a way of showing our renewed support for UVA and our awareness that we must participate in its enduring success. Let's not fall careless again.
Marie Griffith is a humanities professor and director of the John C. Danforth Center on Religion & Politics at Washington University in St. Louis.
by JEFF SELINGO, Editorial director at the Chronicle of Higher Education
The intense interest in the resignation and reinstatement of UVA president Teresa A. Sullivan shows how much anxiety surrounds the future of higher education—especially the question of whether university leaders are moving too slowly to position their schools for a rapidly changing world (as some of Ms. Sullivan's critics have suggested of her).
There is good reason for the anxiety. Setting aside the specifics of the Virginia drama, university leaders desperately need to transform how colleges do business. Higher education must make up for the mistakes it made in what I call the industry's "lost decade," from 1999 to 2009. Those years saw a surge in students pursuing higher education, driven partly by the colleges, which advertised heavily and created enticing new academic programs, services and fancy facilities.
The almost insatiable demand for a college credential meant that schools could raise their prices and families would go to almost any end, including taking on huge amounts of debt, to pay the bill. In 2003, only two colleges charged more than $40,000 a year for tuition, fees and room and board; by 2009, 224 were above that mark. The total amount of outstanding student loan debt is now more than $1 trillion.
Students were not the only ones to go deeper into debt. So did schools, building lavish residence halls, recreational facilities and other amenities that contributed little to actual learning. The debt taken on by colleges has risen 88 percent since 2001, to $307 billion.
This heady period of growth occurred precisely when colleges had the financial flexibility to prepare for what was to come: fewer government dollars, a wave of financially needy students, a drop-off in the number of well-prepared high-school graduates who could afford to pay, and, of course, technological advances in teaching and learning. Instead, colleges continued to focus on their unsustainable model, assuming little would change.
Other information industries, from journalism to music to book publishing, enjoyed similar periods of success right before epic change enveloped them, seemingly overnight. We now know how those industries have been transformed by technology, resulting in the decline of the middleman—newspapers, record stores, bookstores and publishers.
Colleges and universities could be next, unless they act to mitigate the poor choices and inaction from the lost decade by looking for ways to lower costs, embrace technology and improve education.
One urgent need is to make better use of technology in the classroom. Despite resistance to the idea from academics, evidence suggests that technology can reduce costs, improve student performance and even tailor learning to individual students. The nonprofit National Center for Academic Transformation has redesigned courses on more than 200 campuses, cutting costs by an average of 37 percent, by using instructional software to reduce burdens on professors, frequent low-stakes online quizzes to gauge student progress, and alternative staffing (like undergraduate peer mentors).
Schools should also offer more online education. In just the past few months, several elite universities, including Stanford and Harvard, have announced multimillion-dollar efforts to provide several of their courses free, online, for everyone. Individual colleges should take advantage of this trend, perhaps ultimately shedding their lowest-quality courses (and their costs) and replacing them with the best courses offered by other institutions through loose federations or formal networks. This is the idea behind the New Paradigm Initiative, a group of 16 liberal arts colleges in the South that have joined together to offer online and hybrid courses to students on any campus in the group.
Another key reform would be to reclaim academics as a top priority. Administrative expenses have grown faster than instruction on many campuses. In 2009, the consulting firm Bain & Co. identified $112 million in annual savings just within the business operations at the University of California, Berkeley.
Academia also needs to cut back on low-quality graduate programs. Too many universities tried to become research institutions during the lost decade, adding graduate programs and research faculty, often using tuition dollars to finance their expansions. Today, too many of these programs remain far short of their goals, and their ambitions have come at a great cost to their core mission of educating undergraduates (as well as producing many dropouts and unemployed PhDs).
Finally, colleges should work to reduce the number of wasted credits. Most students take far more than the 120 credits required for a bachelor's degree, partly because of poor advising and partly because colleges often refuse to accept credits from other institutions or for "prior learning." Yet one-third of students today transfer from one college to another before earning a degree. Colleges make transferring credits difficult, often in the name of protecting academic quality, when often they are simply protecting their bottom line.
Higher education is a conservative, risk-averse industry. Add to this the fact that a majority of its leaders are nearing the safety net of retirement, and we have a recipe for the status quo. We can't afford another lost decade.
Three Areas of Focus
by TERESA SULLIVAN, President
During my first two years at UVA, I focused on making foundational, infrastructural changes related to our budget system, evaluation processes, quality program in patient care, state and federal government relations, and other core functions. Now is the time to use our strengthened infrastructure to set the course for the University's future.
The issues that surfaced during this past summer's controversy—progressive erosion of funding, intensified focus on efficiency, the promises and risks of emerging technologies—are the same issues facing nearly every university, especially the public universities. The spotlight now shining on UVA means we can be the model for how a university survives and thrives in this challenging era.
Leading change is in our institutional DNA. Among UVA's many great traditions, innovation is our founding tradition. Just as Thomas Jefferson redefined higher education two centuries ago by creating a secular university based on "the illimitable freedom of the human mind," we can redefine higher education for our century by overcoming the challenges facing higher education while preserving and improving the distinctive quality of a UVA education. This is the unfinished work that I returned to the presidency to do.
Higher education is increasingly differentiated. The elite private institutions will use their financial strength to solidify their high rankings. Meanwhile, many public universities will become commodity providers that enroll tens of thousands of students on expansive campuses, or leverage new technologies to drive student enrollment via price and convenience.
We are uniquely positioned in this highly differentiated world. UVA combines the intellectual resources of a major research university with an intimate undergraduate education. Unlike liberal arts colleges that mainly synthesize and digest discoveries made elsewhere, discovery and innovation are central to UVA's mission. And unlike some research universities where faculty focus principally on their own research, we make our students partners in the discovery process. We straddle the ground between these two modes in American higher education. Our faculty is committed both to teaching and to the pursuit of world-class research and scholarship.
Our commitment is to offer the best residential undergraduate education in America, enriched by its connection to faculty research and to our great professional schools. This is UVA's local dimension, and the Academical Village is the heart of it. But this University must also excel as a global Academical Village whose influence extends worldwide, through students and faculty who study abroad and pursue international research; through technologies that connect us to colleagues elsewhere; and through engagement of our global network of alumni, parents and friends. Our global reach will not dilute the local, residential experience; it will enrich it. We will thrive in both of these dimensions.
Great universities, in both their local and global dimensions, are built on great fundamentals. To drive our aspirations, I believe we need to focus on three priorities immediately.
Renewing the faculty
Great faculty—leaders in their academic fields who love teaching their students—are critical to any university. Renewing our faculty is the first step toward securing the University's future eminence. We face a looming wave of faculty retirements, and we need to hire faculty to keep pace with our plans for modest enrollment growth. But we need to think differently about how we hire faculty. Simply replacing those who retire does not position us for the new fields and new technologies that will emerge in coming years. We need to shape these fields and not merely react to their emergence.
Many of today's big problems and fields of study are no longer organized into the traditional academic disciplines. As we prepare for our future, we may need to recruit professors to join two schools, or expect more of our professors to work in both a department and an interdisciplinary center. To make this happen, our search committees need to think differently about their work. We need to look for transformative opportunities in the human talent we recruit.
Recruiting and retaining the best faculty will require greater resources to compensate them. Partly as a result of the 2008 financial crisis, average faculty salaries stagnated. Then, as other universities have recovered, our salaries have fallen behind our peers. We cannot rely on state appropriations to meet this need, and tuition increases are problematic. Supplementing faculty salaries through endowments is an urgent need, and it needs to be a high priority for the Board as well as for the foundations that support our schools.
We have a great faculty now. Taking these steps will make our faculty greater.
Reinventing the curriculum
As we renew our faculty for the next century, we need to reinvent the liberal arts curriculum to meet the evolving demands of the 21st century. We know that we must offer a broad, liberal education that prepares our students to be critical thinkers, to write clearly and persuasively, and to integrate multiple perspectives before arriving at informed decisions. We must also, however, consider the knowledge and skills our graduates will require once they leave the Grounds. Our alumni can be valuable resources to us as we learn what has best prepared them, and what they see as best preparation for newly hired workers in their own workplaces.
Emerging technologies are changing the way students learn, and maybe even how their brains function. We need to explore the potential of these technologies and use them appropriately. This summer the Faculty Senate, working with the Teaching Resource Center and with funding from the President's Excellence Fund, launched a "Hybrid Challenge" that offers $10,000 grants to professors who develop or redesign courses that combine technology-enhanced teaching tools with face-to-face instruction. We received 41 proposals from faculty members, many of whom have already won teaching awards, and we have funded 10 hybrid courses to begin this fall in systems engineering, biology, mathematics, law, languages and other subjects. These courses will directly affect 1,100 students, and we will assess this experiment and share what we learn with other faculty.
Also this summer, we partnered with online-learning pioneer Coursera to offer five non-credit UVA courses, three from the College and two from Darden, to anyone anywhere in the world, starting in 2013. Alumni who are interested can register for the courses at www.coursera.org. Founded last fall at Stanford, Coursera's online platform is now used by Stanford, Princeton, Duke, Georgia Tech, Johns Hopkins, Penn, Michigan and Cal Tech, among others. Residential education is and always will be UVA's forte, but by participating in Coursera and other experiments, we have the potential to enhance the quality of our on-Grounds instruction while letting interested people worldwide learn from—and about—UVA.
Preparing students for their roles in the global economy means education abroad, Semester at Sea and other programs that take our students into the world, but it also means developing global perspectives within our curriculum. We have recently established new majors in Global Development Studies and Global Public Health, and minors in Global Sustainability, Global Studies in Education, and Applied Linguistics. The MS in Global Commerce offered by the McIntire School of Commerce and Darden's Global Executive MBA program have been great success stories.
Refocusing research and scholarship
We will continue to grow our research enterprise because a robust research program enriches the student experience while leading to discoveries that improve society and boost the economy. To excel, we need to think strategically about our research investments and identify defined areas in which we want to develop deep expertise.
One opportunity for UVA lies in Big Data—the term used to describe the massive, complex data sets that are realities of our modern world. Consider the volume of data being produced daily by our national intelligence services, digital medical records and environmental sensors all over the planet, not to mention the financial markets and the marketing data developed through point-of-sale scanning or by companies such as Amazon. Developing tools to manage, secure, mine and manipulate massive data sets will be a global priority in the years ahead. The ultimate challenge is to convert cumbersome Big Data into useful knowledge.
UVA's existing strengths put us in position to be a leader in this field. The federal government issued a $200 million Big Data research and development initiative this past spring, and private partners are seeking strategic investments in this area as well. In May, we held a Big Data summit at UVA, and we are exploring plans to create a new institute that will bring together our faculty with expertise in this field. I am using a generous grant from the Jefferson Trust to align the development of student opportunities in Big Data with the faculty's research opportunities.
Our strength as a major health care provider not only serves the Commonwealth but also strengthens both teaching and research. Two important research areas for us, biomedical research and its translation into clinical advances, will rely on our established strength in health care. Our Medical Center has just pledged $35 million of its resources to advance research in these areas.
These three areas of focus—faculty, curriculum and research—may seem rather basic to some readers. But the best universities are built on these fundamentals, and no other innovation matters without them.
Although the events in June have brought our challenges into sharp focus, the reality remains that UVA is one of the strongest, best managed universities in the country. We have great faculty, dedicated staff, top students from around the world and loyal alumni whose generous gifts give us stability during economic uncertainty. In Forbes' just-released report on "America's Top Colleges," UVA was named the top state university in the nation. This is just the latest in a litany of rankings that identify UVA as one of the best, and most affordable, universities in the country.
Private support will be increasingly important as we contend with unrelenting financial pressures, and donors are responding: During the fiscal year that ended June 30, we received $245.5 million in gifts, a 7 percent increase over the prior year and a 20 percent increase over 2010. With the campaign total now standing at more than $2.75 billion, we are closing in on our goal of $3 billion. These gifts show that our generous alumni, parents and friends remain committed to their University, and that hard times only reaffirm their commitment.
When historians write the definitive account of the University's evolution during the 21st century, I hope they will view last summer's united outpouring of concern as a catalyst for a period of sustained flourishing, during which UVA continued to offer the nation's top residential undergraduate education while scaling the Academical Village to the global dimension. All of us who serve the University—as administrators, board members, faculty and staff, students and volunteers—should hold out this hope and work together toward its fruition.