Arts & Sciences
taking aim at top-10 ranking
post-campaign future is beginning to take shape, and it has an
ambitious goal: pushing the University into the ranks of the top
10 institutions of higher education, public or private, by 2020.
President John T. Casteen III made reference to that goal in his
remarks to the Faculty Senate Oct. 4, when he said he would submit
a plan to the Board of Visitors at its Oct. 15-16 meeting that
included such a goal as a recommended option.
days later, Melvyn P. Leffler, dean of Arts & Sciences, elaborated
on that goal in delivering his annual report to the faculty, and
returned to a familiar touchstone to justify the University's
said that we should strive to be the bulwark of the human mind
in this hemisphere," Leffler said. "In today's terms,
that means aspiring to be as good as Harvard, Yale, Princeton,
Stanford and Chicago."
Leffler identified four broad areas in which he hopes the College
of Arts & Sciences -- which he called "the core of this great
university" -- can improve enough to vault U.Va. into the
top 10. Three of those areas dovetail with the work of the University's
Virginia 2020 planning commissions.
First, he envisions new programs and facilities in the much-discussed
Carr's Hill arts precinct, including a new performing arts center,
a new studio art building, a renovated Fayerweather Hall, a new
music building and a renovated and expanded drama building.
he foresees a major push in science and applied technology, including
a new life sciences building and increased funding for start-up
research projects. He has already appointed a committee, chaired
by biology professor Janis Antonovics, "to help identify
three or four areas of science where we can truly excel."
Leffler noted that the College is in the process of investing
approximately $30 million in Environmental Sciences, and is conducting
searches for senior faculty in both chemistry and biology.
he hopes to expand international studies to reflect the increasingly
global economy. He issued a call to "expand our offerings
in the languages, literatures and cultures of non-Western parts
of the globe, as well as in their histories, economies, societies,
governments and religions."
Finally, he said he plans to "rethink, nurture and expand
our interdisciplinary programs." Already, committees are
designing new programs in media studies, Jewish studies and philosophy,
politics and the law, which Leffler said may win approval during
this academic year. He suggested that several other new areas
may be worth exploring, while existing programs need to be reevaluated,
and some perhaps eliminated.
offered no cost estimates for his plans, but lauded the success
of the College's fund-raising efforts, part of the $1 billion
Campaign for the University of Virginia.
we began four years ago, few thought we could raise the $76 million
that [former dean] Ray Nelson ambitiously set as our goal,"
Leffler said. Yet the goal was raised to $100 million last year
and has since been surpassed, with $110 million on the books and
another year left. Last year, the College gained commitments for
over $30 million.
not everything is so rosy, Leffler cautioned.
we have gained in stature and achievement, our aspirations have
soared and our needs have become more glaring," he said.
"We have a pitiful infrastructure of buildings, totally inadequate
graduate support and insufficient funds for start-ups."
He also decried what he sees as a lack of institutional financial
support. "Arts & Sciences does not get the support it needs,"
he said. Adjusting for inflation, state support per student in
the College has dropped by 8.3 percent in the 1990s, he said,
allowing more than 40 universities to pass U.Va. in the rankings
of such expenditures. Virginia's closest rivals among public schools,
the universities of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and California-Berkeley,
each spend about 20 percent more per student in arts and sciences
than U.Va. does, he noted.
Grounds, "the instructional budgets per student in other
undergraduate schools were roughly 50 percent higher than in Arts
& Sciences," he said.
do not think the University is overspending on the other schools,
and I am delighted by their successes," he said. "Nonetheless,
I worry deeply about the future of the College and Graduate School
of Arts & Sciences if present trends persist. Š We have been overachieving
at an amazing rate."
College is examining its administrative staffing and structure,
Leffler said. He is seeking one or two more senior administrators
to oversee financial matters. He also called for an examination
of the College's organizational set-up, and suggested that the
current three-year terms for department chairs may need to be
lengthened to ensure stable, consistent leadership.
Leffler also announced several changes in faculty support. He
has increased the funding for travel to conferences; allocated
enough summer grant money for 34 projects in 2000, compared to
23 this summer; increased the funds available for smaller grants;
increased computer resources and put most faculty on a three-year
replacement cycle; and upped the budget for operating costs such
as phone use and copying.
He also declared that he has ended the practice of paying faculty
who advise first-year students an extra $300 for their efforts.
"Advising is part of our normal responsibilities; I see no
reason for extra pay for first-year advising. We don't pay our
colleagues extra money to advise majors or graduate students.
Moreover, $300 totally trivializes the importance of first- and
second-year advising," he said.
$45,000 saved will be reinvested in faculty travel and summer
research support, and an additional $10,000 will be made available
for advisers "who wish to take their advisees to a play or
a movie or a concert, or who wish to invite them home for a dinner,'