Oct. 15-21, 1999
Arts & Sciences taking aim at top-10 ranking
Miller Center launches project on the presidency and the economy
Hot Links - Survey Suite
Dell contract gets DCI rolling

Forum showcases creative teaching and captivating web sites

Scrapbooks show Jefferson was a clipper of newspapers
Arts' focus on technology: visiting artists to share techniques and sound
Notable - faculty and staff
Miller Center announces National Fellowship in Politics
Take our advice - breast health
In Memoriam
Sleepless — but not lost for words
Car parts transformed into art in "Body Shop"

Arts & Sciences taking aim at top-10 ranking

By Dan Heuchert

U.Va.'s 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.

University 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.

Three 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 ambition.

"Jefferson 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.

Second, 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.

Third, 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.

Leffler 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.

"When 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.

Yet not everything is so rosy, Leffler cautioned.

"As 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.

On Grounds, "the instructional budgets per student in other undergraduate schools were roughly 50 percent higher than in Arts & Sciences," he said.

"I 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. We have been overachieving at an amazing rate."

The 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.

The $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,' he said.


© Copyright 1999 by the Rector and Visitors
of the University of Virginia

UVa Home Page UVa Events Calendar Top News UVa Home Page