Oct. 22-28, 1999
U.Va. board stands by admission policy, vows to defend consideration of race
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U.Va. door with pumpkinsU.Va. board stands by admission policy, vows to defend consideration of race

Staff Reports

The Board of Visitors voted unanimously Oct. 16 to support the University's admission policy -- which allows race to be a consideration -- and said it is prepared to go to court to defend that decision.

"The Board of Visitors unanimously endorses the University's continuing commitment to recruiting and enrolling students of diverse talents and backgrounds," said U.Va. Rector John P. Ackerly III in a statement approved by the board at the close of its quarterly two-day meeting. "The academic successes of its African-American and other minority students are the envy of every major university. The system works. We are prepared to defend it."

The statement of support followed a month-long public debate about whether U.Va. was considering dropping race as a factor in admission decisions. Several weeks ago, President John T. Casteen III acknowledged that the University had last spring dropped a scoring system that could give academically qualified minorities an advantage in the initial admission sorting process. The University did not, however, abandon its commitment to maintaining diversity and will continue to consider race as one of many factors in the admission process, he said.

Numerous groups -- including faculty, students, members of the Charlottesville City Council, members of the General Assembly, and the local and state chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) -- had voiced their support of the University's admission policy, and pledged their support of Casteen, who in an earlier letter to the University community had reaffirmed his commitment to diversity.

Many of those supporters praised the board's action.

"The Faculty Senate applauds the Board of Visitors' statement on the validity of U.Va.'s admissions policies,˛ said David T. Gies, Faculty Senate chair. "We believe that the review of those policies has been an excellent way for us to confirm their value and to articulate our commitment to diversity and equal opportunity. We agree with Mr. Ackerly's statement that Œthe system works' and enthusiastically endorse the board's belief that it should be defended."

Julian Bond, University professor of history and national chair of the NAACP, called the board's statement welcome news. "We are pleased to have the University's commitment to a diverse student body reinforced, and look forward to Virginia's continued placement at the top rank of American schools."

Athletics update

In going over the progress of the Scott Stadium expansion project, which is on schedule, Casteen asked the board to approve an extension of the two upper decks at the north end. Although the addition will cost $7 million and only result in a net gain of 1,500 seats, it will include needed restrooms, as well as about 200 more club seats or eight to 10 more luxury suites. If the University waited five years to finish these sections, the projected cost would be $30 million, Casteen said.

Before passing the measure, several board members said they wanted more information on the added value of club seats vs. suites and requested a market study be done and reported to the board. Depending on what is built, it may take a little longer to finish the expansion, which is slated for completion by the Fall 2000 football season, according to Mark E. Fletcher, associate director of athletics.

The University won't pursue a downtown sports arena proposal and is beginning fundraising to build its own facility, probably on a site near University Hall, Casteen said.

This summer, Charlottesville developer Lee Danielson proposed building a multipurpose arena on a site between West Main Street and Preston Avenue, just west of Ridge Street, to be shared by U.Va., the city and perhaps a minor-league hockey team.

However, the University would prefer to erect a multipurpose facility accessible to the student body on a daily basis, Casteen said. The downtown site would be too far removed from Grounds for such use, and no other tenants were lining up, he said.

"We believe those discussions have gone about as far as they ought to at this point," he said, adding that he thinks a conference center may still be a viable option for the downtown site.

The arena would likely be financed with a combination of private donations, corporate support and bonds supported by student activity fees and revenues, he said.

"We believe the opportunity exists to move forward with this facility in the next couple of years," he said.

The new arena will likely be built in a parking lot on Massie Road across from University Hall. U-Hall, built more than 30 years ago, will likely remain, but needs some structural work, Casteen said.

Athletics suffered a $200,000 operating shortfall in 1998-99, down from mid-year projections of $500,000 but still "not acceptable," Director of Athletics Terry Holland said later in the Student Affairs and Athletics meeting.

Athletics budgets have essentially been frozen this year, he said.

Part of the blame lies in complying with Title IX gender equity requirements, which mandate increased spending on women's sports, Holland said. Both women's and men's sports operate at a loss, except for men's football and basketball.

U.Va.'s financial situation is far from unique, Holland said. The University of Michigan's athletic program lost $2 million last year, while the University of North Carolina cut its spending across the board and saw its Sears Cup ranking fall from among the top five in the country to 17th. The Cup measures athletic programs' overall success in NCAA championships.

Planning for athletics needs will be one focus of a soon-to-be-formed fifth Virginia 2020 planning commission, Casteen said. That commission will also likely be charged with implementing many of the plans to be proposed by the first four, which focus on the fine and performing arts, international programs, science and technology, and public service and outreach.

"The fifth commission, frankly, is where the rubber meets the road," he said. "Whether we succeed will depend largely on the fifth commission."

Virginia 2020 commission chairs give reports

During its Educational Policy Committee meeting, the board heard reports from the chairs of U.Va.'s four Virginia 2020 Planning Commissions.

Fine and performing arts commission chair Robert Chapel said he had three words for the board -- "buildings, buildings, buildings.˛ Without them, "U.Va. doesn't have a prayer of becoming a major force in the arts world."

The board took the first step toward improving the disparaging situation of U.Va.'s arts facilities -- which include a "crumbling" Fayerweather Hall, inadequate space at the Bayly Art Museum, and the lack of a dance studio -- by approving architectural design guidelines for renovating Fayerweather Hall.

The project will convert the building from studio art space to art history space, a move that will allow the art history program to consolidate most of its offices, labs and exhibit spaces into one building. The studio art program will move into temporary space until a new building is built. The Fayerweather Hall project includes the complete renovation of the space, the demolition of its annex and construction of a small addition on the west side of the building. The University has submitted a $4.6 million general fund construction authorization request to the Governor for the 2000-02 biennium.

Chapel also said he's learned from talking with other institutions strong in the arts that "cultural life is as important as academic pursuits."

Reporting on the work of the international commission's initiatives, Brantly Womack said the commission plans to develop four areas: opportunities for students and faculty abroad; an international curriculum; assessment of "how we treat international students and scholars" at U.Va.; and international institutional relationships. In addition, the commission will create an appropriate organizational vehicle to coordinate or guide the four areas of international activities being developed.

Womack said the commission hopes to establish an international living and learning center and language precinct near the French and Spanish houses. He noted, too, that the commission's conference on "Universalizing the University: New Challenges & Best Practices," held on Grounds Oct. 14-15, will be available soon online at http://faculty.virginia.edu/unitheuni/plen.html. The web site will contain transcripts and streaming video from each of the conference's plenary sessions.

Education professor Rebecca Kneedler, who chairs the Commission on Public Service and Outreach, recounted five major points on which her group is focusing. It is developing the first comprehensive, web-based searchable databases of public service activities in which U.Va. is involved. The commission is also assessing what benchmarks other institutions use; defining the terms and scope of public service; comparing U.Va.'s public service offerings with that of other institutions; and deploying a strategic communications plan.

"There are many definitions of public service vs. outreach," Kneedler said. "We see public service as an application of scholarly knowledge and professional expertise. ...Volunteer service does not fall into this definition, but we are looking at it [too] because our staff and students do a remarkable job of this, and the lines do blur occasionally."

Kneedler also said the University needs to develop local partnerships; build an academic-based service program into its curriculum, complete with awards and endowed chairs; devise a method "to evaluate our public service˛; and "do a better job of listening to our public."

In her report, Anita Jones, chair of the science and technology commission, said it was important for the University to focus on these initiatives because "technology is the single greatest force of change in society Š and wherever there's change, there's opportunity." U.Va. must adapt to the new research landscape, where information is being discovered and gathered, not by department, but across disciplines, she said.

Integrated Systems Project approved

Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Leonard W. Sandridge reported on the status of the Integrated Systems Project, calling it "big and complicated, but crucial to the University." The board approved the $58.2 million project, to be phased in over the next 10 years. It will include the replacement of the more than two dozen different technology and business systems -- some of which Sandridge described as "30 years old ... terribly inadequate ... and homegrown" -- with a group of modern integrated software that will provide the infrastructure necessary to support the University.

Sandridge reviewed in detail the 18-month study process that preceded Saturday's proposal to the board. He then ticked off a number of long-term intangible benefits to the University: increased efficiency, accuracy and effectiveness of operations; improved customer service; and better ability to adapt to growth and change. Over time and across departments, the tangible benefit -- of savings -- should amount to approximately $41 million.

Medical Center still tightening budget

Lawrence Fitzgerald, the U.Va. Health System's new chief financial officer, reported to the board for the first time, saying that although the Medical Center had not been able to reach the desired 4 percent operating margin (the difference between revenues and expenses) last year, it is in a better position so far this year.

Expenses that were higher than last year's budget allotted for, combined with greater-than-expected revenues that offset some of the higher costs, resulted in a 2.3 percent operating margin. For other hospitals in the national University Hospital Consortium, the average operating margin was 1.5 percent, Fitzgerald said.

The Medical Center continues to struggle with paying the high cost of pharmaceuticals, and faces decreasing Medicaid support for indigent care, resulting from the Federal Balanced Budget Act.

"We realize we can't do much with only a 2.3 percent operating margin," to enhance or develop new programs that might bring in future revenues, Fitzgerald acknowledged. For the first two months of the current fiscal year, however, the margin was up to 3.6 percent, he said. To make 4 percent, the Medical Center will have to spend $9 million less than last year.

In the first quarter, $1.7 million has already been cut from this year's budget, William "Nick" E. Carter Jr., senior associate vice president for operations, told the board. The center's managers, with the help of an outside consulting firm, continue to look for cost reductions, while maintaining high-quality patient care.

Three professorships created

The board approved the creation of three new professorships -- in nursing, law and commerce. The action increases the total number of endowed chairs to 421.

The first professorship at U.Va. to honor a female dean, the Jeanette Lancaster Alumni Professorship in Nursing was established with support from the Nursing Alumni Association and other donors.

In the Law School the Joseph C. Carter Jr. Research Professorship in Law was created with support from more than 90 donors. Carter, a '51 alumnus, is senior counsel at Hunton & Williams in Richmond.

Jeffrey C. Walker, who graduated from the McIntire School of Commerce in 1977, has pledged $3 million to establish a professorship for a faculty member in finance or management who has a strong interest in growth enterprises.

Endowment looking good

Alice Handy, University treasurer, reported that the value of the endowment as of Sept. 30 stood at $1.217 billion. The fund returned 18.4 percent for the fiscal year ending June 30, placing it in the top quartile among its endowment peers of some 30 institutions.

Post-Campaign plans discussed

"Fiscal year '99 has been the best year ever for the campaign" -- $197 million in new commitments, $30 million more than in other years, Robert Sweeney, vice president for development, told the board at its External Affairs Committee meeting. Sweeney said he expects U.Va. to reach its $1 billion goal by Feb. 2000, a full year ahead of schedule.

With the end in sight, Sweeney asked, what do we do next? "The $1 billion campaign has given us the ability to move this institution to a position of preeminence, public or private, in the coming few decades."

Charles Fitzgerald, associate vice president and director of development, and David Ibbeken, professor and executive director of the Law School Foundation, are heading up a post-campaign planning group that is developing a 25-year fund-raising plan for the University.

"The stage is set. Don't draw the curtains. The encore promises to be a great performance," Sweeney told the board.

-- Rebecca Arrington, Anne Bromley, Dan Heuchert and Carol Wood

Board of Visitors resolution on admissions



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