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Casteen stresses challenges, rewards

U.Va. President John T. Casteen III
Photo by Andrew Shurtleff
U.Va. President John T. Casteen III

By Matt Kelly

University President John T. Casteen III, in presenting his State of the University Address April 10 at Old Cabell Hall, spoke passionately of the human challenges and rewards at a modern University while noting that the material issues must be addressed also.

Casteen touched on funding, U.Va.’s relationship with the state, the upcoming capital campaign, the meaning of education and the issue of diversity in his talk.

He cited several incidents from this school year that heightened racial tensions, including the reported attack on Student Council president Daisy Lundy that is being investigated by the FBI as a hate crime. Members of the alumni seemed surprised when they heard about the incidents, Casteen said, apparently believing they had dealt with and solved these issues when they were students.

“One never finishes the job of educating a community with regard to human dignity, the importance of maintaining a culture of mutual respect,” he said.

The reported attack on Lundy is a threat to the University’s way of life, particularly student self-governance, Casteen said, since it discourages students from participating. While he praised student discourse on the issues, Casteen stressed that it is not a student issue, but everyone’s issue.

“Speaking out is what it takes to be an ethically straight academic in this context,” he said.

He urged everyone to read a recent essay by retired history professor Paul Gaston (http://www.virginia.edu/uvadiversity/envisioning_diversity.html) on the history of desegregation at the University to bring perspective to the current

Education will help establish diversity, but the University also needs to determine the best way to educate the best students.

The students drive the need for the first curriculum revisions since 1969 by bringing different needs to the University, Casteen said. They come much better prepared, with more diverse academic backgrounds and want to be challenged, he said, noting the University has to determine how to react to accelerating student demand.

Once an educational course has been set, it needs to be paid for. Casteen touched on several funding points and how they affect the University, which has lost about $96 million in state funds over two years, as the Commonwealth has wrestled with a $6 billion shortfall in projected revenues.

As state funding shrinks, the University is taking the reins of its own operations and funding, without severing the ties to the state, Casteen noted. In doing so, the University would have to become much more responsible for its own money. He said soon the School of Law and the Darden School would be self-sufficient, with the McIntire School of Commerce as the next logical candidate. But there are other schools that will not be able to cover all their expenses, he said. By the year 2010, Casteen said 20 to 21 percent of the operating budget should come from endowment and gifts.

“To do that, we need to generate an endowment with a market value of $10 billion,” he said.

The current total endowment is around $2.5 billion. And the University is laying the groundwork for a capital campaign to raise $3 billion.

“That is larger than any [campaign] that has ever been run anywhere, successfully,” Casteen said.



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