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President's Address to Parents

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Welcome, and thank you for coming. I'm Teresa Sullivan, and I have the privilege to serve as the University's president.

I'm very pleased to have this opportunity to visit with our students' families.

Many of you were here on Opening Weekend - especially the parents of our first-year students. Welcome back. I want to say thank-you to the Academical Village People for providing the musical entertainment this morning. Thomas Jefferson never would have guessed that the name of his Academical Village would one day be combined with the name of a 1970s disco band to form the name of an a capella student group. But I think he would have enjoyed the brilliant word-play.

The Academical Village People is just one of several a capella groups on the Grounds. Information about these groups is available on the University website, if you have a son or daughter who might be interested in auditioning.

Various publications are available in lobby: the 2010 Fact Book, which has important facts and figures about U.Va.; the Parent Handbook, our primary resource for parents; and other materials on UVa Clubs, University travel, and other programs of interest to families.

During these remarks, I will mention several deadlines, contact names for information, and website addresses. By Monday this speech will be posted on the University website, on the President's Page. So you can check there to pick up specific information if you aren't able to write it down today.

Sitting in the front of the auditorium this morning are representatives from across the Grounds: deans, vice presidents, various administrators, and student leaders. They're here to help meanswer your questions in the Q&A period after my remarks.

During my remarks, I'll do two things: 1) address issues of concern, particularly those that have cropped up since the start of the semester; and, 2)give you a brief summary of the challenges and opportunities the University is facing. Let's start with issues of concern.

Issues of Concern

    Student Safety

I'll begin with an issue that's extremely important to you as parents and to us as University leaders - and that's student safety. As you're aware, we've seen a number of criminal incidents against University students in recent weeks. Most, but not all, have occurred between midnight and daybreak around the Corner area, or in neighborhoods near the University where many of our students live.

This fall has been unusual in one respect: we've seen a decrease in the type of misdemeanor incidents that we most commonly experience, but we've seen an increase in more serious incidents. This might be because we've appealed to students to report incidents when they happen, and to encourage their fellow students to do so.

In the past few weeks we've reviewed our safety procedures with an eye toward enhancing our current procedures and adding new safety measures. I hope all of you saw the e-mail message about safety that Pat Lampkin sent to all parents on October 21. Let me re-iterate some of the key points.

Our University Police and the Charlottesville City Police routinely do joint patrols in the areas near central Grounds. In the past several weeks, both police departments have increased the number of uniformed and plainclothes officers in these areas, especially during weekends. We've also increased our police patrols on Grounds.

Last month, we began a pilot program to extend Thursday bus service to include late-night hours. This program will continue through the end of the semester, then be evaluated. This means that bus service is provided on the North line and Outer U-Loop until 2:30 a.m., on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. These extended hours will provide better transportation options for more students.

The SafeRide system operates when our bus service is not operating; it offers students a safe ride home when they otherwise might have to walk. SafeRide hours are Sunday through Wednesday, midnight to7 a.m., and on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 2:30 a.m. to 7 a.m.

Students have relied heavily on SafeRide, sometimes to the point of over-loading the system. As a result, last month, we doubled the number of people who answer SafeRide phones and increased the number of phone lines from two to five.

We use various technologies to make our environment safer. We have 431 emergency phones located across the Grounds that ring directly to police officials. In addition, we have more than 600 cameras in buildings and on Grounds, and we add to that number regularly.

We have a University Security and General Safety Committee that studies safety issues on the Grounds. Recently, the committee took steps to improve lighting around Kellogg Residence Hall after students reported concerns about dimly lit areas. If your son or daughter has a specific concern, he or she can e-mail Marge Sidebottom, who chairs the committee. Her contact information is on the University website.

I met recently with the Inter-Sorority Council because members of our sororities are concerned about safety, as they should be. I told them what I'll tell you today: we will do our best to create a safe environment for students, but we need your sons and daughters to help us.

We need them to take simple precautions, and encourage their friends to take them. We ask them to stay alert to their environment; report suspicious behavior; lock their doors; and travel in groups at night. A person walking alone in the dark, especially a woman, is particularly vulnerable.

Over-consumption of alcohol makes students vulnerable. They're less aware, and less able to protect themselves when they drink too much. Last weekend, one of our University police officers responded to a reported alcohol overdose, and found a first-year student lying unconscious on the ground near the Chapel late at night. The officer learned that the student had consumed 11 shots of vodka in her dorm room before heading to a party on Rugby Road. This is a practice known as "pre-gaming," or arriving at a party already drunk - and it's very dangerous. Encourage your sons and daughters to drink in moderation, if they drink at all.

Students are stepping forward to take responsibility for safety on the Grounds. This fall they launched the Let's Get Grounded campaign to encourage all of our students to be vigilant; to recognize dangerous behavior that threatens other students; and to react decisively to troubling situations. Leaders of the Get Grounded campaign are holding training sessions to help students become more alert and active in their communities.

In September, we held a University-wide Day of Dialogue to help us understand how we can take responsibility for ourselves and for each other, and how we can work together to build a more caring community. We didn't arrive at any perfect solutions that day - and we didn't expect to. But we did begin an honest conversation that we hope will one day lead to solutions. This was just the start of a dialogue that will continue throughout this semester and beyond. As we continue the discussion, we are asking all members of this community to commit themselves to the reinforcing principles of individual and mutual responsibility.

Impact of Economy – Students' Job Prospects
Another issue of concern is the economy, and how it's affecting our students. First, let's talk about job prospects for our graduating students. We know the economy is still weak. The national unemployment rate is holding steady at 9.6%. But there are signs of life for our students who will be seeking jobs after graduation this spring.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers issues regular reports on hiring activity based on surveys of employers. Based on the most recent survey conducted this fall, overall hiring for the Class of 2011 is projected to increase by 13.5%, following a 5% increase last spring. This represents a recovery from downward projections of almost 22% in spring 2009. Almost 48% of employers intend to increase their hiring of college graduates, according to the survey. Employers also expect to attend more career fairs this year.

Here at U.Va., we see signs that the job market is improving. In the first six weeks of on-Grounds interviewing this fall, our students have participated in almost 3,500 individual employment interviews; this is an 18% increase over last fall. We have 176 organizations with recruiting reservations for the 2010 fall session; this is 12% more than last fall.

This fall, more than 1,400 students have visited University Career Services, a 28% increase over last fall. This increase in students coming to the Careers Services office shows that students are re-gaining faith in the job market. They believe jobs are out there, and the data support that belief.

We're seeing more activity at our University-sponsored career fairs. A total of 135 employers attended the Engineering two-day career fair this fall; that's 9% more than last fall. 82 employers attended the Commerce Career Day this fall, one more than last fall. For Diversity Career Day, which took place this past Wednesday, 140 employers participated; this was an increase of 26% over last fall. Nearly 1,000 students attended Diversity Career Day - mostly U.Va. students, but also students from other colleges and universities in the region.

So, there seems to be light at the end of the job-market tunnel. I'm sure parents are happy to hear about this. It's important for our students to use Career Services and to tap into our alumni networks when seeking jobs. Getting connected, and staying connected, can lead to opportunities.

Having a college degree is especially important during tough times. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, the August unemployment rate for workers 25-and-older with a bachelor's degree or higher was 4.6%, compared with 10.3% for those with just a high-school diploma. The degrees that your children earn here have durable value; they give students a life-long advantage, in good times and especially in bad times.

Impact of Economy on Students – Financial Aid
The recession has touched many families, and led to a record number of requests for financial aid and for reconsiderations of aid packages.
AccessUVa is our financial-aid program that allows us to meet students' demonstrated financial need. During tough economic times, this program has helped thousands of students come here. A little more than 4,500 of our undergraduates now participate in AccessUVa; that's 32% of the student body. In this year's first-year class alone, 1,151 students - 35% of the class - are benefitting from AccessUVa.

Thomas Jefferson believed that education should be available to everyone, regardless of their financial means - regardless of recessions. He wanted to create what he called an "aristocracy of virtue and talent" to replace the aristocracy based on wealth and privilege. He wrote about creating an educational system that would "reach every description of our citizens, from the richest to the poorest."

AccessUVa is a very Jeffersonian program - it's a modern manifestation of the aristocracy of talent that Jefferson conceived about 200 years ago.

Student Housing
Student housing seems to be a perennial issue of concern for both students and parents. So I'd like to provide some information, and also clear up some misconceptions.

The main thing for parents and students to know is that there's plenty of space available, both on- and off-Grounds. There's no reason for students to feel pressured into signing a lease.

Since 2002, about 3,000 new bedrooms have been added to the local apartment housing inventory. More are being added every year. Students have lots of choices.

Please make note of two important deadlines: November 15 is the deadline for students to apply for rooms in residential colleges and language houses. December 1 is the application deadline for rising second-years who want to live on Grounds and for upper-class students who want to keep the same room on Grounds.

You will have time to review on-Grounds housing options with your son or daughter over the winter break. Our housing office will send offers to students on December 10, but they will not be required to accept offers until January 21.

There are many options for upper-class students to live in on-Grounds housing. We have 3 residential college programs, 10 language house programs, 4 apartment-style complexes that offer the support of a Resident Staff program, and one upper-class facility that is primarily single rooms.

One important factor for students who live in on-Grounds housing and want to study abroad: on-Grounds leases are canceled for students for the duration of their study-abroad period.

Our Housing Open House takes place today from noon to 3 p.m. Upper-class students will be showing their rooms and answering questions. Students and parents can see the following areas: Lambeth Field, Faulkner, and Copeley apartment complexes; Johnson, Malone, and Weedon Houses; Bice House; and the language house precinct. Buses will pick up regularly for all these areas at the stop on McCormick Road near Alderman Library.

Our residential colleges - Hereford College, the International Resident College, and Brown College - will be having receptions from noon to 3 p.m., so you can visit and talk with students. Our residential colleges offer students a dynamic living experience, with regular student-faculty interaction, international service trips, movie nights for residents, and other activities. Encourage your sons and daughters to consider these housing options.
As for off-Grounds living, lease-signing started October 1. All leases are for 12 months. Lease terms are June to June, or August to August. It's nearly impossible to sublet an apartment for the summer -there's much more availability than demand. For off-Grounds housing, students (or parents of students) should expect to pay about $600 per month, plus utilities, plus another $50 or so for parking.

To enhance the safety of our students who live off-Grounds, the University pays for a full-time City Property Maintenance Inspector to address health, fire, and other concerns. This official meets biweekly with the Off-Grounds Housing Manager who works with Student Council, and monthly with University representatives.

Students in off-Grounds housing who have safety concerns should first contact their landlord or property manager. If problems are not corrected in a timely manner,they should contact the inspector for assistance. Contact information for this official is in the Parent Handbook.

Our Housing Department has an Accommodations Office, and we have an Off-Grounds Housing Manager. These staff members are happy to help students and to answer their questions.

Immunizations
One important reminder about immunizations for your son or daughter. Student Health held its fall immunization clinic this past Thursday. Flu shots were available, as well other immunizations required by the University.

Students who have not received the required immunizations and provided proof of immunizations are blocked from registration for spring classes. If your son or daughter still needs immunizations, they should check the Student Health web site for times when they can take care of this.

If I have not addressed an issue that you're concerned about during the first part of these remarks, please ask about it during the Q&A period. Now let me spend a few minutes updating you on University activities.

University Update

Early Priorities as President
I became president on August 1, so I'm just starting my fourth month in office. I'll tell you a bit about my early priorities.

Because I came to U.Va. from another university and another state, getting to know the people of U.Va. and Virginia has been a priority for me. Since August, I've participated in a lot of meetings and events - with students; with faculty members; with our friends at the College at Wise; with alumni here in Virginia, in Texas, and on the West Coast; with the Governor, the Secretary of Education, and all state agency heads; with Virginia's legislators in their home offices all over the Commonwealth; and with Virginia's Congressional delegation and senators in their Capitol complex offices.

Overall, it's been a busy two months, and it's been a superb crash course on the University, its people, and the people and politics of Virginia.

Succession planning is another big priority right now. As you may know, Leonard Sandridge, the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, and Tim Garson, the Executive Vice President and Provost, will both leave at the end of the academic year.

Finding good successors for these two positions is critical. I've assembled a search committee that will identify candidates to fill Leonard's position. School of Commerce Dean Carl Zeithaml is chairing the committee. I'll name the search committee and start the Provost search early in 2011.

Financial Challenges
The greatest challenge we face at the University is financial. In the past three years, the state has cut our general fund allocation by $36.8 million, and we face another state budget reduction of $14.7 million in the 2011-12 academic year. I'm working with the Board of Visitors to explore alternative financial models for maintaining excellence here as we continue to absorb these cuts.

Because of financial pressures, our faculty and staff members have not had raises for three years. They will receive a 3% bonus in December, but it won't increase base salaries. In spite of economic realities, we need to find ways to invest in our faculty and the staff members who provide support. The quality of our faculty and staff has a direct effect on the quality of the student experience. I'll talk more about that in a moment.

Implementing Plans
As an incoming president, I was fortunate to succeed a strong leader in John Casteen. Working with the Board of Visitors, the U.Va. leadership team, faculty and staff, and alumni and parents, President Casteen developed solid plans for the University's future. Some of you may have helped with these planning efforts. I will now work with the same people to carry out these plans.

Our plans are grouped into three priority areas: 1) the student experience – especially how we can improve teaching and learning; 2) international programs; and, 3) science, technology, and research, including scholarship and creative work. All of these priority areas are integral to the overall experience that your sons and daughters have here. Let me describe some of our work in these areas.

The student experience is the crown jewel of U.Va. A great student experience requires excellent faculty, as I mentioned a moment ago. We need to invest in current faculty and staff members, and we also need to hire new faculty members. We need to provide start-up funds to set up labs for new science and engineering faculty, to build strength in those disciplines. We have two new research buildings under construction, one for the College and one for Engineering, to support the growth. We're building these new resources in science and engineering while also sustaining our traditional strengths in the humanities and the social sciences.

Not all of our ideas for enhancing the student experience come from faculty, by the way. Students are responsible for a new phenomenon on Grounds this fall known as "flash seminars." Flash seminars are one-time, mini-classes that bring faculty and students together in small, informal settings to explore ideas outside the formal classroom setting. The seminars give students a chance to learn from top faculty members beyond their individual courses of study. Students receive no credit for these seminars; they've organized them simply for the pleasure and reward of learning.

Early seminar topics have included: "Liberal Arts in the Era of Late Capitalism," and "Aging in Place." The latter seminar was about designing architecture for the aging population; it's reassuring to know the students are thinking about us old folks.

Upcoming seminars will include an evening at the McCormick Observatory, where astronomy professor Ed Murphy will let students observe the planets and teach them about the history of the telescope. Students invite faculty members to deliver these seminars based on their interest in various topics, and each week's seminars are announced via e-mail to students who ask to be added to the e-mail list. Information about the flash seminars is at www.flashsems.com. The Flash Seminars are so appealing to me that I plan to lead one next semester together with Michael Suarez, the director of our Rare Book School, on the topic, "What is the Good Life?"

To equip your sons and daughters for success in the global economy, this University needs to be built for discovery, study, and service on a global scale. So we're broadening curricular and extracurricular programs to feature global themes, and creating new global courses, majors, and minors. We're bringing in faculty and students from other nations in greater numbers to bring global influences to intellectual life on the Grounds. We have 82 nations represented in our first-year class, and 130 nations represented in the total student body.

Our students and professors are engaging in teaching, research, and service programs in global settings. As part of our Jefferson Public Citizens program, 81 students received Jefferson Public Citizens Awards to conduct projects this academic year. Project sites range from Charlottesville to South Africa, Uganda, Zambia, Nicaragua, Jamaica, and Inner Mongolia.

Campaign
To help us bring all of our ambitious plans to fruition, we need resources. Completing the capital campaign remains a priority, and our development team is working hard to make it happen. We're a little over two-thirds of the way toward our goal of $3 billion.

We plan to focus the last third of the campaign on what we're calling "the heart of the Grounds." The physical heart of the University is Jefferson's Academical Village. Most of Jefferson's original buildings are in good shape, but the Rotunda needs work. During your visit this weekend, you've probably seen the crumbling capitals of the columns wrapped in plastic construction netting. Last month, the Board approved a $22.9 million plan to begin a much-needed renovation of the Rotunda. We're going to request some funding from the state, and we're going to seek private support for the project as well.

Our faculty and students make up the figurative heart of the University. In addition to investing in faculty, we need to build support for graduate students, who contribute so much to our teaching and research; we need to strengthen our programs in the arts, health, sustainability, and other key areas; and we need to support the AccessUVa program so that Thomas Jefferson's "aristocracy of talent" remains a reality for our students today.

Our work to fulfill these aspirations will be a group effort. All of us who are associated with the University - as parents, alumni, friends, or U.Va. leaders - should be committed to building the University's future together.

Closing Thoughts: Get Involved!
In closing, I encourage you to get involved in the life of the University. You have lots of opportunities to do this. All family members of students are automatically members of UVaFamilies, including grandparents, step-parents, and siblings. Membership is free.

UVa Clubs exist all over the country and all over the world. They offer opportunities to meet other parents and alumni during social events, educational programs, and service projects.

Please visit the University often. Enjoy the Grounds. Visit the newly renovated art museum, the new South Lawn buildings on the other side of Jefferson Park Avenue, the Aquatics & Fitness Center, the Special Collections library. Come to a sports event, or a music concert, or a play.

Exciting things are happening during Family Weekend; take advantage of them. The "Car of the Future" symposium going on this weekend is a collaborative project of faculty members from several schools – Architecture, Engineering, Batten, Arts & Sciences, Darden, and Nursing. Prominent experts on sustainability are joining U.Va. faculty members to discuss alternative car technologies and fuels, and the effect of cars on society. Hybrid and electric cars are on display on the brick terrace between Newcomb Hall and the bookstore. Stop by to see them if you have a chance. The symposium includes a prize competition among undergraduate students to create a project examining the car's future in a sustainable society. Winners will be announced today at 3:30 in the Clark Hall Auditorium.

Culturefest 2010 is going on today. Now in its 26th year, Culturefest is a student-run festival featuring an international bazaar of performances, foods, and arts and crafts in the Aquatic and Fitness Center.

You can refer to the Family Weekend event schedule for times and locations of all events taking place this weekend.

We call this Family Weekend because the families of our students come to Charlottesville. But we think of our entire University community - students, faculty, staff, parents, alumni, and friends - as a sort of extended family.

On Family Weekend, I hope you enjoy celebrating with both of these families - your own family and also this larger, extended family that includes all of us who share connections to the University.

Thank you for coming today. I'll be happy to take questions now.