After seven years of focusing on and investing in academic quality, student support, and economic development – efforts that have led to a #22 national ranking, all-time high retention and graduation rates, creation of new jobs, and record numbers in student applications, private funding and research support – Clemson University is at a crossroads.
As we launch a new, more comprehensive five-year strategic plan to achieve our vision of being one of the nation’s top 20 public universities, we face unprecedented state budget cuts of $26 million to date, with the promise of more to come. We can respond by nibbling away at everything to fill the hole in the budget, or we can take bold steps and make tough decisions that also generate funding for the new Clemson Road Map.
We choose to do the latter.
In response to the $26 million state funding cut, I have established and am chairing a Budget Strategies Task Force to manage the immediate shortfall and develop long-term strategies for emerging from the current financial crisis as a stronger university. That team will continue to meet regularly, implement changes and communicate with the campus. As part of its work, the Budget Strategies Task Force is establishing a number more focused task forces to delve deeply but expediently into specific opportunities for reducing costs and increasing revenues.
The Top 20 vision and new five-year Road Map must guide these deliberations. We are not backing away from our goals.
Focus is critical: Each task force has a well-defined topic that will provide parameters for your discussions and research. If ideas emerge that are outside of your topic area, send them to the Budget Strategies Task Force to be shared with the appropriate group.
Based on the focus of the particular task force, the group will have a financial target which may comprise either cost reductions or new revenue or a combination of the two, but must be 100% recurring funding. Revenue that can be generated on an annual basis will be considered recurring. It may not be generated through re-charges to other departments.
Deliberations should consider the interests of all relevant constituents, with particular emphasis on the needs of graduate and undergraduate students.
Each task force will be given a list of recommendations and ideas that have emerged through postings to the budget impact web site, budget hearings, emails to the president, or other discussions. Your deliberations should consider but not be limited to these ideas. You must be entrepreneurial, creative and enthusiastic. This is no time for turf protection and “business as usual.”
Communication will be vital, as some tasks are inter-related. The work of three task forces that relate to the core academic mission will be coordinated through the Provost’s Advisory Council. The Budget Strategies Task Force will continue to meet and work on university-wide initatives, and joint meetings of the Budget Strategies Task Force and task force chairs will be scheduled as needed. Task force chairs should send weekly progress reports and issue a final report by February 15. Reports should be sent to my attention.
In your work, remember that the most important reason for Clemson’s success is the remarkable sense of community we have built on this campus. We did it by listening to each other, working hard and working together. These same qualities can help us with the tremendous challenges we now face.
In these times human nature may seem to push us to change our approach, point fingers, turn on each other, see the worst in our colleagues and not the best in them. We must not take this path. It leads nowhere.
We are the same team that worked together to achieve remarkable things. We must choose to continue our trust and communication in this challenge just as we have for the past nine years.
President Lincoln phrased it well, asking people – during difficult times – to listen to the “better angels of our nature.” It is still sound advice.
I thank you for your service to Clemson.