Sept. 8, 2014Vol. 45, Issue 1

The Fork in the Road

Editor’s Note: Below is an excerpt from President Paul Zingg’s convocation address given Aug. 21 in Harlen Adams Theatre. A full transcript and video are available.

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But let me conclude today with where I began, with a focus on our faculty – a faculty which deserves not just our students’ trust and admiration, not just our praise and gratitude, but our best efforts to foster their professional development, to recognize their role in the success of our students, and to strengthen their confidence in their University’s commitment to them.

Here’s the bottom line. The heart of a university’s reputation is its academic reputation.  And the foundation of a university’s academic reputation is its faculty.

So, beyond what I outlined in my July message to the faculty – that is, beyond hiring at least 100 new tenure-track faculty over the next three years (of which you 37 are the start); beyond the nearly $1 million in base funding we have already committed to implement Equity 2; to raise the salaries of about 13 percent of our current lecturers through correcting their classification levels; to provide salary bumps averaging almost 80 percent above the contract minimum to 38 newly tenured or promoted faculty; and establishing this kind of increase as the new benchmark moving forward; beyond supporting and developing a comprehensive compensation strategy within the framework of a new collective bargaining agreement that aims to improve the base salary situation for all faculty and address inequities in individual cases; beyond these measures, I am announcing today a $14 million program to renew and support our faculty.   

Its elements as developed by the provost and her staff and the deans – with input from our campus faculty (one clear consequence of last year’s “possibility” conversations) and a few nudges from me, include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Increased funding for all aspects of faculty professional development, including CELT, sabbaticals, annual grants to support travel and other professional development activity, and a  mentoring program for new faculty
  • Increased start-up funding  for new faculty
  • dedicated funding and efforts to achieve greater diversity in the ranks of our faculty
  • Increased funding to support such programs as the Diversity Academy and the e-Learning Academy
  • Increased funding to support the more frequent renewal of desk top and related computing needs
  • Increased funding for lab equipment and to modernize and energize learning spaces in the library and throughout the campus
  • Increased funding to support faculty in their work spaces and with their workloads, such as office furnishings and upgrades for the former, and lab assistants and graders for the latter
  • dedicated funding for the hiring and development of staff who contribute directly to the support of faculty
  • assigned new funding for such initiatives as the establishment of a student research program and the support of our public sphere pedagogy efforts

We will roll out this program in stages, but we have already commenced with several of these investments and initiatives.  Not because some new source of funding has suddenly arrived to enable this spending.  Clearly, that has not happened.  But because we can no longer wait for that funding to arrive and we have work to do now, and we have commitments to our faculty and our students to keep now.

That work and these commitments cannot be delayed if we are to seize this moment not just for faculty renewal, but for institutional renewal.  We must signal to our new faculty, our current faculty, and our future faculty that this University will choose excellence in the ranks of its faculty and dedicate the resources necessary to build and sustain it.

This funding – some one-time, some recurring – will come from reserves, General Fund management, revenues from strategic enrollment growth decisions, such as international students, and private fund-raising through the leveraging of our demonstrated ability and determination to allocate resources to clearly articulated priorities.  Especially if those priorities will make our University more outstanding, more distinctive, in terms of student success, academic reputation, and service.  To be blunt, our friends and supporters, our stakeholders and prospective donors want to know that we are driven by a clear, compelling vision with which they can identify; that we use our resources wisely and effectively to achieve our mission; and that the whole story adds up to positive institutional momentum.


I am announcing today a $14 million program to renew and support our faculty.

There is no clearer way to pass this test than investing in the renewal and support of our faculty and the staff who support them and our students.

There is no more important priority guiding our work for the next several years.

There is no more important issue that I expect you to hold me accountable.  And which I will hold the provost and the deans accountable.

So, why did you demonstrate good sense in joining us?

For the members of our faculty and staff who are delighted you are here and eagerly anticipate your contributions to the noble work of our University and the good life of our community.

For our students, like [AS President] Taylor [Herren] and [business administration major] Dylan [Gray], who wait to be challenged and inspired by you.

For our University, which recognizes in each of you both a statement about institutional renewal and the responsibility we have to forge a compact between our high expectations and your high performance.

For the future we choose, the future we build, together.

The further accomplishment of our Diversity Action Plan, the renewal of our Strategic Plan, the next phases of our comprehensive fund-raising campaign, the preliminary preparation for our next WASC visit, the completion of the First Street renovation – all await over the next eighteen months.  Each of these events has transformative potential for the University.

But the most important, the most transformative, will be the strengthening of our ability to attract – and then witness the success – of students, faculty, staff and leadership of the highest quality.

The 4,400 new students who start their studies with us on Monday, and this class of new tenure-track faculty, have a lot in common.  But I hope nothing more important than an unfolding and deepening confidence that you – and we – have chosen wisely to be together in this place, at this time.

As Yogi Berra said: “When you come to the fork in the road, take it.”  Well, here we are, having chosen the fork in the road that has brought us here.  We now have choices to make to ensure that we took the right path and that others will choose to follow.

Again, as always, I am extremely grateful for your kind attention and support.  We have a lot to do and a lot to accomplish together this year.  So let’s go outside to a reception that awaits and figure out how!

Thank you, and all the best for the year ahead.

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All are welcome at the Wildcat Recreation Center! Watch now.