VOLUME 31, NUMBER 17 THURSDAY, January 27, 2000

Triggle urges rise in sponsored money

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Reporter Assistant Editor

While Provost David Triggle promised to stay away from "budget talk" during Tuesday's "Academic State of the University" address, he made one point very clear: UB must increase its income from sponsored programs and philanthropic activities. Speaking to members of the Faculty Senate, university administrators and other faculty and staff members, Triggle said he has been accused of "focusing excessively on budget matters in the last year to the exclusion of academic matters" and noted that he even received an anonymous, typed copy of the Oscar Wilde quotation: "A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing."

"The reality is that we need to know what our budget is," Triggle responded. "We do need to live within our budget. We do have to know what things cost and where we are spending our money and, in particular, we need to make priority decisions about how we allocate those resources."

He emphasized that UB needs to spend a significant amount of time thinking about ways in which the institution can increase its income.

In discussing the university's past, present and future position in the world of higher education, Triggle said he thinks UB continues to strive to be "a significant research-driven university."

He discussed some of the parameters used to rank public-research universities and how UB fared in those categories, showing that there exists a variety of ways to compare ourselves to peer universities.

While UB currently ranks high in some areas, the institution comes out somewhere near the middle for some and almost at the bottom in others, according to Triggle. However, he pointed out that of 32 AAU public universities, UB ranks near the bottom for sponsored-program expenditures and is 31 of 32 in terms of voluntary support.

A chart of UB's research expenditures showed UB with $61.3 million in direct expenditures in 1992-93 and a projected $55.8 million for 1999-2000.

"As you can see," said Triggle, "we have been essentially in a static mode for a number of years. We have not been growing our sponsored-program expenditures significantly at all. In fact, if you take into account scientific and technological inflation, which typically runs 2 to 4 percent a year, then these numbers would show a decline in our sponsored-program activity. This is a significant warning, in my opinion, that we need to do a great deal more in this particular area."

He noted that it will be difficult to make significant improvements in this area since "whatever we do today will take one or two years of activity before it kicks in."

The decline of sponsored-research activity "points to one of the areas of significant weakness in the institution," said Triggle. "It is an area in which we need to commit a great deal more energy and attention." And although he didn't offer any specifics as to how UB was going to increase its sponsored-research activity, Triggle recognized that the university will have to spend money to make money. "It is costly to launch new expenditures and new programs. Nonetheless, we need to spend in order that we might make the appropriate investments to push up the sponsored-program activity."

Triggle expressed another major concern: "We don't have enough in the way of development or support for the institution," he said. "Charitable giving, development, voluntary activity and alumni-giving rates are significantly dependent upon the history of the institution. For a number of years, this was not a particular priority. For a number of years, we lost track of a number of our alumni."

He emphasized that UB needs to do better since the university is virtually at the bottom among AAU publics in this area. "We could do a great deal better than that," he said. "This, and increasing sponsored activity, will be important and critical considerations."

Triggle pointed out that UB fares low in another category. The ratio of managerial employees per faculty (.045) and non-instructional employees per faculty (.466) at UB are near the bottom of the list for AAU public institutions as well, a fact that Triggle pointed out disproves the popular notion that certain areas-such as the fifth floor of Capen Hall-are full of support staff.

"We have downsized a great deal on the administrative and service side," Triggle explained. He added that UB also has "extremely lean" administrative staff in the area of computing and information technology compared to peer institutions. He also noted that the demand for such personnel will increase, but again said that "we can only solve these problems by income and revenue growth."

In response to a concern expressed by a faculty member regarding recruitment and retention of young faculty who expect a campus wired with the latest technology, Triggle said that the "costs are staggering" to maintain what people expect in terms of routine electronic services, email, etc., as well as to increase access.

"The costs run not in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, but in the tens of millions of dollars to make the necessary investments," explained Triggle. "There are major investments to be made in this area. This is an area, in my personal opinion, in which too frequently we are unable or willing to make these critical decisions."

Triggle also noted that if UB is to achieve and uphold its desired reputation as a "public research university of major significance," it will depend on advances of three specific schools at UB: the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

"These three areas are critical to our future. It's not that other programs or other activities are unimportant. But a great School of Pharmacy, a great School of Nursing or a great faculty in Health Related Professions alone do not make the reputation of a major university."

In response to a question about the retention rates at UB of new faculty, Triggle said that he and Kerry Grant, dean of CAS, have nearly "bankrupted" themselves to maintain productive and active faculty, and said it has been "exceedingly expensive" with nine or 10 cases just this year.

Barbara von Wahlde, director of the University Libraries, pointed out that great research universities have great libraries. Triggle admitted that the libraries' reputation has slipped due to budgetary constraints in recent years and said that "we need to make sure that the libraries are an integral part of the university's future." But, he noted, "money drives the system."

In other business at Tuesday's meeting, the Faculty Senate considered a resolution that would add new standards for reasonable academic progress to a bachelor's degree. The resolution, drafted by the senate's Grading Committee, chaired by William H. Baumer, professor of philosophy, would put into effect a graduated scale that outlines the criteria for reasonable academic progress based on successful completion of credit hours at a specific rate and cumulative grade-point average. Baumer explained that the resolution would allow the university to tie the current guidelines for good standing to the requirement for continuation at the university. It addresses students whose study is improving but who have not yet attained good academic standing, he said.

Nicolas Goodman, vice provost for undergraduate education, warned senators that the policy appears to undermine the existing academic regulations and procedures-adopted several years ago by the Faculty Senate-and circulated the university's current written policies for the senate's consideration.

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