This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

UB must grow to succeed, Simpson says

Published: June 23, 2005

Contributing Editor

Noting that he has spent some 500 days in office, President John B. Simpson on Monday shared his interest in acquiring more and larger numbers for the university in the near future.

"Foremost, I believe the size of this university should increase" to include 5,000 more full-time students and a minimum of 250 new faculty positions, Simpson told a meeting of the UB Council.

Simpson said he has heard two primary messages coming through comments from faculty and staff "across the university, in every domain" during his first year-and-a-half as president: UB is too small in terms of faculty and students, and work space and facilities are inadequate.

"The message is that our units—our departments, our schools—are too small. We're smaller than our peers, we're smaller than others across the country, and this makes it very difficult to compete on the national level simply by virtue of our size," he said.

Simpson said he has submitted a proposal to the State University of New York chancellor "to increase the size of this university and to fund us appropriately.

"We have a range of programs the size of (the University of) Washington and Ohio State, but about half as many students," Simpson said.

UB currently enrolls approximately 25,000 full-time students; the University of Washington enrolled more than 42,757 students during 2003 and 58,365 students attended Ohio State in 2004.

In order to become larger, the university must increase its fundraising and development efforts, forming new partnerships with private sources and alumni to boost income, Simpson said.

"Change like this, putting in place some of these bold proposals, is going to cost a lot of money. I think there are a number of things we're going to have to do in order to pay for these things," he said.

High on his list would be effecting a guaranteed tuition policy, such as the one championed by former SUNY Chancellor Robert L. King, which would "help SUNY in general and this university in particular," according to Simpson.

"It takes the university's budget out of the usual process of being decided in the political sphere and keeps us from being just another state agency," he said.

Under the plan, which failed to move through the State Legislature earlier this year, tuition is set at a fixed rate for freshmen and adhered to throughout their years in college.

UB falls behind in fundraising when compared to peer institutions, according to Audrey Olmstead, interim vice president for development. While the university has raised $24.5 million in the current fiscal year, Olmstead said, other institutions average three times that amount, including the University of Pittsburgh, which averages $87 million per year, and the University of Maryland, which averages $73 million.

Satish K. Tripathi, UB provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, said university growth will be an ongoing priority and will occur gradually over several years.

"The goal is not to increase our size unless we are funded because you can't support the students," Tripathi said in explaining why UB kept the same targeted goal as last year of enrolling 3,250 new students for this fall. Currently, 3,321 students are planning to attend UB, a figure that could drop slightly in coming weeks, Tripathi said.

Recruiting more international students also has been a priority for UB, and Tripathi said that the university has received deposits from 206 international students in the incoming freshman class, well over the targeted goal of 175. The number of out-of-state freshmen who have made deposits is 212.

Tripathi said his office has approved 92 current faculty hires, some of which are replacements for professors who have left UB.

The council also heard a report on a plan to develop a single multi-specialty group of physicians affiliated with the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences who currently hail from several separate corporations and practice plans. Frederick C. Morin III, M.D., interim vice president for health sciences and interim dean of the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, presented the report, along with Patrick DiNicola, assistant vice president and chief operating officer for the office of the vice president.