This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Faculty input key to strategic plan

Simpson addresses voting faculty

Published: September 23, 2004

Assistant Vice President

President John B. Simpson Tuesday said faculty participation will be a critical factor in the success of the strategic planning process in which he is engaging the university community with the goal of developing an academic plan that will be a roadmap for UB for the next 15 years.

While the effort is being overseen by three committees, Simpson said the success of the endeavor and implementation of the plan "will rely upon the participation, dedication and intellectual investment of the full academic community."

He told more than 100 faculty members attending the annual meeting of the voting faculty in the Center for Tomorrow that "in the coming months, we must now come together as an academic community to focus our collective intellectual capital upon our university as a whole for the greater good." Click here to read details of the strategic planning process.

Simpson, who as president is chair of the voting faculty, gave high praise to the university's faculty members. "I cannot say enough about faculty quality at UB," he said. "Our body of faculty and its impressive scholarly and research achievement is a tremendous strength of our university—indeed, in my opinion, it is the strength of our university."

Despite that fact, he said, "it seems to me that our university, as a whole, may not yet have reached its full institutional potential."

He noted, for example, that while UB this year moved up in rankings by U.S. News & World Report, its rank of 120 among national universities is not consistent with the fact that it is a leading research university and a member of the Association of American Universities since 1989.

"The truth is, as an institution, and as an AAU institution, we should by rights appear to be stronger and more competitive than we currently are publicly recognized to be," Simpson noted. "It seems to me...that the whole of UB may be less than the sum of its excellent, truly excellent, parts.

"We need to change that," he added. "I want to argue today that in order to become a truly great university, from the foundations of a very good one, we must face the future; we must do it strategically, and we must do it together as an academic community."

Driving home his point, he added: "The climate for public higher education does not allow for a reactive institutional administrative stance any longer. If we don't have an agenda, someone else will. To ensure the continued growth of academic excellence at UB, we must excel in anticipating, in meeting and in effectively and efficiently solving the unique challenges that confront our university in the 21st century, just as each and every one of our colleague institutions must do."

Simpson said that when he became UB president, "one of the first thing that struck me upon exploring the university's administrative culture in depth was the noticeable absence of a comprehensive academic plan for the university, or a master strategy for the campus.

"It is therefore imperative for our university's administrative model to evolve into a forward-looking, proactive administrative culture of strategic thinking and planning. The importance of this proactive and strategic culture simply cannot be overstated."

Peter Nickerson, chair of the Faculty Senate and a member of the executive committee overseeing the strategic planning process, asked Simpson, "Will the plan remain on the shelf when it is completed?"

"Absolutely not," Simpson responded. "I don't intend to go through the amount of work that is going to be required that will impinge on all of you to some degree...especially those with administrative responsibilities, and then not act on it. There is no point in doing it unless it is going to produce genuine change in the university."

Asked by Karen Spencer, archives and special collections librarian with the Law Library, what the role of the University Libraries will be in the planning process, Simpson stressed that input will be sought from faculty, professional staff, other than professional staff and students. "I think in as much as the process is taken to heart and participated in across the university, including certainly the libraries, that would be highly correlated with how successful it will be."

Queried about his views on UB's athletics program by Phillips Stevens, Jr., associate professor of anthropology, Simpson said he was not going to share his personal "biases," but said that the same "frank light" being turned on academics should be used to examine athletics.

"I think that is a question we should examine carefully, the same way we should examine what our academic goals are, what our academic aspirations are and what kind of a capital plan we ought to have in place to support them," he added.

Prior to discussing the strategic planning process, Simpson said he will make "a formal written request to the Faculty Senate" to develop "one comprehensive statement" to address "important principles that must be at the root of professional faculty conduct within the academy."

Noting that as president he reviews dossiers of faculty members seeking promotion, Simpson said he has "been very disheartened by several cases of breakdowns in faculty civility, conduct and professionalism that also have crossed my desk."

While there are numerous UB and SUNY policies in place "regarding civility, integrity, collegiality and professional conduct," he said there is "no one comprehensive, clear statement that brings all pieces together, and does so in a transparent and readily accessible single statement.

"The principles may exist, but they are in many different bits and pieces, like a puzzle—and frankly, they're difficult to find and to employ as a resource, or as any kind of core statement of university integrity and identity. As an academic community, we can and should work on this together."