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State of the University Address, 2008

SEPTEMBER 4, 2008

Harvey Perlman, Chancellor

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

International Relations

In so many ways, this university has become a player in the global marketplace of higher education. Our most visible initiatives may be in China where we now have partnership degree programs with two universities, growing research relationships, and, here in Lincoln, the Confucius Institute, which is developing significant programs to help foster Nebraskans' understanding of Chinese language and culture. You can travel to Xi'an or Hangchou China and find a UNL office of admissions and young Chinese students sporting Husker gear. We are welcoming an increasing number of Chinese students to our community. We have other significant relationships in countries around the world. As part of our priority in creating a world-class undergraduate experience, we need to continue to expand both the opportunities for our students to study abroad and for foreign students to pursue their studies in Lincoln.

Last year I announced a campus-wide committee of faculty, students, and administrators to develop a focus and vision for our international programming. This International Programs Advisory Council, under the leadership of Susan Fritz, associate vice chancellor for IANR, and David Wilson, associate vice chancellor in Academic Affairs, has issued a preliminary framework for the steps we should take to make this effort successful. This is an important undertaking and I hope one that will attract your support.

Diversity

For us to rightly claim that we are providing our students with the tools and experiences they will need to make their way in the world, this university must provide them with a diverse educational environment. This clearly means that both our faculty and student body must reflect not just the world of Nebraska but the world at large. As our core value suggests, we strive to achieve within our community diversity of people as well as perspective. We can, and should, be equally adamant that our community reflects varied races, varied faiths and varied points of view. This core value is not derived from any government mandate or any political creed. It is based in our responsibility to our students. We have been committed to diversity and we have worked hard to achieve success.

In November the people of Nebraska may vote on an initiative that could deprive us of some of the tools for diversity that are authorized by the United States Supreme Court and freely used by most of our peers and our competitors. Proponents of this so-called equal rights amendment seek to unilaterally disarm this university and the state in its competition for talent. However, even if this amendment passes, there will be no diminishment in our efforts to diversify this campus. Indeed, with some tools removed, we would be forced to redouble our efforts. Let me be clear. While we will fully comply with the law, we would continue to evaluate units and administrators on their ability to achieve diversity. We would continue to devote resources to compensate for the disadvantages placed upon us by this initiative. The opening of the new Gaughan Multicultural Center should be a catalyst for activities that will make us more open, rather than more suspicious, of different races, different cultures, and different perspectives.

Alumni Engagement

Historically our alumni association has been independent of the university. While there are some advantages to independence, it is also clear that both the association and the university have a similar objective - to allow the university to benefit from the time and talent of our alumni. Our association has adopted a bold new charter that is designed to better integrate it into the life of the university and to coordinate its alumni activities with existing programs in the colleges and other units. It is important for our future that the students we graduate stay connected to us throughout their lives, and I believe we now have a structure that will encourage that to happen. Each of us took responsibility to make this campus more welcoming to students and prospective students and the results of increased enrollment, retention and graduation are clear. Now we must make the same effort toward our alumni. The Alumni Association can lead but it cannot alone achieve success without each of our participation.

Sustainability

One of the significant issues facing our country is the ability to sustain our quality of life in the face of the threat of climate change, increasing demands on exhaustible sources of energy, and the overuse of our valuable natural resources. This university should take a leadership role in meeting these challenges. One can sense an increased attention to these issues in our classrooms, and alternative energy and climate change have emerged as two significant priorities in our research agenda. We must be leaders as well in our behavior as consumers of energy and natural resources. On the recommendation of ASUN and the Faculty Senate, I have established a Commission on Sustainability to consider how the university, and each of us individually, can contribute to addressing this problem.

While the campus administration will certainly bear its share of responsibility in moving us toward sustainability, ultimately each of us in our role as consumers must drive this initiative. We have embraced green building standards, where possible, in the construction of our new buildings and in making investments that will save energy in our existing buildings. It is also true that individual decisions about turning off lights and computers, inflating tires, and recycling will weigh heavily on whether we achieve success. I have invited the new commission to advise me on the breadth of possible actions the university might take administratively and that each of us might take individually to make our enterprise more sustainable. And at the risk of sounding like the campus nanny, our individual sustainability through wellness activities is also important.

Campus Safety

In addition to being sustainable, this campus should be safe. We have witnessed recent tragic events at other campuses. Life provides no guarantees against these repeating themselves here or elsewhere. We must prepare for the worst while hoping for the best. We have systematically reviewed all of the reports from campuses that have experienced incidents as well as best practice recommendations and we are working toward implementing those that are feasible. I want to remind you of two things that each and everyone of us can do. First, sign up for the UNL Alert program and encourage your students to do likewise. In the event of an emergency this provides the most effective means of notifying the community. Second, be vigilant and proactive. Most of us are not skilled in recognizing when a person represents a threat to himself or others but we have people on this campus who are. Please do not hesitate to report matters to our crisis alert center. Remember the number: 472-2222.