An Open Letter to the University Community

Dear  Colleagues,
With the arrival of a new year, I write to share with you my thoughts and
concerns for the future of the university. The last four years have been
the most difficult in my memory for all of higher education and certainly
for Illinois. The strain has been both financial and psychological,
impacting both pocketbooks and morale.

The financial strain is illustrated by the harsh reality that state support
for public universities in Illinois is currently below FY 90 levels.  Beyond
the financial strain has been the demoralizing flow of negative books,
articles, op-ed pieces and other criticisms suggesting our society has lost
faith in its universities, attacking first one and then another on a
seemingly unending list of accusations - some with merit; many absolute
nonsense.

I wish to share with you my sense of the future - what we can expect in
terms of financial support and what we are doing to build public
understanding.

I believe we have come through the worst of the financial storm. Our budget
prospects for FY 95 are somewhat improved. Earlier this month, the Illinois
Board of Higher Education forwarded to Gov. Edgar and the General Assembly
a recommended appropriation increase of $108 million for all of higher
education, or 5.5 percent, exclusive of the State Universities Retirement
System. The largest recommended increase, 15.5 percent, went to the
Illinois Student Assistance Commission for student financial aid. The
University of Illinois was recommended for a 4.9 percent increase,
including the projected tuition income approved by the Board of Trustees
last September. The increases recommended for other public universities in
Illinois averaged 3.5 percent.

What will happen to these recommendations? The next key decision will be
made by the governor in his budget recommendations in March to the General
Assembly. With all the budget problems faced by the state of Illinois, this
will be a major test of the level of commitment to higher education.  We
have worked aggressively in meetings with the governor, his key staff, the
Bureau of the Budget and others, urging them to support these
recommendations. I have asked Gov. Edgar to endorse the IBHE
recommendations. They are modest and attainable. Normal inflationary growth
in the state budget has been diverted from higher education over the last
three years to other parts of the state budget. That loss - some $230
million to all of higher education since FY 90 - would more than cover the
recommended increases for FY 95, including retirement funding.

Our first priority is to improve faculty and staff salaries. Over the past
three years, only seven-tenths of a percent in new state dollars has been
provided by the state of Illinois to increase salaries. The
IBHE-recommended salary increase now before the governor is a modest 3.5
percent, far short of what we need and short of what we will strive to
achieve. It is all the more crucial that the recommendation not be cut by
the governor. The university will continue to do what we must do to augment
state dollars through internal economies and reallocation, but we must have
help from the state and it must come this year.

Private-gift support is of increasing importance. This past year,
private-gift income reached record levels, and we are in the midst of the
"quiet phase" preparatory to launching a second major capital fund campaign
with a focus on building the endowment for academic programs, named chairs
and professorships.

Let me turn to the apparent deterioration of public attitudes toward higher
education. Beginning with William Bennett and Allan Bloom, the barrage of
criticism has at times seemed unending. Various underlying forces drive
public concern: the incredible economic, political and social changes
occurring worldwide, the sometimes painful reality of a new global economy,
corporate restructuring and unaddressed social ills. Caught in the
confluence of these turbulent forces, Americans tend to question virtually
every major social institution in the society. When parents fear for the
future of their children and grandchildren, it should not surprise us when
they ask universities, "Are you doing your best?"

I do not believe that the public has lost faith in us. Quite the contrary.
Our job is to meet the high expectations the society holds for us and to be
more aggressive and creative in interpreting to the public our vision, the
real purposes of the university, our accomplishments as well as our
shortcomings, and the contributions we make to the health of the society.

We are making a concerted effort to do this. Several of us are meeting with
editorial boards across the state and nation. We are reaching out to alumni
and friends around the state to carry the university's story. We are
targeting civic clubs, asking for opportunities to send speakers.

In the legislative arena, we are stepping up our contacts with legislative
members and leaders and the governor's staff. We have organized the
university's data base by legislative district so we will be better
equipped to tell individual legislators how the University of Illinois
touches their district - numbers of students and their achievements,
employees, vendors, Cooperative Extension, health care and other programs
and services. Faculty groups have met or shortly will meet with the
chairman of the IBHE and key members of the governor's staff to convey the
faculty perspective. In addition, I have asked our trustees and our friends
in the corporate world for their help.

We must remember that the most powerful communication goes forward each day
as we, the members of the university community, carry out our work in
teaching, research and public service. Our impact directly and through our
students touches the lives of tens of thousands of people each day.  The
influence on public opinion can be powerful and positive.

We have come through a very difficult period, and I thank you for the
courage you have shown. Whatever the future may hold, the university must
marshal the strength to safeguard quality and make the difficult decisions.
Thus, we need to work even harder on building a stronger sense of
cohesiveness within our academic community as we emerge from these
difficult times. The future of our society depends to a significant degree
on the strength of its universities.

Thank you for your dedication and contribution to the work of the
university and to the students and society we serve.

                                        Sincerely,

                                        Stanley 0. Ikenberry
                                        President


UIUC -- Inside Illinois -- 1994/01-20-94