Provost: Invention, creation, originality needed on campus

By Melissa Mitchell

At a time when higher education finds itself increasingly under
the microscope of public scrutiny, UI provost Larry Faulkner says
there's only one no-nonsense way for institutions such as the UI
to respond.

"We have to deliver the goods," said Faulkner, who led off the
University YMCA's "Know Your University" lecture-luncheon series
Jan. 24. He presented his perspective - after a year on the job -
of the "issues and opportunities" currently facing the UI.

Without a doubt, Faulkner said, the strongest asset university
leaders have to bank on as they draft the Academic Plan for the
Year 2000 - a plan that will be used to guide the university into
the next century - is the UI's "rich past." Among the hallmarks
of that past are quality, leadership, innovation and a commitment
to being "a place that believed in its young people," he said.
"Our responsibility is to preserve and extend" that heritage.

"Because it's been known as a place of quality and leadership,
the university has enjoyed public support," Faulkner added. "We
can't do that with any amount of advertising. We have to place
quality of programs on the table."

At the same time, the UI today must confront additional
challenges that have evolved as the state has positioned itself
as a major player in an increasingly interconnected world
economy.

"Illinois is a state with global interests," Faulkner said.
"Illinois is a large state with a large, complex, sophisticated
economy; a population rich and diverse in backgrounds; and
includes one of the nation's largest cities" that is both a
financial and cultural center, he said. For those reasons,
Illinois "requires a university with a global reach."

One way in which the UI is well-positioned to tackle some of
these challenges and extend its reach has been through its
ability take the lead in the fast-paced area of computing and
telecommunications technologies.

"This institution is at an advantage in this area," he said.
"There are some opportunities here for us to use Champaign-Urbana
as a base to extend the influence of this university to our
students, to our state, our nation and the world." Faulkner added
that two important tools used worldwide to navigate the Internet
- the mail program Eudora and the World Wide Web browser NCSA
Mosaic - were invented at UIUC.

Faulkner added that he would like to see "a recommitment to
invention" in all areas of the campus. "We have had a wonderful
past that has hosted remarkable inventions from time to time," he
said, noting that the list sometimes has included facilities
considered to be "structural marvels" for their time, such as the
Assembly Hall, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts and the
Beckman Institute.

A reemphasis on invention, creation and originality also could be
vital in the university's efforts to confront what the provost
labeled as the institution's biggest liability - constraint in
space. By that, Faulkner said he doesn't mean the lack of
individual office space, but rather the fact that the UI is
"disconnected from intellectual centers" of the country.

"We have to counteract that," he said, noting that in the past,
inventiveness has led to the development of "fantastic
facilities" that served as magnets to draw the very best teachers
and researchers to the UI from the established intellectual
centers.

As campus leaders continue to redefine and propose means by which
the university can effectively maintain and enhance its
longstanding reputation for excellence, Faulkner acknowledged
that certain formidable obstacles must be surmounted.

The single most "disturbing weakness" facing UI policymakers is
the inability to provide a more competitive salary program for
faculty and staff members, Faulkner said. "Restoration of the
salary scale" remains a top priority.

Another concern is "faculty strength," he said, referring to the
erosion in recent years in the size of the UI's professoriate. As
a result of budget reallocations, about 150 faculty positions
have been cut. Faulkner said he is committed to "preserving
faculty strength at the level it is at now." However, he added,
"In my mind, salaries come first, numbers of faculty, second."

Still another area of concern for members of the campus community
that Faulkner addressed is external pressure resulting from the
"productivity" issue.

"Faculty members and administrators are terrified of it, but that
doesn't make it go away," he said. Current reality dictates that
there will be a continued emphasis on "finding ways to do the
same or better job with the same or fewer resources" and that "we
have to fit our ambitions into whatever budget we have."

One way to accomplish that, he said, is to resist the tendency to
maintain the status quo. "People tend to deliver what's
expected," Faulkner said. "The mistake we make often enough is
not expecting enough. We have the ability, we have the right, and
we have the responsibility to expect a lot."

Institutionally, the UI should be less concerned with "looking
over its shoulder" by constantly comparing itself to peer schools
and more concerned with placing "some premium on origination,"
Faulkner said. And, all who today walk in the footsteps of "the
great people who have walked these halls" share a responsibility
"to keep the faith of their legacy and pass that on."



UIUC -- Inside Illinois -- 1995/02-02-95