Dear Members of the UW Community:
The Regents adopted the UW’s biennial budget last week, and summer is now in full swing. It’s a good time for reflection and to review a year of collective accomplishments that should benefit all members of the UW community.
For our students, we significantly expanded the range of educational, housing, and recreational choices. The record number of incoming students will find more places to live, more ways to take a class, and better facilities for study and non-study time.
We worked together to secure better investment options and improved record-keeping for faculty and staff retirement plans. Meanwhile, we began to seriously tackle the full and fair integration of our lecturers into our faculty, took on the job of re-thinking our faculty salary and merit system, and made code changes that will provide greater transparency in our tenure and promotion reviews.
What we do affects the world around us, too. This year we helped the state economy by increasing our output of science, technology, engineering, and math degrees. We almost doubled the number of start-up businesses coming out of our research, helping assure that work that begins in our labs gets a chance to change the world. At the same time, we welcomed a record number of community members onto our three campuses, to enjoy musical and theater performances, exhibits in our museums, lectures, open houses, and athletic events.
Perhaps because of a growing understanding of what we do here, our state legislature just made a substantial new financial investment in our university. This means that for the first time in a couple of decades, we didn’t have to increase tuition for our resident undergraduates. And, for the first time in the last five years, our meritorious faculty and staff will receive well-deserved raises.
There were also other “firsts” this year. Many of our schools and colleges established their first student-led college advisory councils; we offered the first freshmen seminars in Seattle, opened a brand-new School of STEM at Bothell, and created a new master’s program in Cybersecurity and Leadership in Tacoma, conceived in partnership with Joint Base Lewis McCord and Camp Murray. We offered our first MOOCs and approved an online program to complete a bachelor’s degree. And we finally joined the ranks of universities with a diversity requirement for our undergraduates.
Each one of these and countless other achievements came as a result of our working together, whether in perfect harmony or “creative tension.” I know there were moments when the interests of our students and those of our faculty and staff seemed to be in conflict, and it appeared we would be forced to choose between access and affordability, on the one hand, or quality and excellence on the other. But guess what? We found a way through these challenges, together and, for the most part, we remained united.
Of course, the challenges and the tensions are hardly over. It’s wonderful to get raises, but not everyone will agree on the amounts or the distribution. It’s important to expand enrollment in computer science and engineering, but we also worry about seeing higher education in purely vocational terms. Technology speeds up our communication, but it can cut into time for reflection and consensus-building.
My hope is that this year we’ve built some trust in each other and in our ability to work together, without letting false dichotomies divide us and distract us from our common goals. So, let’s take a moment to celebrate, and to thank each other—faculty, staff, and students. And, to also thank our legislators, our alumni, and our many community supporters who worked so hard on our behalf. Then, back to work. There is much more to be done.
Ana Mari Cauce
Provost and Executive Vice President