University of Washington  Office of the President,  Box 351230






June 15, 2001




UW Community


Dear Colleagues:


            In January, 2001, Faculty Senate Chair Mary Coney and I convened and charged a committee to review the University Initiatives Fund (UIF).  This committee, chaired by Dean Nancy Hooyman, thoroughly and intensively examined all aspects of the UIF.  Their report, available on the web at, was distributed to the campus leaders on April 30, with a request for comments. 


            The UIF Review Committee report examined the rationale behind the UIF, the split of the fund into its interdisciplinary and unit-specific parts, the ways in which the cuts were taken to provide the funds for reallocation, the process by which award decisions were made, and the degree of understanding and knowledge of the UIF throughout the University community.  I am pleased to accept the Review Committee’s recommendations in full.


            The Committee reaffirmed the rationale behind the UIF as a fund for interdisciplinary innovation and were impressed by its transformative impact.  The Committee further acknowledged the relationship between innovation and excellence so critical to a University of this caliber.  Their assessment adds an important perspective as the UW moves toward a future of even greater contribution and stature. 


            The Committee’s enthusiasm for the interdisciplinary portion of the UIF (0.6%) was in clear contrast to its lack of enthusiasm for the unit-specific portion of the UIF (0.4%).  Although I find the latter disappointing, I accept their evaluation that, while one part of the experiment has been a success and should be continued permanently, the other has not realized its promise, and should be discontinued as a University-wide initiative.


            The Committee was less sanguine about the method by which the UIF is funded.  They note that three biennia of one-percent cuts have resulted in negative consequences throughout campus.  They urge that the levy of 0.6% on unit operating budgets be replaced gradually by other sources of funding, including, but not limited to private donations, endowment funding, state funds, and tuition.  Provost Lee Huntsman and I believe that we can accomplish this goal, and will make this a priority as we go forward. 


            The Academic and Student Affairs Committee of the Board of Regents discussed the UIF Review Committee report at their June 9, 2001 meeting.   They expressed very strong support for maintaining the interdisciplinary UIF in the biennia ahead, at least at the 0.6% level, and preferably the 1.0% level.  They indicated that they expect the President and the Provost to achieve this goal.


            The review uncovered uneven knowledge of the UIF among faculty, staff, and students, and encouraged heightened attention to process and information dissemination.  Some UIF projects have been exemplary in outreach and publicity, while others have been less so.  The administration has communicated effectively about some but not all aspects of the UIF. There has been some attempt to align goals of UIF proposals with long-range plans of units and the University, but this alignment should become more systematic.  We will take seriously these and other process recommendations and will implement changes immediately.


            I am grateful for the UIF Review Committee’s outstanding recommendations.  I would also like to note the exceptional work of the nine review committees charged to evaluate specific UIF projects funded in 1997.  Their evaluations and recommendations helped the UIF Review Committee in its work, and contributed, no doubt, to the Committee’s sense that, “We are uniformly impressed by the excellence of the proposals funded and commend them for their transformative impact and critical role in creating a ‘culture of possibilities.’ ” 


            The UIF’s strengths notwithstanding, the UW is facing very difficult choices in the biennium ahead.  Provost Huntsman and I have asked each of the consultative bodies—the Senate Committee on Planning and Budgeting, the University Budget Committee, the President’s Cabinet, and others—to advise us on budgetary tradeoffs and priorities.  While the 0.6% investment for the UIF in 2001-03 appears to be advisable for the UW’s future, a final decision on the funding for the new biennium will await word from the legislature, advice from the campus community, and final action on the budget by the Regents in July.


Sincerely yours,



Richard L. McCormick