Dear TAMIU community:
During the recent retreats conducted by three colleges and the School of Nursing, one theme continually emerged: communication between faculty and administration on this campus needs to improve. It has been suggested that I regularly deliver or provide “state of the University” releases.
At the risk of increasing unwanted e-mails, and at the urging of a number of you, I plan to begin regular missives, describing what is happening in my office and letting you know of issues I believe of significance for us all. This is offered very much in the spirit of dialogue, and I invite immediate responses of whatever length or stripe you wish.
First, we continue in a state-wide budget crisis. I just appeared last week, with Dr. Jones and Mr. García, before the Senate Finance Committee in Austin to present a summary of how things stand in Laredo, and to explain how we will comply with the possible mandate that next year’s budget be 95% of this year’s. Senator Zaffirini, a member of that committee, was extremely supportive and helpful, as always. The situation is nonetheless one to raise concern. Our choices are few. We can make up this cut (about $2 million for each year of the biennium) by raising tuition beyond the probable ability of our students to pay or by eliminating positions. I told the Committee that we hoped to be able to manage this with a combination of freezing unfilled positions and raising somewhat tuition, but that in all probability these responses would be inadequate to meet the bottom line.
With regard to facilities, we are now at the end of the process to update the Master Plan. I regret that so few faculty involved themselves in this process. The plan suggests what we will look like in the next decade. Those of you who did I am sure found the process both interesting and challenging. In addition, we are now at 50% review of the plans for the kinesiology building or completion of Phase V. When next the faculty meets for its luncheon on November 16th, I will be on the plane for Dallas to attend the 50% review.
This week, two enormous initiatives are becoming reality, efforts that will shape for the better our lives. First, we are forming in a community foundation for Laredo, to be housed initially at the University. The data has been long available: the more philanthropic work and the more support for philanthropic efforts exist in an area, the more philanthropy is practiced. It is time for Laredo to have such a foundation, a hallmark of great cities everywhere.
Second, today the Quality of Life project, Speak Laredo-Habla Laredo, met to discuss how best to proceed now that the surveys are complete. Again, this is a project which will have a very wide impact upon all our lives, undertaken by the University in partnership with the City, the Laredo Development Foundation, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Laredo Morning Times.
Tonight the Laredo Philharmonic celebrates 25 years of life. As you know, we are, together with LCC, the joint sponsors and home of that organization, although the LPO Board continues to raise funds to support concerts.
Tomorrow night the first group of new faculty comes to our home for dinner. After five such dinners, all new faculty (and significant others) will have had a chance for an informal evening together. I have wanted to do this for some years, and am pleased finally to set this practice in place.
On Sunday, we have the second LPO concert here in the recital hall. Afterwards, Patricia and I will receive at our home this year’s Faculty Senate for dinner. This will be the third year in a row that the Senate has come for dinner with Dr. Jones and me to discuss plans for the year and to share thoughts, concerns, ideas.
On Tuesday and Wednesday of next week, Mr. García and I will visit state senators and legislators in the Valley, telling them of our work and apprising them of our needs. Their support will be crucial if we are to continue to enjoy the funding for growth and excellence.
Finally, we continue to dialogue, daily, with foundations and citizens interested in becoming a part of what you are accomplishing at this University. On November 18th, we will host a reception for, and at that time create, the Heritage Society, a group composed of those who have over the years given the University an aggregate of $25,000 or more. I am happy to tell you that that list of a long one, and the interest in continuing to be a part of your work runs quite high in Laredo.
I hope this gives you a quick glimpse of some of the things going on in this office. Please respond, come by, or call as you wish. I would very much like to know your thoughts.
Thank you for the exhaustive effort each of you puts forth, daily, to move this University forward and to make good on our promise to change the face of Laredo and South Texas.
Ray M. Keck, III