(9-4-97) -- Boston College will invest $260 million in academic personnel, programs and resources over the next five years, a commitment "carefully designed to raise Boston College to an even greater level of distinction as a national university," President William P. Leahy, SJ, announced at yesterday's annual Faculty Convocation in Robsham Theater.
That investment, based on recommendations by the University Academic Planning Council report, is connected to areas Fr. Leahy said are "strongly linked to our core strengths and values."
Executive Vice President Frank B. Campanella and Academic Vice President and Dean of Faculties William B. Neenan, SJ, also spoke at the event, discussing the impact of such broad initiatives as Project Delta and implementation of the UAPC report.
Fr. Leahy also announced three major administrative changes, including the appointment last month of Vice President for Administration John T. Driscoll as a special consultant for community and state affairs. In addition, he said, Vice President and Assistant to the President Margaret A. Dwyer will step down in early October, and Fr. Neenan will assume the title of vice president and assistant to the president after a new AVP is identified and Fr. Neenan completes a sabbatical.
Prefacing his comments on the University's priorities, Fr. Leahy said any planning for the future must consider Boston College's unique history and heritage. The UAPC recommendations reflect this as they address the five areas Fr. Leahy said will shape his priorities as president.
The first area, intellectual vitality, is the core of the University, Fr. Leahy said. It can be measured by many means, he added, such as the quality of teaching and research, the utilization of guest lecturers or other outside resources, the presence of arts on campus, and the atmosphere in residence halls and dining facilities. The UAPC plan "charts the course to increased vitality at Boston College," Fr. Leahy said.
Student experiences, inclusiveness and interpersonal relations form the basis for another critical area, BC's community life, he said. The University community should not promote disagreement for its own sake, he said, but should engage in honest and civil discussions. Without such engagement, "we will never be a university of ideas," Fr. Leahy said, "and no amount of diversity will help us."
The question of what it means to be a Catholic and Jesuit university is a complicated one, Fr. Leahy said. But such a university should be a place of Christian humanism, he said, and offer the opportunity to explore questions of faith and the yearning for transcendent understanding. It should also explore life and the world in "in a loving and caring way," he added, and engage in religious inquiry. He pointed to the new Center for Ignatian Spirituality as one means of strengthening BC's Jesuit and Catholic identity.
Fundraising support will be essential to realize the UAPC plan, Fr. Leahy said. While the University has enjoyed considerable generosity from its supporters, he explained, many of BC's peers and competitors draw upon far greater resources. To address this, he said, BC is planning a fundraising campaign of "crucial importance."
Efficiency and cost reduction also provide a potential source of funds for UAPC implementation, he said, and these will be realized through Project Delta and other management initiatives. BC is by no means inefficient, Fr. Leahy pointed out, but it must scrutinize spending patterns and shift funds from administrative functions to academic goals, he said.
Fr. Leahy also offered his observations on his first year as president. Calling Boston College "an extraordinary group of scholars, teachers and staff," Fr. Leahy said the efforts of Boston College employees "attract students, enthuse alumni and win the admiration of all kinds of people."
The University continues to enjoy academic, research and fundraising success, Fr. Leahy said, noting the high rankings achieved by the professional schools in last year's US News & World Report national survey. The current freshman class is "the strongest in our history" as measured by standardized test scores, he said, and will likely again rank among the top 25 nationally. The 105 African-American students in that class, equal to the record established two years ago, were enrolled from the highest number of African-American applicants in Boston College history.
Fr. Leahy reviewed controversies faced by the University over the past year, such as the gambling probe of the football program and a decision not to admit two student athletes. He said the University had addressed those issues and that its athletic programs will remain competitive in the context of BC's academic commitment.
He also noted the wide-spread campus dialog this past spring on matters of race and sexual orientation. To foster the exchange of views on these and other issues, Fr. Leahy said this fall he will start a "Conversations with the President" series, and invite groups of faculty, staff and students to talk informally with him two or three times each semester.
Every person associated with Boston College "is entitled to a life among us of us dignity, accomplishment, respect and safety," Fr. Leahy said, "and these rights will be zealously protected by the University."
"As I being my second year here," he concluded, "I am confident that Boston College has a sense of purpose and a clear mission. It knows where it needs to go and the requirements necessary to get there. How far it will go, how much it will accomplish, how well it will succeed, are up to all of us who are Boston College.
"We are on a journey together. That journey, which I have just begun to take with you, will be challenging, demanding and daring in the years just ahead. It will test us at times. But it is a journey toward greatness - of that I have no doubt."
In his remarks, Campanella gave an overview of recent and upcoming campus construction. He also reviewed the $25 million goal of cost reductions under Project Delta, which he said would improve services to students and their families. Although BC is well-managed, he said, it must be more competitive at the level of the nationally recognized institutions with which it is now associated.
Campanella explained the three "strands" constituting Delta thus far, including the redesign of processes and reorganization of administrative structures. Over the next 24 months, Campanella said, 60 departments will conduct a review of their management methods and procedures.
While 1996 was a "year of progress," 1997 promises to be "even a better year," Campanella said, "because we will begin to witness the impact of Delta and UAPC. Delta will begin slowly but should peak within 18 to 24 months. Many people here have made extraordinary efforts over this past year."
Fr. Neenan, who received a standing ovation when Fr. Leahy acknowledged him in his remarks, outlined recent academic-related developments. Twenty-nine new tenure-track faculty have joined BC, he said, four of whom are AHANA and nine of whom are women.
Fr. Neenan noted some highlights of the UAPC plan, and said its initiatives offered "reasonable, even necessary" responses to challenges facing BC. The plan represents a substantial investment at a time when many universities are cutting back, he said, and while expenditures will be targeted to specific programs, the major portion of them will have University-wide benefits.
The plan also represents a continuation of previous investments in programs and facilities, Fr. Neenan added. While the construction or renovations of Devlin, Merkert, Campion and Fulton halls addressed the needs of schools and departments headquartered there, he explained, the UAPC initiatives - such as the erection of a new humanities building - will benefit others.
"These initiatives are ambitious, more ambitious than any every previous undertaking at Boston College," Fr. Neenan said, "but so is our generosity, our imagination and our determination to succeed. In 1997, we do not have an alternative; we must meet the challenges presented to us."
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