“We have been given a mandate by the people of Kentucky, but more than any words in the law books we, individually and collectively, understand the importance of our teaching, our research and our work in the community,” Ramsey said during the address before an audience of faculty, staff, students and community leaders at Comstock Concert Hall in the School of Music.
Ramsey said the university will thrive in what he called a “new reality,” and would not “ring the bell,” a reference to the Navy SEALs, in which a SEAL-in-training rings a bell if he or she wants to give up at any point.
“The benefit of ringing the bell is that their training exercise immediately ends; the cost of ringing the bell is, of course, that they will not become a Navy SEAL,” he said. “…We can ‘ring the bell’ at any time; that’s our choice. And who could blame us? Just as the Navy SEALS who are weakened by lack of sleep and nonstop training, we are weakened and frustrated by budget cuts, and those who put self-interest ahead of public good.”
He emphasized: “We will never ‘ring the bell.’”
The president outlined the university’s accomplishments of the past year, including the continuation of the University of the 21st Century initiative that is being used to create a roadmap to the future through planned and managed change.
He noted improvements in the university’s six-year graduation rate, the high caliber of incoming students, an increase in the number of PhD degrees awarded, the university’s transition into the prestigious ACC, and research funding that filled in for the loss of earmarks, stimulus monies and cuts in federal funding.
Ramsey said the road going forward will continue to be difficult and said there are “some in our community who wish to only focus on ‘problems.’
“Let’s be honest and realistic. We have had, and will have problems,” he said. “We are 22,000 students and 6,000 employees; we operate multiple business lines, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. As I said in 2003, it is important for us to learn from our mistakes while continuing to stay focused on the end game—our role in improving economic opportunity and the quality of life for the people of our community and state.”
Ramsey said the university embraces its role in improving quality of life and economic well-being. It will do so by continuing to identify areas of excellence within the university as well as areas of community need, gauging student interest and looking for partnership opportunities.
“In fact, we are now moving forward with pilot multidisciplinary collaborative initiatives that provide us funding opportunities,” he added.
He said the university will begin a review of its general education curriculum beginning this fall and will continue to learn from pilot projects of the school’s new shared services business model taking place in the Speed School of Engineering, the Office of Business Affairs, Human Resources and Information Technology.
The university will also continue to develop financial models “that are better understood by the campus, well-communicated and transparent,” he added.
Ramsey concluded on a positive note, saying there will be a “time in the not-so-distant future” in which “our great institution, our center of academic learning, is indeed, as stated by our founding fathers in 1798, making our community, our state, and yes, the world, a ‘place of even greater consequence.’ September 17, 2014. This is our job. We will be successful.”
For more on the State of the University address, including a downloadable four-page PDF booklet reviewing the year’s accomplishments, click here.