Despite budget cuts, McRobbie talks additions in State of the University
By Mickey Woods
A color scheme of crimson, cream and black and white houndstooth pattern could be spotted on the briefcases and business attire of the nearly 175 IU faculty and guests in attendance for the address.
McRobbie’s speech addressed the University’s academic core, budget status and plans for expansion of facilities with fervent positivity and hope for the future. Over the past 18 months, he said numerous historical strides have been made despite financial difficulties, such as professor Elinor Ostrom’s Nobel Prize win and Barack Obama’s election to the U.S. presidency.
The University has been no stranger to economic problems — its endowment has decreased from $1.6 billion in 2008 to $1.1 billion to its current $1.3 billion while faculty salaries have been frozen and tuition was raised.
However, enrollment is at a record high with a diverse population of 107,000 students registered last fall. The school has also managed to hire 129 new faculty members this year.
Trustee Sue Talbot said she found McRobbie’s speech to be positive and “right on target.”
“A lot of what he talked about will benefit students just like you,” she said.
Talbot said she worked her way through school during a time where it wasn’t as easy to receive support via scholarships or financial aid.
IU Kokomo School of Public and Environmental Affairs professor Karl Besel agreed.
“It seems that in the long term, President McRobbie is doing all he can to keep scholarship participation and levels up,” he said.
Expansion and reallocation of facilities is on the horizon, with a possible school of public health and an extension of Woodlawn Avenue past 12th St., connecting the north and south parts of campus.
McRobbie suggested that IU has avoided many of the cutbacks plaguing other universities and colleges because of fiscal discipline. IU has saved $23.3 million and will save the same amount next year due to conservation efforts. This will allow more funding to support scholarships such Rhodes, Fulbright and Truman.
“Much of this good fortune is due to our own planning and actions,” McRobbie said. “At the urging of our trustees, we substantially increased our ‘rainy-day fund’ over the last three years as a buffer against economic downturn.”
McRobbie’s greatest inspiration seemed to come from former IU President and Chancellor Herman B Wells. Wells served his presidential term during America’s Great Depression of the 1930s.
He proposed private philanthropy efforts, gifts from alumni, and “increased appropriations from the General Assembly” as possible solutions to the budget cuts.
So far this fiscal year, Bill and Gayle Cook have given $15 million to IU Athletics and Ostrom gave her approximately $700,000 Nobel Prize money to support the University’s Workshop on Political Theory and Policy Analysis, which she and her husband Vincent founded in 1973.
He ended his speech by stating the focus of every University effort — to strengthen the academic core in all possible means for the benefit of students.
An approximately 30 second round of applause broke out.
Talbot said she feels that McRobbie’s plans for the future extend to something larger.
“As history is written, he will be found to be a visionary in his leadership,” she said. “He and Herman B Wells faced similar challenges because of the economy, but like Wells, President McRobbie is very sensitive to the struggles of students.”