I want to begin by acknowledging, before he gives his speech, our distinguished chair of the senate, Professor Becker, for the outstanding work he has done over the last several years. To the incoming chair, Marcia Welsh, I am wishing you very well and appreciate your taking the time to take on this responsibility. I want to thank also again our Provost James Moeser for the work that he did with the Future Committee and the work that has gone on beyond that during the summer, in particular the work that we have done with the legislature during the latter part of spring and during the summer in restoring the funds that were taken away from us.
But especially I want to thank the faculty for the confidence they continue to have in the institution in spite of a very difficult time. I was trying to find something with some vision of hope and some of you reminded me that the saying from St. Augustine is "Hope has two daughters. Their names are anger and courage: anger at the way things are and courage to see that they do not have to remain as they are." We have those feelings of anger and courage. People have been asking me last week, "How are things going? Are the students all back? What is the morale on campus?" I said the morale is the best it has ever been, and the morale is the worst it has ever been. We are proud of our achievements. We know that we are better than people think we are because of the faculty here who are dedicated to this institution. There are many quantitative measurements that we can use to measure our success. I won't go into all of those; you can read them in the annual report. The wonderful thing about the end of the year is that when you write annual reports and you read annual reports, some people are astonished by the accomplishments of the year.
No institution in the state comes close to the number of degrees that we gave last year -- some 5,000 total degrees, 1,800 masters degrees, 300 Ph.D.'s. It requires tremendous dedication to take on those master's degree students, those Ph.D. students, those honor students, just as it does to graduate all those students who entered the University from the lower half of their respective classes. We service this state like no other institution, and no other institution comes close to awarding that many degrees.
I want to tell you some very good news to begin with, and it has to do with our incoming class. A little over a year ago, the Admissions Committee and you endorsed raising the standards for our incoming class. We said that we would raise it just a tenth of a percent as far as the grade point average was concerned. People were concerned that a reduced size of the class and reduction of a couple hundred students would mean maybe $500,000 or $600,000 lost from the budget. We obviously didn't feel like we wanted to be penalized for improving our quality, and I heard that even from the financial arenas of the university, asking, "Do you really want to do this? Is this a time to be cutting ourselves short when other people are opening their admission and taking in just about anyone?" We gambled with that. We said, well, we hope that eventually that would result in better students and more students. We had a late start last year beefing up the admissions office, but we did hire counselors and we were very aggressive in seeking applicants.
We had the best applicant pool we have had at this institution. Only three of our colleges in late spring had applicant pools whose students' SAT's were under 1,000. But we know that many times we are the institution of last resort. Many people are going to apply, but getting the matriculating student is going to be very difficult. But we have the best numbers we have ever had. They are not final numbers, but at most we are down about 100 students in the freshmen class. Depending on the transferees and the retention that affect us in a major way, we shouldn't be down that much from last year.
But we have had dramatic changes in the SAT scores. One of the college presidents of the public colleges in South Carolina stood in front of the Commission on Higher Education and was bragging that the SAT of his particular school may go up seven points, and that based on the national average this was going to be profound. Well, let me tell you that excluding the provisional-year students, our SAT of the incoming class is 989, a 36-point increase. And even with provisional students -- by the way provisional students' average SAT last year was 763, and this year it is 800 -- it is 963, up 30 points. For the honors college, the average SAT this year is 1218 and for Carolina Scholars it's 1320.
This is really a dramatic turnaround in what has happened with our SAT's. I think the credibility is there, and I believe that next year we will recuperate the few students that we have lost because of improving that quality.
We have more national merit students -- last year we had six and this year we have 17. And we have more South Carolina valedictorians -- last year 35 and this year 48. I'm proud of this and hope the headlines will say that. Bill Robinson is not here, but I told him about this and hope that he gets it in the paper. It is a credit. It is really a new start for the University.
This morning, we had a historic meeting in Charleston where, for the first time, the boards of trustees of the University of South Carolina, Clemson University, and MUSC met jointly for the purpose of exploring and adopting a resolution which would encourage and endorse the idea of doing more collaborative research in a more formal way. We hope to come together and help plan to teach at least that kind of research that might be particularly important to economic development in the state, and to have the three universities come together and identify certain areas in which we are regularly active and some areas where we have already collaborated. We hope to improve the South Carolina Research Education Foundation Program, the SCAMP Program, which is the South Carolina Alliance on Minority Participation, and even the South Carolina Research Authority, which runs the three research parks in the state. We acknowledge the grass-roots cooperation that has taken place among the institutions, but we also realize that we have lost something in the way that colleges and universities are organized in the state, as we acknowledge through the Council of Presidents' concept, where all of the institutions come together. But even that does not allow us a proper focus on the distinctiveness of the missions of research universities, so it is good that we have this realization and focus by these boards that we are special, that no one has this mission, that research is an important element for these institutions, and that it is inextricably linked to good teaching, to quality of life and development, and to the economic well-being of the state.
It will also help industry in the state focus where they need to put their support for higher education. That's the next step. The boards will have representation of at least two people from each board to meet regularly to address issues that affect our university standards.
Again, this is a tribute to the quality of work that is now going on at this institution. We do about $60 million of research grants a year. I think Clemson does about $40 million, but Clemson's public service work from being a land grant institution increases that figure to about $100 million, money for which they don't have to compete. The Medical University gets about $40 million. But even if you add all of our research endeavors together, we don't do as much research as Purdue University or Johns Hopkins University, to use two extremely significant examples, so we need to collaborate more effectively.
During the summer, I think the faculty and the Board of Trustees and the University were able to show an aspect of the idea of the University which is essential to what our character really should be. And you know the course I am talking about was "Christian Fundamentalism and Public Education," which created a tremendous amount of concern in the religious community and among the citizens of this state and the surrounding states. The Board of Trustees was barraged with letters encouraging us to cancel that course. We did not do that. We had no intention of doing that. The academic input from the faculty committees acknowledged that perhaps a different way of announcing that course would have been more politically acceptable. But the value of the course, the concept of academic freedom, and the privilege that this University has to teach what the faculty feels ought to be taught was upheld.
As you know, the course was completed, and it received outstanding reviews, and all of the promotion and tenure issues with which we dealt during the summer were brought to fruition. I think we are a better institution because of how we handled this, and I think everyone has learned a lesson. I am proud of the faculty support, and I am proud of what we accomplished during that particular time for the University. It did take almost constant day-to-day communication with board members and people outside the University and members of the legislature. One time, I think I got a petition signed by nearly 50 legislators saying this course ought to be canceled, and then we received calls from some of them saying, "I really didn't mean it. I had to sign this petition." But nevertheless I think the University upheld its responsibilities. In spite of the fact that we lost some outstanding faculty this year, we also hired extremely well. We have 53 new faculty, 53 new teaching scholars who have placed their trust in this institution. We are grateful for the departments and the faculty who helped recruit these new faculty, who gave them a vision of what this institution is and what it could mean to them. Thirteen percent of the new hires are African-Americans. We are making progress. If you read the USC Times, you will see the description of some of the outstanding individuals we were able to bring in to head departments, among which are geography and geology. So there are good things happening there. We have new leadership. And I am sure the provost will also talk about that even though some of it is on an interim basis -- in the dean's positions in business, humanities and social sciences, and math and science. We also have new leadership in the provost's office that I believe reflects the trust the administration has in the faculty that we have here now. We appreciate Don Greiner's being willing to step in there.
Our challenges for the year are enormous. We did achieve something last year in spite of the fact that we did not receive any additional resources for our more important priorities, and that is salary increases. But knowing that was going to be difficult, we did get regulatory relief, alleviating many of the things that hinder our operating in an autonomous way.
We received about two-thirds of the number of things that we thought were important to us, and the legislature went along with those ideas. We fought all year to restore $30 million that was taken away from us in higher education. Thank goodness there was a surplus, if you want to call it that. It is sort of a misnomer -- a surplus in what they thought were going to be the revenue collections that allowed them to restore the $30 million that they took away from higher education, and people called and said we want you to know that you have got $30 million. I said thank you, it was mine to begin with. But at least it allowed us to initiate many of the recommendations of the Future Report.
But the $30 million is not there again for next year. So we have to fight the same battle, and then there are some other obligations. So we have our work cut out for us such that if there is new revenue, it should be put in as a reoccurring, committed expense for the University. There is some "surplus" left over this year that we have been asked to bid for. It would be one- time money, and we will be aggressive in trying to get those funds to do some things that can be accomplished on a one-time basis.
You see the construction of the new music building going up. That ought to make all of you feel good. It will also help us to attract outstanding faculty and outstanding students. We were the one that initiated the retirement system for our faculty, which other institutions followed. Ninety-five faculty have availed themselves of this retirement option, saving us about $6 million. Now, we will have to replace a number of those faculty, but even if we replace half of them with good starting salaries for young people, we should still have resources freed up for us to meet the Future Committee recommendations but also maybe to do something about salary inequities and compression.
Thirteen-hundred-and-fifty faculty and staff availed themselves of the tuition remission program last year. I think those individuals have a much better sense of what a University is because of that opportunity and it is good we can provide that incentive and opportunity for study or further study.
We have continued to try to trim the money spent on our administration and infrastructure not relating to academic work. In the last three years we have reduced administrative costs by $12 million, and now more than 75 percent of our budget goes to either research, instruction, library, or other academic areas. So this is a shifting of our resources, but obviously not yet enough.
We are still engaged in our self-analysis. The Future Committee effort in which we were engaged last year was not just a one-time effort. We now have a three-year budget. The provost will talk more about the process.
We are still involved with the three-pronged effort designed to prepare this institution for the next century. There is the Future Committee effort. And there is the master plan of the campus, and by the way the master planners are going to be back here at the end of September. They have a marvelous vision of the use of space on this campus. We are going to have the opportunity for the faculty to see that. I was not able to see the version they presented a couple of weeks ago. I heard very good things about their analysis of our campus.
Lastly, we are again engaged in looking at the infrastructure of our administrative operation and use of our personnel not related directly to academic activities. This taskforce project is one that is elaborate. It is rigorous. It is tremendously detailed. It is analyzing all or mostly all of the nonacademic functions of the University, and we look forward this year to receiving that report and becoming more effective and more efficient as we use all the resources of the campus.
Not a day goes by, I think you will agree with me, that the newspapers do not show that the tone of the country is filled with uncertainty, ambiguity, a sense of lack of direction. The world seems to be looking for leadership. As Norma and I traveled throughout Europe, I received the same message over and over again: Is the United States going to take the lead? What is going to be the new paradigm for world economic development? How are we going to solve the ethnic strife in our society?
I told you before I believe in the chaos theory, that really the future is unpredictable, and even when people strategically plan, there are just many occasions where those strategic plans are completely off line. Nobody predicted the end of the Cold War. Nobody predicted the strife ongoing in Eastern European countries. Nobody believed that lowering the interest rates would not stimulate the economy. Almost any economic prediction that you've heard over the last year or two has been erroneous. For every example that is brought some attention, some historical counterexample says that does not work either, in economics, politics, the sphere of analyses.
What we do know is that changes are upon us more rapidly than ever. And the changes are enormous in substance, and we must be prepared. And the University has to play a unique role in getting prepared.
We have a number of things with which we will deal specifically this year. Those are always the ongoing, everyday things. When we have our Administrative Council meetings we listen to the pressures that confront us every day. We had an all-day meeting at the President's House this week where I just asked the vice presidents to give us a more visionary reflection on the accomplishments in their areas and their sense of the future without too much of the day- to-day things. It is difficult to do. People are occupied with the day-to-day challenges of their areas of responsibility. But we have a number of things that we are going to accomplish this year. We are going to implement the Future Committee's recommendations for this year. We are going to finish the master plan. We are going to finish TASCOR. We are going to deal with some promotion and tenure issues in the University. We are going to work to solve salary inequities. We are going to work to try to get salary increases like we have never worked before. Some of you are very interested in parking. We will address parking along with the master plan. We are dealing with the sensitive issue of sexual harassment. Read the last issue of Harper's and the debate in it among some academicians as far as legislation that universities are passing on restricting -- What should I call it? I don't want to call it sexual behavior -- certain relationship behavior. Let's call it that -- "relationship behavior" -- and the responsibility of faculty and people in authority in academic institutions in those relationships, an issue that we will face on this campus.
We were worried about our visual identity. We have been reviewing that to develop a consistent and compelling visual identity. And we have a broad effort going on to market the university?
But I think the most important thing that we can do at this institution, as the world and nation and this state look for leadership, look for moral authority, look for credible guidance, is, to use the vernacular of today, to be the best that we can be. They say we are still fat in higher education. They say we don't want to teach. They say we are more interested in our professional recognition of research than we are in our commitment to the University. They say we get more for our money if we put money in our technical schools.
It seems to me as the world is looking for leadership, in this time of great uncertainty, that is also a time of great danger. If you do look at historical evidence, these kinds of times of unemployment, of a major paradigm change, of change in the way economics is governed, are also the highest probable times for wars, for conflict, for jealousies, for ethnic strife. In all of these issues we can contribute to understanding in a university setting. We can be the ones who are noted for having that moral authority to examine these issues if we conduct ourselves in the most exemplary manner, if we show our students that they really do come first, that excellence in teaching is a reflection of the character of this institution, that we are committed first of all to those who are paying our salaries, the citizens of this state, that we do seek truth and that we do engage ourselves in that search, that we do provide service, which we do so very generously to the people of this state.
I have asked the deans to send us information on how we provide services in this state. We said keep it brief -- just a couple of pages. We have a stack this high in the office preparing something that will be in the President's Annual Report and that we can send to the legislature to show how we provide services. We are committed to service, but we haven't told the story forcibly enough. If we have any chance of getting support for this institution, I think we must conduct ourselves in that exemplary way. Somebody says, well, all you have to do is win eight football games and some faculty salaries will be raised by some six or seven per-cent. The future is not what it used to be; that may have been once upon a time, but I doubt whether eight wins will get us a salary increase. What will get us one is that if we show citizens that we are part of a solution to major problems facing our society. Better education is absolutely the answer to beginning to understand our problems and to help solve them.
It is a time of two daughters, it is a time of anger and courage: anger because higher education isn't more respected than it is and not more valued; courage to change that. But it is also a great time of hope that we can provide leadership at this institution. I think we have shown a tremendous amount of responsibility the way we have internally cooperated in the self- assessment and reallocated some resources. Our students that have just arrived -- over 25,000 -- have great expectations. And the freshmen class is probably one of the best classes that we ever had. They need us. They have shown trust, and their parents have shown trust in you and this institution. They are the future citizens of this state. If they have a good experience, if they are wiser and have skills to help face the uncertainty, the changes of this society, we will reap the rewards as well.
I look forward to a wonderful year with you and working together and I have the hope that we will achieve many of our objectives. Thank you very much.
I would like to ask you about the report that the Affirmative Action Advisory Committee sent to you in January with a firm recommendation that sexual orientation be added to those guidelines and the response that you gave in February that action would be taken on that and I am wondering what action has been taken and what the status is.
I also said at that time that this was a serious commitment. It would be interpreted the way it should be interpreted -- that just including a statement of sexual orientation was more than that, that there should be a sense of commitment to everything that surrounded that idea. It should involve a broad commitment of the university community. The issue has been discussed, although briefly, by the Faculty Steering Committee and the Advisory Committee. There are some members of the board that haven't discussed this. I think the country also is in a state where we have intense discussion on this particular issue nationally. I think that has also affected the mood. The issue over the course that we taught this summer I think created an atmosphere that we had to take into consideration. So I would like this faculty to have a broader discussion of that issue to understand the implications of it. So it is not just a few in the administration now that would be making that commitment. I hope we can engage in that discussion this year. This is a very serious matter to adopt; the institutions that have adopted it have not fulfilled the principles of adopting it simply by changing a policy statement. So I would rather continue to have discussion on it this year.In addition to a question by another faculty member about academic freedom, which the President said the Provost would answer, James Sears (EDC) thanked the President, Provost, Chairman Becker, and the Faculty Senate for their support during the period of strong criticism of his summer course.
Provost Moeser replied that he was not aware of this situation. Human Resources handles these matters; they are inappropriate for the Provost's Office.
Professor Mack (ARTH) then made the following statement about special topics/problems courses:
The Provost disagreed. One option is to offer the course with the generic title listed in the catalog. He stated that "This requirement only affects that which would change the actual published topic for specific topics and it puts those courses through precisely the same faculty, department chair and dean's approval process that all regularly scheduled courses go through. I think that we have done nothing to deter academic freedom or creativity or even avant garde and esoteric unconventional politically and acceptable courses. That is certainly not our intent."Rick Hughes (PHIL) said that the graduate school seemed to require these forms. Dean Reeves said that is only if the subtitle is to appear on the transcript. This past summer there was no subtitle submitted and so no approval by the graduate school. The subtitle was used publicly.
The meeting was adjourned at 4:25 to be followed by the Senate meeting.