Ramsey’s annual address highlights student issues

By on September 16, 2008

By Emory Williamson

In his annual State of the University Address this past Tuesday, University of Louisville President James Ramsey emphasized the achievements and obstacles facing the university, including student-related issues such as housing and food and information technology services.
“Students who are engaged in campus life have higher retention and higher graduation rates,” said Ramsey to a near-capacity crowd at Comstock Hall about the housing partnership made with the Edwards Company that will bring 850 new beds to Belknap campus next fall. “Building a strong residential campus continues to be a priority of our institution because of the impact it has on our academic success.”
Ramsey also spoke about the improvements in academia at the university, including the largest and most academically prepared freshman class.
“We continue to become a school of choice and not merely a school of convenience,” said Ramsey.
“I felt he represented very good visions for the university,” said Andrew Carroll, a sophomore English and political science major. “It’s a very good time to be a student at U of L.”
Ramsey emphasized academic, research and individual achievements over the past year including the Business Person of the Year award he won last year.
“When the President receives recognition, it is because of you, the entire university,” he said. “So it is you that deserves the praise.”
Ramsey said the past year marked a “special milestone” due to the university completing the Challenge for Excellence. He called it “the road map that guided this university for the past decade.”
“Our Board [of Trustees] knew that it would not be easy – the fiscal challenges would be overwhelming, but we had to move full speed ahead,” said Ramsey of the Board’s decision to continue the Challenge for Excellence once he came on as president in 2003. “We stayed the course, we moved ahead, we dared to be great – and we are great.”
But Ramsey said work remains as the university handles a new set of goals, the 2020 Plan, as well as significant budget cuts.
The 2020 Plan, to be achieved by the university by the year 2020, includes increasing graduation rates, improving campus life with more on-campus residents, increasing nationally recognized programs and research funding, expanding local and statewide programs and initiatives, and placing a greater emphasis on increasing undergraduate teaching and learning.
“We again recommit to be the leader in preparing students to live and work in a global society, with emphasis on cultural diversity, international student and social justice,” he said.
Even with budget concerns, Ramsey said the financial model the university has implemented will permit the development of the 2020 Plan.
“Our financial model will continue to guide us,” he said. “It has been working and it will help us move forward.”
Although students enjoyed segments of the address, many thought certain issues weren’t highlighted as much as they should have been.
“I’m really interested in his 2020 plan,” said Hunter Davis, a sophomore philosophy major. “But it would have been nice if he had gone more in-depth about that and about the transition from a commuter to a residential campus.”
Carroll  wished Ramsey would have said more on how U of L plans to retain more students during the campus change from a commuter school to more of a residential campus.
Carroll and other U of L students, such as Chris Young and Rob Carlson, enjoyed the address, but were concerned with the lack of information Ramsey provided about key issues, including tuition, funding and campus safety.
“I think he should’ve covered the rising cost of tuition and the lack of funding,” said Young, a sophomore sports administration major.
Carlson, a junior music major, said the 2020 Plan sounded like a “great venture,” but that he was disappointed with no mention in the address of campus safety.
“Campus safety should’ve been discussed more, just because of Virginia Tech and all the alert e-mails we’ve been getting,” said Carlson. “He should’ve enforced precautions students need to be taking.”
Ramsey  mentioned the investigation of former College of Education and Human Development Dean Robert Felner. Although some critics said the university acted poorly with the investigation, Ramsey said all efforts were being made to ensure the growth of the college.
“Under the leadership of Interim Dean Blake Haselton, the college will continue to grow to address educational needs of our community and state,” he said.
-Brittany Ruehling
contributed to this story.

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