May 17, 2017
Dear faculty colleagues,
With commencement upon us, I would like to thank you for the support and compassion you have shown your students and the rest of the campus community following our recent tragedy. We were inundated with messages from students, parents, and the Longhorn community expressing concern, frustration, and sympathy. Among those were notes of appreciation from students about compassionate faculty and the generous support they received. I was not surprised to hear the lengths to which many faculty went to help students, but it does reinforce the commitment of our faculty to students.
A great deal has changed in our country this past year. The tenor and climate has sharpened considerably. The value of higher education continues to be called into question. Funding for scholarship and research, across the disciplines, remains uncertain. For those of you who depend on federal funding for basic and applied research, this has been an acute concern. In 2015-16, federal funding accounted for more than 57 percent of research expenditures at UT Austin.
Congress recently passed the budget for fiscal year 2017. Although early budget proposals aimed to make significant cuts to federal research funding, we were relieved to see most of the sources and levels remain largely intact. The immediate risk has passed, but the signal sent by the proposed cuts is clear.
Vice President for Research Dan Jaffe and I are fully focused on doing everything we can to support you and your scholarship and research. UT will continue to advocate vigorously for the vital role your academic contributions play in this country.
One of the most valuable contributions faculty can make to the public discussion is to articulate the importance and societal relevance of your scholarship and research. This can take many forms, whether through local outreach, penning op-eds through Texas Perspectives or the Op-Ed Project, or involving your students – both undergraduate and graduate – to high-quality research.
Many of our faculty are already engaged in this work. Some examples of op-eds by our faculty this semester include:
- How Slashing the NEA Would Damage the US Economy by Paul Bonin-Rodriguez and Charlotte Canning
- The Danger of News Media Polarization by Michael Mosser
- Texans Need Better Education About Spice and K2 by Jane Maxwell
I encourage you to continue to think about the ways in which you can share the impact and relevance of your research and scholarship. By better communicating the impact to the public, we can bridge the gap in understanding and preserve the essential public support for UT’s research mission.
As the semester draws to a close, and we all prepare to celebrate the accomplishments of our graduates, I want to thank you for the warm welcome you have given me in my first year at UT.
I wish the best for a productive summer, and I hope you will take some time to relax and recharge in preparation for the next academic year.
Executive Vice President and Provost
The University of Texas at Austin