To: Faculty and Staff
From: Stephen T. Hulbert, President
As I write this message each of us is settling into the routine of the new semester. I hope that your holiday break was relaxing and that you look forward to the late winter and spring months ahead as we complete the spring semester.
It is difficult for me to believe that I am completing my seventh month at Nicholls. The fall semester is a blur of events, activities and speeches as I visited with the broader community across the tri-parish area and beyond. Those efforts have been fruitful in terms of building personal recognition in the region and in developing contacts interested in Nicholls. While I will continue some of that activity this spring, my intent is to focus more time and effort into having a greater presence on campus.
My intent is to begin scheduling morning coffee sessions with randomly selected groups of faculty. I will also be having discussion meetings with the deans as well as a larger gathering of all unclassified personnel.
My purpose in scheduling the latter discussion is to have conversation about recent administrative efforts to make services to the student body more responsive and less burdensome. There has been a good amount of work completed this past fall resulting in some improvement to support services across campus. Implementation of several changes has been delayed because of needed software enhancements.
While I am able to see progress in reducing lines and in streamlining services, to be honest, we still have a long way to go. Involved administrative staff need to look at all of their respective office services and the procedures employed in their delivery to look for ways to make them both more efficient and more responsive.
Eugene Dial, who has Chaired service discussions this past fall, has correctly recommended that we now consider ways to better serve faculty and staff. Certainly, state procedures govern much of what we do, but from considerable comment by faculty, it is clear that they feel much could be done to make university operations more responsive, thereby making their lives and professional work easier.
That committee will be organized in the next week with faculty representatives being selected through Faculty Senate. The results of the group’s work will not only help faculty but that effort will better prepare the University for the SACS accreditation experience that lies ahead.
The fourteenth day of classes is upon us and shortly thereafter we will release a statement on enrollment for the Spring Semester 2004. While indications remain strong for enrollment stability for the Spring, the next days of "clean-up" after the fourteenth day will dictate the final result.
Finally, you will have heard or read media coverage of the budget challenges facing Louisiana for the year ahead. The 500 million dollar shortfall in available resources is already resulting in financial planning initiatives across state government. Higher education has been given indications that planned increases in mandated costs may well not be funded. If this occurs, Nicholls and each of the other public two and four year institutions will face budget challenges.
The University administration is undertaking a budget planning process in order to address projected operating conditions for the 2004-2005 fiscal year ahead. The focus of that process obviously involves maintaining a balanced budget but one reached with the least damaging impact on the academic programs and the students it serves.
Let me assure you that faculty, staff and the student body in general will be kept advised as to budget conditions facing the University. No actions will be taken unilaterally without discussion with campus leadership and prior communication within the University community.
I regret ending this correspondence on a negative note but I believe it to be critically important that the faculty and staff be kept informed in this matter. Please know my confidence in the belief that much good lies ahead in the life of this young university. Louisiana is already doing much to strengthen its education community. Just as importantly, I believe that the state will aggressively work to move through the current phase of this financial challenge.