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Campus Update

September 17, 2014

Dear colleagues,

The fall semester is in full swing and now that the crunch of the first few weeks is over, it is a good time to provide you with my first campus update for this academic year, our 10th.

This will be a year in which many initiatives underway will begin coming to fruition.

Faculty members will finish the first phase of their strategic academic-focusing exercise, helping to identify future hires and the different kinds of academic and research spaces that will be needed as we grow to 10,000 students.

On the staff side, the strategic workforce-planning initiative currently underway will also result in a long-term hiring plan and the ability to identify the administrative and staff support positions that the campus’s growth to 10,000 students will require.

Both efforts are critical for the next phase of campus development, and I very much appreciate the thought, struggle and compromise that always accompany any planning exercise where all that we desire, need and deserve is significantly constrained by ongoing funding challenges.

For faculty and staff members who are new to campus, mostly likely you know by now that UC Merced has been facing a serious space shortage despite ongoing construction.

The most recent economic recession stalled state funding for the academic and research buildings critical for teaching our students and facilitating our research. The stall has continued for several years post-recession, so we seek to secure these and other necessary buildings for students and staff through an innovative partnership with the private sector.

If you would like to know more about this effort, which we call the 2020 Project, I invite you to visit the project’s website for detailed information. This website is updated as new milestones in the project have been reached.

Due to space constraints, this is the first of several years where we will intentionally cap student growth below our historical average. While this will help alleviate overcrowding of key spaces such as teaching labs, the library and food-service venues, it also means a corresponding decrease in the amount of new tuition revenues that we have historically received each year.

During these next few lean years, it will be important for administrative and support staff members to focus on initiatives for enhancing efficiency that don’t require a significant expenditure of dollars or a significant number of new hires. Just as we value innovation in faculty research, we should also value it in the other areas of the university. For this reason, we will implement a new program that rewards staff innovation in the next month or two.

This year we will also focus on our campus-climate action plan in response to the campus-climate survey administered by the University of California on all 10 of its campuses.

A draft action plan, based on the work of a planning committee convened at the end of the spring semester, is nearly finished and will soon be reviewed by various campus governance groups before implementation.

The Council on Campus Climate, Culture and Inclusion has been engaged in this work in addition to spearheading a revised Principles of Community statement for UC Merced.  I invite you to review this statement and accompanying video.  These principles are meant to guide our interactions with each other and stand as a statement of our campus’s fundamental values.  

Along with our sister University of California campuses, UC Merced will contribute to a variety of major initiatives launched by President Janet Napolitano, such as sustainability, transfer students and food.

I hope each of you finds this to be a rewarding year at UC Merced. I know change, space shortages, resources constraints and other challenges we will face this year can be difficult and dampen spirits.

But one of the great things about UC Merced is that we consistently rise above adversity and find ways to continue cutting-edge research, to support and educate students, and to improve the quality of this young and vibrant university campus. Thank you for all that you do.
Dorothy Leland

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