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Chancellor Davis: University System Cannot Continue Business As Usual

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Chancellor Says Institutions Will Play a Larger Role in Meeting Challenges

Atlanta — January 12, 2010

University System of Georgia (USG) Chancellor Erroll B. Davis Jr., in his annual “State of the System” address to the Board of Regents today, evoked the challenges the first board faced in 1932 and said that to progress, the System cannot continue to do “business as usual.”

Davis called for a three-level response to the challenges posed by $323 million in budget cuts, record student enrollment and the end of $147 million in federal stimulus funding in 2012. “First, we will unleash the collective brainpower of this great System,” Davis said in outlining the three points. “Second, the Board of Regents will develop and set the key principles that will guide our institutions in their work and third, we will encourage our institutions to experiment with new ways of accomplishing our mission.”

With the creation of University System in the midst of the Great Depression, Davis said, “Gov. Richard Russell Jr. reinvented higher education in Georgia.” He said that that first board understood the need to invest in the future, despite the short-term economic crisis, and that the same philosophy holds true today.

The response to the economic situation, Davis said, must include an evaluation of the current academic model coupled with a back-to-basics approach. “It is going to be challenging to pay more attention to basics while at the same time calling for expanded innovation,” he said.

Institutional presidents must be given greater freedom to innovate and to collaborate with one another, Davis said. One of the areas of renewed focus will be on institutional missions. “I would prefer to see more institutions sharpening, honing and tightening their missions rather than seeking to expand them based upon institutional aspirations versus true state need,” he said. This may mean that some activities cease in order to align missions with reduced resources, Davis said.

Davis called upon the board to approve a set of principles that will be developed to guide the institutional presidents. “This work must begin immediately, as it is the most important step,” Davis said. He noted the development of principles would be a focus of subsequent board meetings this year.

These principles also will help direct innovation at the campus level, especially Davis said, among faculty. “We have over 40,000 minds out there that can address our challenges. Our faculty in particular have the capacity to blaze new ground,” he said.

The chancellor also gave a glimpse of some of the expected outcomes of this new approach to public higher education, which include best practices, some of which can be implemented System wide and some, which will be unique to an institution. He cautioned that along with some “stunning successes” would come some failures. “Remember, at one point Babe Ruth not only held the record for home runs, he held the record for strikeouts as well,” Davis said.

The full text of Davis’ remarks can be accessed at http://www.usg.edu/chancellor/speeches/chancellors_state_of_the_system_address_2010/

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