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Letter from the Office of the President

September 9, 2009

OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT

2400 Sixth Street, NW • Suite 402 (202) 806-2500

Washington, DC 20059 Fax (202) 806-9243

 

September 9, 2009

 

Dear Howard University Student Body:

 

Since fall 2008, I have publicly declared the need for an improved student experience at Howard

University. In some areas, we have made great progress. I agree that more needs to be done to

enhance student services. We take the concerns raised by our students very seriously and are

dedicated to finding solutions. As such, we will continue to meet with student leadership in an

environment of mutual respect – as we have done on a regular basis since the beginning of this

administration – to find answers. We maintain an unwavering commitment to providing a

high-quality education. As collective members of our academic community, we have a shared

investment in the future of every student and we will do everything possible to assure success.

 

I am pleased to report that we have addressed some of the issues that student leaders raised last

week and others are in the process of being addressed. Our ability to address a number of these

issues will require additional resources and the strategic reallocation of existing resources. As

you know, all of higher education is facing unprecedented challenges in these tough economic

times. Our university, like many others across the country, is being called upon to do more with

less. Notwithstanding, in areas of critical need, we will allocate the resources necessary to ensure

that we fulfill our commitment to our students.

 

STUDENT SUPPORT SERVICES


Issues related to student enrollment and Student Financial Services are recurring themes in our

discussions with students. After processing more than 24,000 new student admission

applications, accepting almost 8,000, and issuing permits to enroll approximately 3,660. We

opened the University with much excitement and anticipation for the fall 2009 semester. By all

accounts, with the active involvement of student leaders and organizations, the University’s

residence hall move-in and orientation (school and college pinning ceremonies and the Howard

University Student Association initiated Picture This event) were very successful. Our new

students were joined by continuing students, many of whom had participated in general

registration and had satisfied all their financial obligations to the University. We successfully

registered more than 10,000 students and validated nearly 8,000 of them.

 

We instituted for the first time in the history of the University a need-based financial aid

program. Through this program, we have awarded need-based aid to more than 1,200 students,

preserving their access to a Howard University education.

 

We acknowledge that upcoming deadlines to fulfill validation requirements may heighten

students’ anxiety. To address this concern, we have further extended the hours of Student

Financial Services to a schedule of 8:30 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. (Monday through Friday) until

September 25.

 

To accommodate the expected number, selected Student Financial Service functions will be

moved to the Blackburn Center beginning on Friday, September 11. Appropriate staff will be

available to assist in processing outstanding student accounts. We expect approximately 95

percent of students to be financially validated by September 25. As we move forward, we will

encourage students to be part of an advisory committee for student financial services. The Office

of the Provost will work with Financial Services and the Howard University Student Association

(HUSA) to solidify the functions of this group to ensure that representatives operate in

accordance with the legal guidelines around student privacy.

 

FACILITIES AND TECHNOLOGY

 

This fall, we were successful in placing in on-campus housing more than 4,000 students who had

completed timely housing reservations. While we are at full capacity, we have established a

waiting list and will notify students of vacancies. Certainly, there is a critical need for additional

housing. Notwithstanding the current economic climate, we are working aggressively to identify

funding sources to finance additional residential housing for our students.

 

Our libraries are important and valuable resources. A few years ago, the findings of a study of

student usage did not indicate the need for 24-hour service. The result was the current schedule

of library hours, which lengthens the hours during times of peak usage. During fall and spring

semesters, Founders and The Undergraduate (UGL) Library close at midnight on Mondays

through Thursdays and maintain shorter hours on weekends. During the reading and finals

periods, the UGL remains open 24 hours. In the current financial climate, we cannot afford year

long 24-hour staffing of the libraries if they are not being utilized. Where there is a demand and

demonstrated need for usage, however, the hours will be re-evaluated.

 

The role of information technology in a competitive academic environment cannot be overstated.

As with other institutions, our challenge to address technology innovations as they emerge is

ongoing. However, the demands on our resources require a prudent approach to upgrades in this

sector. We are executing a phased approach to wireless connectivity. As recently as last week,

we completed the framework to provide wireless Internet to the College of Dentistry. Each year,

we plan to make incremental steps toward a wireless campus. We have also received a proposal

to address the “paperless university” and will meet with student leadership to discuss technical

feasibility.

 

The University over the last five years has made significant investments to ensure its compliance

with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Between 2007-2009, 47 elevators were renovated

campus-wide. Other buildings, including the Blackburn University Center, the Undergraduate

Library and Locke Hall, have new exterior doors, which are ADA compliant. Restrooms in many

campus and academic buildings have been modified and several are underway, including the CB

Powell Building. The designs for renovations for entrances of Founders, Thirkield Hall and

Rankin Chapel have been completed. Work on Douglass Hall is forthcoming. Our infrastructure

requires routine assessment to ensure that access by members of the community who require

special accommodations is not compromised.

 

OTHER IMPORTANT ISSUES

 

The University’s recycling program will be launched before the end of September 2009. The

improvements around campus will include making recycle bins available in academic buildings

and our residence halls.

 

We are continuing our national search for a permanent Provost and Vice President for Student

Affairs. Students continue to be actively involved on the search committees, which are also

composed of faculty and administrators. This fall, we expect that the pool of candidates will be

narrowed and the finalists selected will be invited to campus to meet with key stakeholders. The

goal is to have the positions filled by January 2010.

 

Our University values due process for students, faculty and staff. There have been several

expressions of concern involving personnel issues and the judiciary process. In handling all such

matters, it is important for us to follow the respective codes of conduct. Formal complaints will

be handled appropriately.

 

We continue to believe that every member of our community should be aware of the budget of

the University and its priorities. For the first time in the history of Howard, last year the

University established the Budget Advisory Committee (BAC), which included HUSA student

representatives and faculty, staff and administrators. The BAC recommended to me budget

priorities for the University. With few exceptions, I endorsed the BAC’s recommendations and

presented them to the Board of Trustees for approval. The BAC is a vehicle for helping Howard

align its resources with its goals. To view the recommendations and supporting documents of the

committee, please visit http://www.provost.howard.edu/HUBudgetProcess.asp. At all times, the

BAC maintained a level of commitment and transparency to the fiscal work being completed.

Having as chair of the BAC, Dr. Alvin Thornton (Interim Provost and Chief Academic Officer),

speaks to the commitment of placing the budget in direct support of our academic programs.

 

There are many in this university family – students, faculty, staff, administration, alumni and

friends – who care about the present and the future of Howard. Like you, we love Howard

University and are committed to building on its legacy and developing it into a unique place in

the academic world – a university that is responsive and that continues to be excellent.

 

We are confident that assuming collective responsibility for our many challenges will result in a

strengthened university.

 

Sincerely,

Sidney A. Ribeau

President

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Baker B. permalink
    September 10, 2009 12:55 am

    One quick question, Mr. President, how can the students demonstrate a “demand” for 24/7 Library access without there being a system to measure the usage of those services? The fact that the students are asking for it proves there’s a demand that exists. The iLab did not need to do a study to establish it’s use of a 24/7 cycle and its use is considered invaluable to students. Allow the Libraries(or simply UGL) to stay open continuously with the staff level of the iLab for about 2 weeks and measure its usage. I believe that if you supple the facility, the students will use it.

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