First, I am oftentimes asked what the tangible benefits of having joined the Texas Tech University System on Sept. 1, 2007, are. While there are many positive answers to that question, a recent example is noteworthy. Because of contractor delays, construction of Plaza Verde I fell significantly behind schedule and the residence hall could not open as promised in August. While our housing office responded masterfully with alternative arrangements for new freshmen, the final costs associated with the delay can easily top $1 million. While the contract language provided for damages in the event of a delay, the allowable dollar value fell far short of $1 million. Intervention by the Chancellor and others at the system level resulted in an agreement whereby the contractor will reimburse ASU for all costs associated with the delay. Although this is a single example, it demonstrates the benefits associated with membership in this highly visible, prestigious and responsive university system.
Second, we expect another record enrollment this academic year, hopefully surpassing 7,000 students for the first time in our history. As importantly, the academic ability of these new students, as measured by ACT and grade point average, continues to increase which bodes well for our efforts to retain and graduate our students. But as we have become much more adept at analyzing recruitment data, one troubling statistic has emerged within our otherwise positive enrollment trend. While freshman applications have increased significantly, over eight percent higher than last year’s record, the number of these students who actually enroll at ASU has declined. Thus, our enrollment increase appears to be due to retention of existing students and in the number of new graduate students. While these are positive trends, our long-term enrollment goals can only be met by enrolling, retaining and graduating significant numbers of new freshmen.
Finally, public universities have many roles in their communities most notably being good stewards of their resources. While our campus is extraordinarily beautiful, it is very dependent on water in a region where rainfall is historically scarce. Thus, our new construction projects, most notably Plaza Verde, the Campus Green and the recreation center addition to the Center for Human Performance, have all been constructed to the most rigorous environmental standards. For example, Plaza Verde will be certified as a LEED’s (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) silver or gold building, while the recreation center is able to capture and re-use rain water for all its non-drinking purposes.
While we face new challenges this coming year, I would like to close by noting that we remain a vibrant academic institution, well positioned for the future. One need only glance at the list of new faculty and staff who have joined us this year to understand that we are all part of an exceptional institution.
Joseph C. Rallo