President Moulton reports on the state of the university

By Joan Gandy  Managing Editor "The Vanguard"

Nov. 9, University of South Alabama President Gordon Moulton addressed a crowd of USA faculty in his annual fall "State of the University" address at the Laidlaw Performing Arts Center Recital Hall. "The true measure of an institution is not just how you fare in the best of times -- the true measure of any institution is the progress you make in times of adversity," Moulton said as he opened his fall address. Moulton was pleased to tell the crowd USA had made many improvements since two years ago when the administration and the faculty jointly adopted a five-point vision for the university. That vision includes enhancing academic programs, improving the quality of life for students, increasing public awareness and appreciation for the university, building on the resource base and planning effectively for a bright future. 

President V. Gordon Moulton

One part of the university's success, according to Moulton, is the increase in enrollment USA experienced in fall 2000. "USA grew at a faster rate than any other public university in the state of Alabama," Moulton said. "We grew not only in the numbers of students but grew in the quality of students." This year's freshman class enrollment at USA was up 17.2 percent from last year. Also, 250 of the entering freshmen scored a 26 or higher on the ACT. University-wide enrollment for the fall was up 4.4 percent. USA was the only public university in the state to have growth in both graduate and undergraduate enrollment. USA grew not only in students but also in faculty. Over 50 new employees were hired. Twenty-five of these new employees are a part of the College of Medicine. Not only is USA growing, but it is also diversified. "We're one of the most diversified universities in the state of Alabama," Moulton said. Fourteen percent of USA students are African American, and over 950 international students attend the university. 
Moulton cited better classrooms, more technology and dedicated faculty members and administrators as part of the reason for the university's growth. This growth, according to Moulton, leads to a greater need for funding.
For fiscal year 2001, USA received the largest percent increase of state funding of any public university in Alabama. Moulton said the increase was due to the good stewardship and effective advocacy on the part of faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends of the university. Despite the 7.5 percent increase in funding, USA still has less per student appropriations than other public university in Alabama. Moulton said everyone would have to work hard again this year to bring state funding to USA up to par. Due to the increases in funding, USA faculty and staff were able to receive raises this year. Moulton said paying a good salary was essential to attracting and retaining a quality staff. "We have to be reasonable, we have to be accountable, and we have to attract the best people," Moulton said. USA also turned to the private sector to improve its resources.

Over $10 million in private gifts were donated to USA this year from corporations such as Alabama Power Company, Regions Bank and alumni, such as Dr. and Mrs. Steve Stokes. Moulton admitted the university's relationship with the Foundation was a drain on USA but said he felt better about the situation than before. "Today I am more optimistic about reaching an end in a reasonable time frame." Moulton said. USA has also recently turned to federal funding as a source of income. USA received $30.4 million in external funding in the 2000 fiscal year. Included in that amount was $14 million of direct federal support. The federal money will be used for projects such as an on-campus transportation system, an archaeology museum, a diabetic foot care center and more. In addition to growth in students and funding, Moulton cited many ways student life had been enhanced because of new policies at USA. Moulton said an increase in scholarship money and the establishment of a honors program helped to attract better students.

Over the next four years, USA plans on increasing its number of scholarships to 2,800, double the current number. Moulton said he hopes to continue to improve student experiences at USA with the construction of a one stop shopping office for students. Also a $8 million addition onto the library is currently out for bid. In other news, Moulton reassured faculty that the university's hospitals were back on track to financial health while maintaining the quality of care. The $20 million awarded to USA from a state tobacco suit will be used to find ways to prevent and cure diseases. Also through private donations, USA is building a park around the road leading to USA's Children's and Women's Hospital. Following Moulton's address, Dr. Dan Rogers, chair of the faculty senate, asked Moulton questions faculty members had submitted earlier. The questions ranged in topics from the use of faculty surveys by the administration to improvements in the technological infrastructure of USA. "Technology is a tough thing for every institution across the country today," Moulton said. "On closer examination, we are not nearly as bad off as we think." Moulton added that any professor with an inadequate computer could request and would be provided with an updated one.

It was added by Moulton that computer support on campus was insufficient and needed improvements. Another faculty member wanted to know if the administration would consider a university wide policy about excessive student absences. Moulton responded he did not want any more university-wide policies than are absolutely necessary. He said it is up to the faculty and departments to make polices that encourage class attendance. After Rogers read a complaint by a faculty member about maintenance on campus, Moulton admitted there is a tremendous backlog. Moulton said the problem was also state-wide. Moulton also said it was a priority to receive state funding to fix the problem. Moulton concluded his speech by encouraging faculty to attend the graduation ceremonies in December. "Our university image is important. We have to feel good about ourselves before other people feel good about us," Moulton said.

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