By Marcus Lavergne
Last Tuesday, Sept. 29, University of Nevada, Reno, President Marc Johnson gave his State of the University speech in front of over 200 people. The speech highlighted topics like growth, funding and future planning for different departments at the University. Near the beginning of the address, President Johnson condemned the activities of the secret society known as Coffin and Keys.
Johnson stated that the group does not “improve the university,” but rather attacks various demographics of people through words and actions. He claimed that Coffin and Keys’ actions were comparable to those who use anonymous Web apps and websites to post hurtful comments on the Internet. He quoted the Sept. 21 issue of Time magazine, which stated, “[The anonymity of the Internet] brings out the worst in humans.”
“The University stands for inclusiveness, equity and respect,” Johnson said.
He pointed out that diversity was increasing on campus. This growth, which is happening among multiple minority groups, is “an important indicator of the University’s intentions to actively recruit across a vast spectrum of Nevada’s populations,” according to Johnson. He made it clear that organizations like Coffin and Keys or groups of individuals that impede such growth “do not represent our student body as a whole.”
After receiving applause from the crowd, Johnson transitioned into more scholastic matters, including funding, building plans, overall student success, and student and faculty population growth, which has been one of the most prominent topics on campus.
Data included in Johnson’s address showed numbers that include the largest freshman class in UNR’s history at about 3,851 students, a 7 percent rise from last year in student full-time equivalency, and a 30 percent rise in National Merit Scholars over the past five years. The current NMS population is at 50, 16 of whom belong to the class of 2019.
Johnson said that the student population is more successful than ever. UNR is currently generating a freshman-to-sophomore student retention rate of 81 percent. The retention rate denotes the number of students who start at a university and remain there for subsequent years. Johnson also stated that both the six-year and four-year graduation rates have improved at the University.
With graduation rates rising, Johnson pointed out that administration was handling a population growth rise that symbolized good things for the University. In a Sept. 22 interview with The Nevada Sagebrush, Associate Vice President of Planning, Budget and Analysis Bruce Shively mentioned that the population increase meant a higher quality of learning due to the large influx of college-ready students.
That being said, President Johnson expressed that a year ago the University was not ready for the huge population boom that took place, but there are now plans to bring in more faculty with more tenured positions, build more housing for freshman between 2017 and 2019, and slow enrollment growth in order to avoid what he called a “painful deficit in resources.”
Johnson said that some ways the University will be cutting down on enrollment include reducing the amount of $1,000 scholarships given out to qualified entrants, pushing up the enrollment date for the University to April 7 and increasing qualifications for Western Undergraduate Exchange students who receive cheaper out-of-state funding than traditional out-of-state students.
Johnson stressed that the University was not only growing in terms of population size, but was also expanding in terms of character and effectiveness. He called it “a time for transformation.”
“The University is transforming and deepening the way we fulfill our missions,” Johnson said.
Johnson brought up a moment during Mayor Hillary Schieve’s State of the City address last month where she said, “[Now], more than ever, we are a university town.” Some examples include the newest off-campus student housing on Evans Street as well as the University’s Innevation Center in downtown Reno. Student athletes also gave around 6,000 hours to community service during the 2014-2015 school year.
Johnson even expressed that plans for a new, four-year medical building in Reno were in the works, as well as renovation plans for several buildings on campus including White Pine Hall, a residence hall near the south end of the University.
Johnson concluded with a statement on the University’s transformational achievements. He deemed that those achievements would come through a commitment to achieving excellence that is deeply instilled in the University’s community.
Marcus Lavergne can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @mlavergne21.