February 11, 2002
Board endorses agenda on governance
AU ready to launch wireless curriculum
Students design prototypes for Habitat
village alternatives for campus master plan.
AU to cap enrollment, add dorms
AU will have the largest influx of new student housing in more than 30 years under guidelines set Feb. 1 by the Board of Trustees for the university's master plan.
In a meeting at Auburn University at Montgomery, the board restated a 1989 goal of limiting enrollment to 25,000 students and added a goal of eventually housing all freshmen on campus.
Those guidelines were among several issued to planning consultants Sasaki Associates in their development of a master plan to guide physical development of the campus through the first decades of the 21st century.
Sasaki representatives, in discussions with the board's Property and Facilities Committee and other board members, outlined progress on development of precinct plans that would turn central academic areas into a pedestrian campus. The main focus of discussion, however, was on potential sites for the proposed student village, new housing and additional parking.
The consultants suggested the addition of housing for 2,600 more students in response to a university goal of making Auburn a more residential campus. That goal seeks to reverse a 30-year trend toward a commuter campus.
The university now houses 3,400 of its 22,000 students on campus. Except for 138-unit CDV extension, built in the late 1970s, AU has not added significantly to its housing inventory since construction of the South Women's Dorms in the 1960s, when the student population was 14,000.
Sasaki identified the space between Wallace Center and the Max Morris parking area for much of the proposed new housing. Part of that space was originally destined to hold the new student union, but that space was freed for development after the board agreed to the alternate concept of a series of buildings for a student village.
The consultants listed three potential sites for the student village, but the site receiving the most attention would be on the south side of Thach Avenue west of Petrie Hall. A large part of the site would be in the shadow of the stadium, but it would have the advantage of being close to parking and the stadium and still be near the center of campus. The other sites are northeast of Haley Center and part of the current site of Foy Union. Either of those will present problems finding adequate parking, the consultants said.
While the board discussed plans for additional dorms, two aging campus housing facilities -- Noble Hall and Caroline Draughon Village -- were marked for demolition.
Ninety-bed Noble Hall, built in 1957, will be torn down, possibly within a year, to clear a site for a massive new transportation technology center. The north end of Duncan Drive and two parking lots will also be closed to make room for the building, which will be nearly twice the size of nearby Broun Hall.
Drake Student Health Center is east of the technology center site and would be spared from demolition for that project, but board members said they want to proceed with plans for a new student health center to replace Drake, which was built in 1938.
The Sasaki plan also calls for demolition of Caroline Draughon Village, a 28-building, 384-unit complex, built in 1959. Planners said the site could be a remote 2,000-vehicle parking lot, with transit connections, as the campus grows to 25,000 or more students. They also suggested its use as an RV parking area with utlity hookups and other amenities for use by fans during football season.
One factor the board considered in sticking with the cap of 25,000 on enrollment was the impact of larger enrollments on campus parking. The planners advised that the university would need to find sites and financing for up to five parking garages if enrollment rises to 30,000.
Highlights of Feb. 1 AU Board decisions
The AU Board of Trustees on Feb. 1:
* Reaffirmed an enrollment cap of 25,000 for the main campus.
* Authorized the first major increase in campus housing units in 30 years.
* Approved awarding of an honorary degree to U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby at a graduation to be announced later.
* Approved a new bachelor's degree in wireless technology -- the first in the nation. The request now goes to the Alabama Commission on Higher Education.
* Asked Sasaki Associates to proceed with plans for a more pedestrian campus.
* Agreed to place the $50 million transportation technology center on the site of Noble Hall.
* Agreed to close the north end of Duncan Drive as part of the technology center development.
* Withheld selection of an architect for the technology center until a construction project manager is identified.
* Selected a site southwest of the Hill Dorms for a new home for the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences.
* Authorized planners for the Student Village to seek an architect and construction manager for pre-design assistance.
* Approved site elevations for the new Science Laboratories Building between Quad Dorms and Chemistry Building.
* Approved plans for a new track-and-field facility south of the Auburn Soccer Field.
* Approved an addition to Dudley Hall for the Department of Building Science.
* Approved housing rate increases for AU and AUM campuses and asked for a study of housing costs in comparison to local markets and peer institutions.
Candidates for governor to appear at forum
Six 2002 candidates for governor of Alabama have committed to participate in the Auburn University Student Government Association's Feb. 18 gubernatorial forum.
The event --- "Vision for the State of Alabama" --- is set for 6:30 p.m. in the Student Activities Center on the Auburn campus. The 90-minute forum will be televised live by Alabama Public Television.
SGA president Brandon Riddick-Seals said candidates who are committed include U.S. Rep. Bob Riley of Ashland, Greenville businessman Tim James and Lt. Gov. Steve Windom of Mobile --- all Republicans; state Commissioner of Agriculture Charles Bishop, a Democrat; Libertarian John Sophocleus of Opelika; and Independent Gladys Riddle of Chilton County.
Gov. Don Siegelman is the only major candidate who has not accepted an invitation, Riddick-Seals said.
The forum, which will be the first major event of the 2002 campaign, will be moderated by APTV's Tim Lennox.
"There will be less than four months left before the primaries when the forum takes place and we think it's important for Alabamians to have a chance to hear all respond to the same real questions from real voters," said Riddick-Seals. "And, since this is on a college campus, to send a message to young people that their votes matter."
In addition to the forum, each candidate present will have the opportunity to distribute campaign information in designated areas. A voter registration booth will also be set up at the event.
Riddick-Seals said the forum is open to all, but seating in the Student Activities Center is limited. Alabama's primary elections are set for June 4 with primary run-offs set for June 25. Alabama's general election will be Nov. 5.
New retirement law prompts RSA advisory
The deputy director of the Retirement Systems of Alabama is advising education employees to think twice before retiring to take advantage of a new state law.
That law, which goes into effect June 1, provides incentives for employees who are age 55 or older to retire after 25 years and continue working at the institution for three to five more years. For some employees, the incentives may be a windfall, but others could lose money over the course of their retirement, said RSA Deputy Director Marc Reynolds.
The new law is called the DROP law, which is short for Deferred Retirement Option Plan.
Briefing AU's administrative council on Jan. 29, Reynolds said employees who retire and then return to their old jobs for up to five more years could gain the financial benefits of those who take jobs outside state government or state institutions. The retirement funds, however, will be placed in an interest-earning escrow account and returned to the employee in a lump sum at the end of the second work period.
Meanwhile, the employee would continue working for the same institution, possibly in his previous job, and drawing a salary from that job.
The problem some retiring employees may face with DROP, Reynolds said, is that they will lock themselves into a retirement income based on what they earned annually for the last three years before retiring. For example, when an employee with 25 years service retires and starts the second job with the state or resumes the previous one, he will start over with a second account rather than building toward 30 years on the previous account. Contributions during that period will boost the employee's escrow account but will not count toward total years of service.
Those who work straight through for 30 years without participating in the DROP program will retire with an amount equal to 60 percent of the average salary for their final three years, exclusive of any beneficiary options. If those same persons retire at 25 years under the DROP program, they lock in the retirement benefit at 50 percent but collect benefits in the escrow account during the next three to five years.
Reynolds said employees who retire after 25 years and stay on the job for a total of 28 to 30 years without a significant increase in pay during the final three to five years will gain financially from the DROP option. Those who get a large increase in salary, usually through a promotion, and then stay at least three years, could lose money by taking the DROP option.
The age limit of 55 favors retention of employees who would like to finish their careers at the same institution, Reynolds noted. Those who retire in their late 40s or early 50s, usually intend to go somewhere else anyway, but older employees are more likely to remain if given the option, he said.
Employees may apply for the DROP program 30 to 90 days before their planned retirement date. For AU employees planning to retire on June 1, the starting date for the DROP program, the earliest available sign-up date would be Monday, March 4.
During February, the RSA will provide Auburn's Office of Payroll and Employee Benefits with updated retirement forms and information, he said.
Information about the DROP law is available under "Legislation" at the RSA web site. For questions, the RSA toll-free phone number is 1-800-214-2158, extension 499.
Board endorses eight-point agenda on AU governance
The AU Board of Trustees on Feb. 1 endorsed recommendations from consultant William Weary as an agenda for improving governance and relationships among constituencies over the next few years.
"For Auburn to move forward and continue providing a quality education for our students, we needed to grade the university on its day-to-day operations and analyze its direction for the future," said interim President William Walker.
"This is a comprehensive and challenging report that tells us what we are doing well, where we need to improve and how to get to where we want to go."
Weary, a consultant with Fieldstone Consulting, Inc., in Washington, D.C., prepared the 43-page report. He is nationally prominent for his publications and workshops on presidential searches and assessments of university presidents and boards, which are used by the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges.
As part of his study of Auburn, Weary interviewed more than 160 people representing all facets of campus life. They included trustees, administrators, deans, the athletic director, information technology leaders, the legislative director, facilities coordinator, faculty leaders, undergraduate and graduate student leaders, officials from the alumni and development office and officials from various organizations, such as the Auburn Foundation and Auburn Alumni Association.
"During the course of the months I've watched Auburn, I've had the impression of a descent, a plateau, and, now, the beginning of a rise," Weary's report says. "Much powerful work already has begun."
In looking at Auburn's current situation and needs, Weary proposed an eight-point plan that covers each area of the university. The report's agenda for Auburn details how the university is currently performing, the challenges it faces and the tasks it should undertake in that area.
The report identifies and addresses the following needs: ensuring that Auburn is assessing and meeting the needs of its students, colleges, departments and other "customers;" planning for needed renovation and maintenance; properly funding a campus that is "starved for resources;" enhancing and unifying the university's advancement activities; developing a clear academic mission; developing a stronger university administration; amending the way Auburn governs itself, including changes to the structures and procedures of the Board; and conducting long-range planning.
Weary gave high marks to Auburn's academic programs that, despite many challenges, have "become far stronger." He specifically praised the Peaks of Excellence initiative, which emphasizes designated research programs as Auburn hallmarks.
"The Peaks -- steadily supported and radiating excitement and success -- have become model Auburn programs in research, outreach, instruction, public relations and revenue-generating potential," according to the report.
However, the report states that obstacles facing Auburn include budgeting issues, the need for systematic reviews of programs and faculty performance and the need to integrate information technology in the classroom.
AU ready to start new curriculum in Wireless Engineering
The AU Board of Trustees approved a curriculum in wireless engineering in the College of Engineering on Feb. 1.
Although other universities, particularly Princeton, have expressed interest in establishing curricula in wireless communications, AU board members noted that Auburn is on pace to be the first in the nation to implement a curriculum for that academic area.
Board action followed favorable review by the University Curriculum Committee. The curriculum now goes to the Alabama Commission on Higher Education for review.
"We are extremely appreciative of the support that has been given by the board in making this curriculum a reality," Larry Benefield, dean of the College of Engineering, commented. "If it is approved by ACHE this spring, we would hope to enroll students as early as the fall semester of this year."
Benefield said the wireless curriculum represents a logical outgrowth of current courses in electrical and computer engineering, and computing science and software engineering.
"It also represents a very active market that is growing at a phenomenal rate, and one that will certainly be with us in the long term," Benefield noted. "It is anticipated that the wireless industry will continue making 2,000 to 3,000 hires annually, with many of these in the engineering segment."
The engineering dean said the development of the wireless curriculum is guided by an industry-based steering committee that includes many of the major players in the fields. Benefield noted that Samuel Ginn, namesake for AU's Ginn College of Engineering, and a pioneer in wireless engineering, has challenged the institution to make Auburn's curriculum the best in the world.
Pharmacy school assumes new name honoring Harco founder
AU officially dedicated the Harrison School of Pharmacy on Jan. 25 at the W.W. Walker Jr. Pharmacy Building.
The school's name change, which was approved by the Board of Trustees last August, honors James I. Harrison Sr., who grew a single pharmacy in Tuscaloosa into the Harco Drug chain. The Harrison family has supported Auburn pharmacy over many years, including a major gift from the Harrisons to the pharmacy school last year.
"No other Alabama family has contributed as much to the field of pharmacy in Alabama as the Harrisons," said interim AU President William Walker. "Without a doubt, they are Alabama's first family of pharmacy. The vision the Harrison family exhibited with the founding and growth of the Harco chain is exactly the same kind of vision we hope to cultivate in our graduates from the AU Harrison School of Pharmacy."
"We are extremely proud of the School of Pharmacy's association with the Harrison family," said Pharmacy Dean Lee Evans. "We're eternally grateful for what they have done and continue to do for the school and honored to name the school for the patriarch of a family and a drug store chain that enjoys an outstanding reputation in pharmacy throughout the state, the Southeast and the nation. This latest gift will prove pivotal in allowing us to move forward with additional facilities."
In 1941, 16 years after receiving his AU pharmacy degree, Harrison began building the Harco chain of drug stores.
New policy limits noisy activities during class hours
Interim AU President William Walker has approved a new policy designed to make the campus a little quieter when classes are in session.
The policy, which was requested by the University Senate, requires anyone planning activities from which the noise could disrupt classes to gain prior approval from the provost before scheduling the activity.
The new policy states: "If in the conduct of any formal events sanctioned by the university, there is a potential for disruption of scheduled instructional or other academic activities, the responsible administrator of the area conducting the event must notify the Provost's Office. The provost in consultation with the president will assess the potential for disruption of scheduled instructional or other academic activities. Events deemed disruptive will not be permitted."
The policy follows faculty complaints over high noise levels reaching Haley Center last fall from a football practice session in which the coaches sought to simulate game day noise for the players. However, the policy extends beyond athletics to all potential activities, including academic events, in which the noise could be expected to disturb classes.
AU hosting conference on African-American entrepreneurs
AU's eighth annual African-American Entrepreneurship Summit will be this week at the Dixon Conference Center.
"The AAES has become a national conference dedicated to disseminating information pertaining to the critical entrepreneurship issues affecting African-Americans," said summit founder Keenan Grenell, who also is director of AU's Master of Public Administration Program and an associate professor in the Department of Political Science.
The national conference now has a national refereed publication -- Entrepreneurship Policy Journal, edited by Don-Terry Veal, associate director of AU's Center for Governmental Services and interim director for this year's summit while Grenell is a visiting professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
The objectives of the summit are to increase awareness of African-Americans and other minority groups so that they recognize and embrace entrepreneurship as a viable way of life and an acceptable path to financial independence; and to challenge the way that
African-Americans think, to open their minds to the possibilities and opportunities of self-owned and self-directed enterprise, states the Summit Online web site, which is also a new feature this year.
Another objective is to provide practical information and knowledge African-Americans and other minorities need in order to realize their entrepreneurial aspirations.
General summit registration begins Wednesday afternoon. The general summit will conclude with an awards luncheon on Friday. Public activities include the John Sibley Butler Free Thinking Person lecture by AU Vice President for Outreach David Wilson, at 4 p.m. Wednesday and a town hall meeting at 3 p.m. Thursday.
Pritchett cites benefits of AU Peaks programs
Millions of dollars for taxpayers in highway maintenance savings; the creation of hundreds of new, high-paying jobs in the automotive industry; safer foods; and improved defense technologies are among the achievements interim Provost John Pritchett cites for Auburn's Peaks of Excellence programs.
"These are important benefits to the state of Alabama and to the nation," said Pritchett. "Yet, the people of Alabama, and even our own employees here at Auburn, may not be fully aware of the benefits these research initiatives are creating."
To better communicate about the Peaks of Excellence, a team of university communication and public relations professionals has launched a coordinated campaign. Sanctioned by the offices of the provost and vice president for research, the team developed and is following a targeted approach to inform key internal and external groups.
"A key element in this initiative is to learn more about these audiences," Pritchett said. "We need to know the level of information these groups have about the Peaks of Excellence. We also need to use this information for more effective communication with them."
Pritchett noted that a survey last fall indicated limited understanding and awareness of the Peaks of Excellence among AU faculty, staff and administrators.
"The Peaks of Excellence was established to identify research areas at Auburn that, given an additional infusion of revenue, could rapidly attain international prominence," Pritchett said. He stressed that the initial seven Peaks of Excellence programs were identified with the full participation of the faculty. Selections were based on external and internal reviews of competititive proposals.
"While all research disciplines at an institution like Auburn are critically important, all are not poised to meet the research and development and economic needs of the state and region," said Vice President for Research Michael Moriarty. "All are not poised to significantly leverage and increase their support."
"The bottom line is that all university programs will benefit from the exposure we hope to attain with the Peaks of Excellence," Pritchett added.
The Peaks of Excellence include Fisheries and Aquaculture; Cell and Molecular Biosciences; Detection and Food Safety; Forest Sustainability; Information Technology; Poultry Products Safety and Quality; and Transportation. With the exception of Fisheries and Aquaculture, each is receiving an additional $3 million over three years.
"These all are multidisciplinary research programs," Moriarty said. "They are expected to use this additional support as leverage to grow their program."
Progress among these programs will be assessed at the end of 2003.
Pritchett and Moriarty note that additional initiatives not among traditional science and technology disciplines, also qualified to be named Peaks of Excellence programs. However, they cannot be designated as Peaks of Excellence until the money needed to provide the additional support can be secured.
"It is without question that financial resources are tight for supporting our programs," Pritchett said. "We are confident that the Peaks of Excellence strategy -- by using our resources in a planned way to foster fast growth -- will prove beneficial to all Auburn University programs.
"We are supporting our communication and promotion effort with sufficient resources to be effective. A primary focus in this campaign is to provide the Auburn family with more information about the Peaks of Excellence strategy, and hopefully, to improve the understanding and acceptance of this strategy among our internal groups."
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