“The university must continue to be a beacon that illuminates the clearest path to the American Dream. And it must continue to do so while maintaining the access, affordability and excellence that have defined our finest public universities since their inception.”
Standing in front of a large sculpture of the Ohio State seal and a backdrop of scarlet and gray drapes, President Michael Drake took his oath of office in a ceremonial installation of his presidency at Mershon Auditorium on Tuesday.
In his “investiture address,” he spoke about how his past shaped his character and the future he envisions for OSU, instilling his stories with the administration’s common themes of access, affordability and excellence.
$400 million initiative
In the marquee topic of his speech, Drake announced a five-year, $400 million plan that would redirect funds toward academics and need-based scholarships.
OSU plans to reallocate $200 million of that through administrative cost-cutting measures, with the other $200 million coming from new revenue generation, such as the privatization of university parking or contracts with companies like Huntington Bank and Coca-Cola.
“The first targeted use of these savings will be an immediate increase to the scholarship pool, particularly for lower- and middle-income students, by a minimum of $15 million in the 2015-16 academic year,” Drake said. “Our goal will be to increase scholarships by at least $100 million by 2020.”
It is currently unclear what the other $300 million will be targeted toward, but Drake said it would be used to support faculty, staff and academic programs, as well as funding “the best new ideas and innovations.”
“We will begin these measures immediately,” he said. “Not at the expense of the academic experience, but by investing savings achieved by operating the university more efficiently.”
As a model for spending cuts, he cited recent cost avoidance, reduction of color printing, and human resources changes at the Wexner Medical Center that have saved the university $50 million over the last nine months.
The president also announced plans to reassess administrative salaries to free up costs.
“We are looking carefully at executive compensation,” he said. “We recognize that we must balance the competitive salaries needed to attract exceptional faculty and staff with our commitment to be responsible stewards of resources.”
Executive Vice President and Provost Steinmetz told The Lantern last week that while current employees would not not necessarily be immune to new guidelines, no changes would be made to standing contracts.
Investiture address: “2020 Vision”
Aside from the $400 million initiative, Drake largely used his speech to address three themes the university needs to stress in the 21st century: its land-grant mission, community engagement and diversity.
Drake said his administration is working toward greater coordination of its diversity program, which has so far entailed the realignment of the Office for Diversity and Inclusion with the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity. He also plans to implement diversity training for faculty search committees and to assign a committee to observe and evaluate diversity issues on campus.
Drake, OSU’s first black president, noted recent “racial and other forms of discord and intolerance across our country,” which he described as deeply troubling.
“Our universities — of all places — must welcome and celebrate all individuals, regardless of race, class, culture, orientation or identity,” he said, triggering a thunderous applause.
On the issue of community engagement, Drake said the university’s Discovery Themes are a stepping stone for the its academics to address social needs.
Launched in 2012, the Discovery Themes target health and wellness, energy and environment, and food production and food security. The $400 million plan includes expanding research and hiring new faculty.
“At this moment, just blocks away from where we are, children may not know where they’re getting their next meal,” he said, citing the food production and food security Discovery Theme. “This is unacceptable.”
The president spoke of a $15 million investment to hire faculty to address food insecurity. Within the next decade, the university will commit nearly $100 million toward food insecurity, he said.
“Our collective efforts can, and will, transform lives,” he said.
Drake also addressed an issue that has recently grabbed the attention of OSU professors: a proposal in University Senate that would broaden the ownership rights of the university on faculty intellectual property.
“This gives me an opportunity to reaffirm our belief in the bedrock principle that the traditional scholarly and artistic intellectual endeavors produced by our faculty belong to our faculty,” Drake said to the first and loudest applause of his speech.
Along with the the football team, Drake praised the university’s recent varsity teams that have won national championships, including pistol, wrestling and synchronized swimming.
“I guess with those three champions, you shouldn’t mess with us on land or on sea,” he said.
Pomp and circumstance
The investiture kicked off with a prelude from the OSU Wind Symphony, which later performed an overture that School of Music professor Tom Wells wrote for the event. The symphony continued to play during the processional as trustees, senior administrators and community figures walked down the aisles of Mershon Auditorium and onto the stage, donning academic regalia.
Organized by a 14-member committee of faculty, staff and students appointed by the OSU Board of Trustees, the investiture had an audience of thousands of faculty, staff, students and members of the community, all of whom received elaborately-designed invitations and tickets. Attendees included John Glenn, former OSU interim president Joseph Alutto, and dozens of university representatives and politicians from across the country.
Traveling guests were granted discounted accommodations from the university, which reserved room blocks at three hotels: The Blackwell Inn; Le Méridien Columbus, The Joseph; and Hilton Garden Inn. The university also covered the costs of airport and campus area shuttles for attendees.
Unrestricted funds, meaning no tuition or tax dollars, were used to cover costs associated with the investiture, said OSU spokesman Chris Davey. Total cost figures are in the process of being finalized.
A warm welcome
“President Drake, you are a good storyteller. But this occasion provides opportunity to tell a story about you.”
Timothy Gerber, secretary of the University Senate, went on to tell Drake’s story in his welcome speech, describing the new president as warm, quick-witted and compassionate. He dove into Drake’s roles as an academic, family man and, what Gerber said was most influential on Drake’s character, a physician.
“Feeling respected is the distinct impression everyone gets after spending just a few minutes with you,” Gerber said. “Your perspective on life has been shaped significantly by your longtime adherence to the Hippocratic Oath. Not coincidentally, the word respect occurs three times (in it).”
Gerber was one of nine people who introduced Drake with warm words, along with Archie Griffin, president of OSU’s Alumni Association, Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman and Joan Garcia, a second-year in the College of Arts and Sciences, whom trustee chair Jeff Wadsworth said spoke “on behalf of our students.”
Coleman spoke of OSU and Columbus with pride, and highlighted Drake’s importance for the success of both.
“The process of one is the process of the other. The success of one is the success of the other,” he said. “And I’m here to tell you that Dr. Drake gets this. One of our mutual goals is that when students graduate with knowledge, excitement and possibility, they apply that to their experience in our city after graduation.”
Reflecting on OSU’s achievements during the 2014-15 school year — including the claim of numerous national championship titles, the opening of the James Cancer Hospital and the reopening of the South Oval — Garcia said “these accomplishments would not have been possible without President Drake’s commitment to the abridgment of this institution and its students.”
“(Drake) puts students at the forefront of every decision,” she said. “(He) makes this university seem so much smaller than a community of 64,000 students. He makes us feel at home.”
For President Drake’s full speech, watch the video below.