June 15, 2021
Dear UT Community,
I hope your summer is off to a good start. It’s always a special time on campus — when we get to take a breath, gear up for the fall semester, and welcome our incoming students to Longhorn life. Today, I want to update you on a few things that affect us all: this year’s merit pool, a leadership addition, a legislative review, and a note about our strategic planning process.
Now that the legislative session has ended and we have more clarity about our finances, I’m pleased to announce that we will have a centrally funded merit raise pool for AY 21-22. This year, we are able to provide equal raise pools (in percentage terms) for all faculty and staff members, as well as for teaching assistants and assistant instructors. We’ve also set aside additional resources to make structural adjustments for tenured faculty members who are trailing their respective job markets, and for our lowest-paid hourly workers. It’s my hope that these raises and adjustments will help us continue to retain the incredible people we have across the university, as well as attract new talent. VPs, deans and supervisors will be communicating details about the implementation of these changes during the coming weeks.
Societal Challenges and Opportunities
The past year has brought several societal challenges into focus, some of which are especially acute here in Austin. It is my goal that we help our community meet these challenges by better coordinating our efforts and further leveraging the university’s expertise. To that end, I’m pleased to announce that Professor Allan Cole, senior associate dean for academic affairs at the Steve Hicks School of Social Work, has accepted a new role as Deputy to the President for Societal Challenges and Opportunities. Starting this week, Allan will work to bring our campus’s collective resources and talents to bear on a number of issues facing our city and state, including affordable housing, homelessness and mental health. Allan will facilitate dialogue and collaboration between academic and community leaders, as well as amplify the work already being done across campus. Allan will balance this new role with his ongoing work as senior associate dean. Please join me in congratulating Allan on his new role.
The 87th Session of the Texas Legislature
The 87th legislative session saw our state lawmakers focus primarily on a tight budgetary situation and a host of issues related to the pandemic and the winter storm. Higher education remained an important issue at the Capitol, and there are many things we can be thankful for. The Legislature helped further the mission of our university in a number of important ways including:
Adding $300 million to statewide academic funding formulas and $80 million to statewide health care funding formulas. These outlays resulted in an increase for UT Austin of $18.1 million in both AY 21-22 and AY 22-23.
Appropriating $124.1 million to finish construction of a 240-bed replacement campus for the Austin State Hospital, an effort led by Dell Medical School.
Funding the Governor’s University Research Initiative ($40 million) and expanded eligibility requirements, meaning that more researchers can benefit from this program.
Adding $110 million statewide to student financial aid.
I’m grateful to Governor Greg Abbott, UT System Board of Regents Chairman Kevin Eltife and his fellow Regents, our many alumni and friends in the Legislature including Austin’s legislative delegation, and our Government Relations team for championing higher education and the mission of UT Austin during the session.
Progress on Strategic Planning Process
Earlier this year, we started our Strategic Planning Process (SPP). So far, SPP working groups have conducted hundreds of conversations and listening sessions with more than 1,000 members of our campus community. The results of Phase 1 will be a clearly defined aspirational vision for UT that outlines where we want to be in 10 years and the pillars, goals, strengths and opportunities we’ll need to deliver on that vision.
Everyone involved in the SPP is excited — it’s clear that campus is full of passionate people with great ideas and tremendous energy. Furthermore, we’re situated in the most vibrant city in the nation’s greatest state. I can’t think of a university better positioned to meet the opportunities and challenges of the next few decades, and I hope you share my optimism and excitement about this good news.
Thank you for all you do for our university and beyond!