Dear UofM Students:

Thank you for the pride you take in our campus and your considerate, civil discourse about the delay in the new recreation facility. Universities are places for debate and discussion, places for the full range of positions and opinions, places to clarify and confirm your values. You have consistently engaged in a process that is characterized by thoughtful and thorough evaluation, regardless of the position you support.

This is not the first challenge we have experienced on our campus, in our community or across our nation. Our Critical Conversations series included issues of law enforcement and race relations, social justice and freedom of speech. In each and every case over the past two and a half years, I have been both impressed and grateful for your active engagement, your passionate investment in our community, your support for this University and your commitment to civility. Thank you.

I am proud to be a part of the University of Memphis and the City of Memphis. With each and every challenge we face, I feel more confident and assured about the future of our community and our country.

Warm Regards,

M. David Rudd
President | Distinguished University Professor

Dear Campus Community:

Last week contracts were released for the land bridge and parking garage projects. Both projects will be moving forward as quickly as is possible. Plans for the new student recreation center have been returned for redesign, with a request to lower costs to fit within the financial model constraints, along with accommodating retention of the current facility. Costs for the project ballooned to well over $60M, exceeding the boundaries of the original financial model. To date, the student fee supporting the land bridge and recreation center has generated well below projections, an estimated $15M.

Several variables have converged requiring us to sequence these projects in a careful and thoughtful manner. Most importantly, it is our commitment to financial responsibility and containing student costs/debt. Three years ago the UofM had no tuition increase, a first in 34 years. The last two years we have had tuition increases under 3% each year. In contrast, over the previous 15 years the average tuition increase was 8% annually.

The current recreation facility has debt service that will not be retired until the year 2030. Accordingly, we will not be demolishing the building. We will immediately begin limited improvements that will see the facility through the next decade. Redesign of the new recreation facility will delay that project by approximately 18 months. This delay not only allows us to establish much needed parking in advance of the facility, but also to implement a responsible financial model that will NOT demand additional tuition and fee increases to fund the project. Just a few weeks ago I rejected a request for a new student fee to fund the operational costs of a new facility. Since the Governor has recommended funding for our new music center this year, resolving the parking challenges are paramount. As you are likely aware, the recreation center will result in the loss of up to 1,000 parking spaces, with the new music center absorbing another 800. It is critical we have new parking in place prior to these facilities breaking ground.

I have received questions about the new basketball facility, which is on pace to be completed this fall. The facility is funded entirely through private donations.

If you have questions, please don't hesitate to let me know. There is more construction on campus and in our neighborhood district than at any time in our history. We have made a firm commitment to the growth of our University. Accordingly, it is critical that we be thoughtful and careful in our planning. In particular, it is imperative we live within our financial constraints. Our commitment to containing tuition and fee costs cannot be understated.

I will be speaking with the SGA on Thursday to address any questions or concerns. Again, we are moving forward with all projects. We are simply modifying the sequencing, along with implementing an 18-month delay on the student recreation center.

Warm Regards,

M. David Rudd
President | Distinguished University Professor

Dear Campus Community:

The Helen Hardin Honors Program at the University of Memphis has received approval for designation as an Honors College. With the elevation to college status, the Helen Hardin Honors College will become the largest honors college in Tennessee. Nowhere else in the state will top academic performers find a richer, more diverse experience than the Helen Hardin Honors Program at the UofM. This designation will further distinguish us as a University where rich educational opportunities flourish.

While the honors program has been in existence for more than four decades, in 2008 it was renamed the Helen Hardin Honors Program in recognition of a significant gift from Helen Hardin, a local philanthropist and co-founder of Hardin-Sysco. Under the leadership of Dr. Melinda Jones, the program has been recognized for its enriched curriculum, smaller classes and opportunities beyond the classroom such as Study Abroad, independent research and internships.

The Honors Program has a strong reputation for attracting the brightest students, which includes more than 2,000 undergraduates from all departments and majors at the UofM and approximately 500 freshmen who enter the program each year. The quality of the student body is evidenced by the mean high school grade point average and ACT of the 2016 entering class (3.90 GPA/28 ACT). Once enrolled, honors students are committed to a curriculum that includes at least 25 hours of honors courses out of the 120 hours typically required for graduation.

The Helen Hardin Honors Program has a designated building, Honors Hall, which houses the administrative offices, reading and study lounges, a classroom and a computer lab for students. The program also has a designated residential facility, the Living Learning Complex, which serves more than 250 students. Additionally, the Honors Program serves as the administrative office that coordinates undergraduate research on campus, and faculty and students affiliated with the program publish the UofM's undergraduate research journal, QuaesitUM (Latin for "to seek, to inquire").

Due to the success and national recognition of the Helen Hardin Honors Program, the University of Memphis was selected to host the National Conference for Undergraduate Research, which is expected to attract more than 4,200 undergraduate students and their faculty mentors to Memphis April 6-8.

Certainly, the Helen Hardin Honors College, the largest in the State of Tennessee, is evidence of the growth and influence of the UofM.

Warm Regards,

M. David Rudd
President | Distinguished University Professor

Dear Faculty and Staff:

Last week was the Governor's State of the State Address. As is custom, the Governor unveiled his proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year. Attached is a summary of the Governor's budget recommendations distributed by the TN Higher Education Commission. In short, the Governor has proposed a budget that is very promising not only for higher education in general, but the University of Memphis as well. Not only will our recurring state allocation increase, the Governor has also recommended $29 million in state funds for our new music center and $14 million for capital maintenance. The importance of the maintenance funds cannot be overstated.

Our goal for the coming fiscal year budget will be to generate a three percent salary pool. As you know, the UofM has a number of additional requests that we will be pursuing in the coming months. A word of caution, the Governor's budget recommendations are only that, recommendations. The state budget will not be finalized until spring. I will keep you updated as the legislature moves forward.

I hope the semester is going smoothly. Again, thank you for your dedication to our students, University and community.

Warm Regards,

M. David Rudd
President | Distinguished University Professor