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Remarks by President John J. DeGioia

2013 Spring Faculty Town Hall

February 7, 2013
Georgetown University

Good afternoon. It’s always a pleasure to gather with you at the start of a new semester.

Before I begin my remarks, I’d like to take a moment to recognize the passing of Sgt. Charlie Adkins. As a member of our Department of Public Safety for nearly three decades, Sgt. Adkins dedicated his life to the safety and security of our campus community. Just this past weekend, our community held a memorial service for him in Dahlgren Chapel, which some of you attended. While we mourn this loss, we also keep Sgt. Adkins and his family in our thoughts and prayers.

I’ll start today with an update on some transitions that have taken place across our University since last we met in this forum.

After an extensive, national search, Dr. Andria Wisler has been named the new executive director at our Center for Social Justice, Teaching, Research and Service. Many of you already know Andria. She came to Georgetown in 2008 as a visiting professor in our Program on Justice and Peace, and a few years later became the program’s director. As we welcome Andria into her new role, I’d like to express my gratitude to Jane Genster for her leadership as interim executive director at CSJ, as well as to the search committee that identified Andria as the best candidate.

We also recently hired a new General Counsel, Lisa Brown, who joins us with a depth of experience at the highest levels in both government and the private sector. I’m deeply grateful to Lisa Krim, who over the past year has served as interim Vice President and General Counsel, and who will be returning to her role as a senior advisor for faculty relations, supporting the work of our faculty across all of our campuses.

Also, as many of you may know, Dr. Ali Whitmer, who most recently had been serving as Senior Associate Dean for Faculty and Strategic Planning in the College, has become Chief of Staff to the Provost. She was a leader in the planning and building of Regents Hall, and we look forward to the contributions she’ll make to the University in her new role.

Lastly, I’m pleased to tell you that we’ve hired Robin Morey as our new Vice President for Facilities and Planning. He comes to us at a critical time for planning at Georgetown. He served as Superintendent of the U.S. Senate Complex, where notably he led a successful master planning process.



I’d like to take some time today to talk about the current climate for higher education in America…and about how we’re working to strike a balance between meeting its challenges and identifying its opportunities.

Our Context
I’ll begin with our current context…This context has several dimensions: global, economic, political, and technological, as well as components unique to higher education and to Georgetown:

•We’re now five years into the most severe global economic climate we have seen in our lifetimes. We have yet to see the kind of recovery that we all had hoped for by now, and the slow pace of economic growth that we are experiencing today continues to create an environment of great uncertainty for the entire higher education sector.

•We continue to confront a weak labor market, which makes it difficult for some of our graduates to find employment and places added pressure on our students’ families.

•The cost of attendance remains a sector-wide concern. I’ll say a few more words about this in a moment.

•We are faced with significant financial and political challenges regarding federal funding of our research. This concern is magnified by the upcoming March 1st deadline for deep and sweeping budget cuts known as sequestration. These cuts, if they take effect, could have a dramatic impact on Georgetown’s federal research support. Currently, we receive about $160 million to support research across our University. We are taking appropriate actions to plan for and address this potential outcome, and again I’ll speak to this in these remarks.

•We are also confronting significant forces with unique impacts on higher education. Rapid advancements in technology, notably in online and distance learning, are presenting both new challenges and new opportunities for how we deliver an education.

•Legal education is experiencing unique pressures as law school applications are projected to reach a 30-year low. Concern over rising tuition, the burden of student debt, and diminished employment prospects after graduation, are presenting significant challenges. To address these challenges, we are taking steps to strengthen financial aid and employment assistance for our law students.

Opportunities & Strategic Decisions
We have been guided over these past five years by the conviction that if we approach this climate in a disciplined, balanced, and proportionate manner, we will able to both meet its challenges and identify its opportunities. Our current context can be sobering, to be sure, but it can also be inspiring.

While many of the factors I just described call for prudent, conservative financial planning, others—technology being the primary example—can be viewed as disruptors. In disruption, we see room for innovation…opportunities to lead within our sector...space to position ourselves for enduring success.

With this in mind, we are making some difficult choices—to ensure both our competitiveness and our ability to take advantage of the new opportunities of this climate. We’ve been working to meet these challenges for some time now. I’d like to spend our time together going over the most recent developments in our response.

Strategic Investments
As many of you are aware, we completed Regents Hall on time and on budget, and celebrated its opening at the beginning of this academic year.  It’s an extraordinary building and is a symbol of our commitment to the sciences here at Georgetown.

We have also officially begun construction on our expanded “Georgetown Downtown” site, a 90,000 square-foot space in the vibrant Chinatown neighborhood, which will accommodate more than 1,000 of our School of Continuing Studies students. Georgetown Downtown will give us the opportunity to expand our outreach to the citizens of the greater Washington area.

We’re also actively fundraising to build a new athletics facility – the Intercollegiate Athletics Center. The IAC will be the first new intercollegiate athletics facility on campus in more than 60 years.  Our Athletics Department received its largest gift in history – a $5 million gift from Edward (C ’66) and Irene Shaw. Much of this gift will go to the construction of the IAC.

Strategic investments like these provide us with the necessary foundation to seize new opportunities that fulfill and extend our mission. Regents Hall, for example, deepens our capacity to leverage new resources through the Georgetown Environment Initiative, a new interdisciplinary effort to study the environment and its impact on society. This initiative is made possible through the incredible generosity of an anonymous family connected to Georgetown. Their $20 million gift will support the hiring of new faculty in the sciences, research grants, and a seminar series that brings leaders in the field to Georgetown to discuss their research and its impact on policy.

Technology-Enhanced Learning
We are also strengthening our foundation and extending the reach of our mission by embracing the new frontiers of rapidly evolving technologies.

In December, we accepted an invitation to join edX, the online, not-for-profit, education platform founded by Harvard and MIT.  I was proud to stand with my colleague, Harvard’s President Drew Faust, at the Economic Club of Washington, to announce that we were joining an elite group of universities in this endeavor to make world-class education more widely available.

While there are many unanswered questions about the future of online education, joining edX as an early member will allow our community to make a disproportionate impact in engaging the questions of technology-enhanced learning.  EdX emerged as the best choice for Georgetown for several reasons. Notably, in edX we found partners that share our values:

•A commitment to the traditional, on-campus educational experience;
•A commitment to improving in-person, on-campus education;
•A commitment to transforming global education; and
•A commitment to understanding learning technologies.

By joining a consortium of elite universities like Harvard, MIT, and the University of California-Berkeley, we have the chance to create new opportunities for data sharing and collaboration. For instance, the tools made available through the edX platform—particularly the “learning analytics”—will become available to our community to enhance the classroom experience and meet the needs of our students and faculty in new ways.

This partnership builds upon the more than 13 years of work of our cutting-edge Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship. CNDLS has helped position us to make both immediate and enduring contributions in advancing our understanding of technology-enhanced learning.

Joining edX is also part of a wider effort, launched by Provost Bob Groves, to enhance education at Georgetown through technology.  Last fall, he announced the Initiative on Technology-Enhanced Learning – or ITEL – to help encourage members of our community to explore ways that technology can enhance teaching, transform the ways our students learn, and enrich the overall student experience at Georgetown. ITEL provides support for our faculty for the development of new courses and new applications of technology within courses.

Last month, CNDLS convened “idea workshops” for faculty interested in applying for these grants. Dozens of faculty – representing disciplines from the sciences to public policy to language and linguistics – have expressed interest in these grants, as have several faculty members who are collaborating across multiple departments and with students.

This initiative is moving forward and preliminary grant proposals are due at the end of next week. Full proposals are due a month later, and grant awards are expected to be announced in early April.

I wish to thank Provost Groves for his extraordinary leadership in ensuring the success of both ITEL as well as our partnership with edX.  I also wish to express my deep gratitude to his staff and all those from across the University whose efforts ensure that these endeavors will make a deep and lasting impact at Georgetown.  And lastly, I’d like to thank the members of our community, who shared their input and ideas on these topics through various town hall fora, the ITEL working group, and Online@GU. The deep engagement of so many members of our community ensures our success in this work.

Master Planning
Community wide-engagement is also characterizing our master planning process – an area of tremendous opportunity for the university that has come as a result of our engagement with the city as we position ourselves for long term growth.

The last time that we gathered for a Town Hall in the fall, we discussed the work that Georgetown had just begun with Forest City and Sasaki Associates to explore the best ways for us to grow beyond our current footprint—strategically and in-line with our mission.

Part of this strategic growth includes making our historic campus – here on the Hilltop – a more welcoming residential, living and learning community.

Together, with Sasaki and Forest City, we are relying on your input to better understand the experiences of our community – your experiences. Forest City and Sasaki are helping us determine patterns among our community – how you get to and from work… how you walk around campus… who you collaborate with… and how you communicate – all to cultivate data-driven recommendations for improvements across the Hilltop.

This work is being coordinated and designed to support the academic strategic planning that Provost Groves is launching on the Main Campus, and the ongoing planning for future growth that Dr. Federoff leads at the Medical Center.

Earlier this fall, we held “Planning 101” sessions to discuss this work, and several hundred members of our Georgetown community came to hear from our colleagues who are leading this effort, as well as representatives from Forest City and Sasaki. They discussed the work they are beginning that will lay the foundation to ensure continued strategic growth across our University.

In the immediate term, Sasaki is nearing completion of recommendations for how we can best accommodate on-campus housing for 450 more students by 2015, a key commitment in our campus plan agreement last summer.

Sasaki and Forest City will then work with us to continue this master planning work beyond the scope of immediate housing as we use their expertise to formulate what we want this historic footprint to look like in the years to come. This work will include significant focus on areas of transportation; energy; and improved academic buildings, social spaces, green space, and recreational fields and facilities – all key components of master planning and visioning for the future.

We look forward to getting your thoughts and input on this process through upcoming “Planning 102” sessions and in smaller meetings.

We hope each of you will participate because your engagement is essential to this project – and to our shared future.

Your input is also at the center of work begun by Spiros Dimolitsas, our Senior Vice President for Research and Chief Technology Officer, and Provost Bob Groves, to address institutional barriers that are in the way of our faculty conducting research…and to identify ways to better support faculty research across our institution.

I’m grateful for the work that Bob and Spiros have begun in this effort, and for the input faculty shared in focus groups and at a town hall forum on the topic earlier this year.

Based on Faculty feedback, we’re looking at ways to improve the administrative process for our researchers and scholars. The measures we’re considering include offering support to principal investigators on: budget development, human resources, legal assistance, general administrative and paperwork requirements, and subcontracting, among other needs.

This effort is especially critical within our current national context, as the landscape for grant-funding grows more uncertain and more competitive.

Financial Planning
I began these comments by indicating that in this moment we confront unprecedented challenges—but if we engage in a thoughtful, deliberative, and disciplined planning process, we can also seize extraordinary opportunities. I believe this has characterized our work since the beginning of this financial crisis.

I have offered some comments today that describe our efforts to embrace some of the opportunities of our current moment. I would now like to focus my comments on our financial plan for the coming year, a plan that reflects this continued effort to develop a balanced and proportionate response, and recognizes the challenges we face.

First, some background context. The current environment is as uncertain as at any time since 2008. The most immediate issue is sequestration. What does this term mean and how does it impact us?

If you recall in August 2011, the Congress and the President reached an agreement on a debt ceiling deal. Included in the deal was a provision to trigger across-the-board cuts totaling $1.2 trillion—evenly split between defense and non-defense accounts—if an alternative agreement was not reached by the end of 2012. The sequester was designed to be something that would be unpalatable to all concerned and, therefore, force agreement.

The bill signed into law on January 2nd, which enabled us to avoid going over the cliff, resolved a number of key tax provisions, but did not address the proposed cuts needed to forestall sequestration and pushed the implementation date back two months to March 1.

So Congress and the President have until the end of the month to address this matter or the across-the-board cuts go into effect.

The impact on higher education will be in two areas—sponsored research and federal support for financial aid. For a university located here in the nation’s capital, we would expect to see a disproportionate impact, due to the anticipated effects on our regional economy.

At this point, it is impossible to say how significant an impact this will be for us, especially since agencies have not determined how they will implement the cuts if they happen. But in the five years that I have been discussing with you here the implications of the global financial crisis, this is the most direct challenge yet to us.

This is all taking place in a context in which the Federal Government has frozen salaries since January 2011, and if the sequester is not lifted, it is hard to imagine what will be an $85 billion reduction in Federal spending without some combination of furloughs and layoffs.

Over the past several weeks, our colleagues have been working on a financial plan that acknowledges this context in which we are situated.
On January 16th, Moody’s issued a report1 on higher education and revised its outlook for the entire US higher education sector from stable to negative. It stated that, this “negative outlook reflects mounting pressure on all key university revenue sources, requiring bolder actions by university leaders to reduce costs and increase operating efficiency.”2

I’d like to share three slides from Moody’s report to give you a sense of their analysis and the climate in which we’re operating. They highlight three areas that we have been focused on since the financial crisis began.

SLIDE 13: The first shows the American family’s weakened ability to pay the cost of attendance. As you will see in this chart, the change in the median family income has been dramatic, and universities have had to adapt to ensure access.

SLIDE 24: This second slide shows that growth and operating revenues continue to slow for the entire sector. If you look at the issues presented in these two charts, Georgetown has proactively managed around these issues by:
•Reducing the cost of attendance in a very strategic way that has resulted in us having the third highest cost of attendance in the nation to the 35th - in four years. We need to do more.
•We also instituted a focus on financial aid, increasing our philanthropic efforts to help reduce the burdens of access to our students.

SLIDE 35: We also began constraining costs at the rate of inflation across the university. These trends have continued for the last five years. This chart presents a new, more troubling dynamic: the potential reduction in federal support for the entire higher education sector.

The three dynamics presented in these charts present a potentially very profound effect on key revenue sources for universities.

After exploring many options, and within this context, we have developed a plan that seeks to achieve the following goals by continuing to be proactive in addressing the forces that are driving changes in higher ed:

•Strengthen our competitiveness;
•Invest in our faculty who compete in a global labor market;
•Maintain our financial stability; and
•Continue our commitment to ensuring the broadest possible access to a Georgetown education.

We have a current operating deficit of $19 million. It is important for us to eliminate this deficit. In the plan we have developed, we will do so by 2016.

We will also sustain our commitment to our need-based financial aid program. We remain committed to need-blind admissions and meeting the full financial need for our undergraduates. Over the years I have outlined the actions we have taken to sustain this commitment. This includes launching the 1789 Scholarship Imperative, the first pillar of our For Generations to Come Campaign, which aims to support 1,789 $25,000 scholarships each year through philanthropy. To date, we are almost halfway toward our goal: we have raised more than $230 million for this initiative, and we are close to going over the $1 billion mark in our Campaign. We are also making a concerted effort to constrain tuition, room and board increases, consistent with that first chart I shared with you.

We will sustain our commitment to our faculty compensation plans. This is the third year of our five-year plan on the Main Campus, following the very successful ten-year plan we began in 1999. This plan remains intact.

We will achieve significant compensation savings in the new plan we are proposing. We do not anticipate layoffs to achieve these savings, but we will have a 12-month freeze in the merit pool for staff and senior administrator compensation beginning July 1, 2013. We will also continue to restrict overhead growth by limiting growth in most non-academic university departments to 1%.

We recognize that our financial planning requires difficult decisions—ones we do not take lightly. But we believe they are the necessary response to the climate we face. All of higher education will have to adjust to this climate, but we believe we are taking steps that ensure we do more than adjust—that we lead in our sector and strengthen our institution for future generations.


All of these steps we are taking—some of which date back several years—represent a necessary shift in the way we thinking about our future. This is a time of both uncertainty and possibility...constraint and innovation. We are balancing the challenges we are facing with the opportunities we are identifying. We believe we have the tools—and the talent—to manage this current climate.

It’s a privilege to engage in this work with you…and I appreciate your time this evening.

I’ll now take any questions you have on any topic…and I look forward to our conversation…


1 Bogaty, Eva. Industry Outlook: US Higher Education Outlook Negative in 2013. Rep. no. 148880. New York: Moody's Investors Service, 2013. Print.

2 Ibid. 1.

3 Ibid. 4.

4 Ibid. 8.

5 Ibid. 6.
 

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