‘Weathered, but unbroken’
Huddleston takes on budget cuts, funding in State of University address
Published: Thursday, September 15, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 15:02
On Thursday afternoon, UNH President Mark Huddleston gave his yearly State of the University address to a crowded Granite State Room audience consisting of students, faculty and community members alike.
Huddleston's address was brief, but covered key issues the university faced throughout the summer and the end of the 2010-11 academic year - most notably the state budget cut that slashed nearly 50 percent of funding to higher education schools in the state of New Hampshire.
The bulk of President Huddleston's address, which lasted roughly 30 minutes, consisted of his 16 reasons for confidence that UNH is moving in the direction of becoming more dynamic, innovative and sustainable.
But first, Huddleston made sure to open on a lighter note, stating that Hurricane Irene was the first obstacle to pass through Durham in the young academic year.
"We could only hope that everyone would be safe," Huddleston said, adding that the address offered a calming after the storm, and "a hopeful forecast, too."
He immediately turned to "Hurricane Concord," referring to the steepest budget cut in the country's history, where cuts to the university itself were "deeply disproportionate." That being said, the university staff wanted to avoid asking New Hampshire students and their families for the lost state appropriations because "it would have gone against our pledge to keep UNH affordable and accessible," Huddleston said.
The first of his reasons for confidence is the high retention rate that the UNH campuses in Durham, Manchester and Concord have had throughout the years, which, according to Huddleston, is reflected by the 13,200 undergraduate students and 2,500 graduate students. There were 3,000 first-year students who joined the university in the past year.
Another of Huddleston's points highlighted the growth of January Term numbers, which increased from 448 students the first year to 639 in year two of the winter semester. The numbers show the faculty that students are willing to pick up extra course loads during the break. Huddleston said that he expects the J-Term enrollment to increase yet again in the program's third year.
Perhaps one of the larger stories within the past year at UNH was the groundbreaking and conception of the Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics, which was received with some criticism after the university failed to match the $25 million donation given to the school by Peter T. Paul. One of Huddleston's main points, the introduction of the new business school will attract and provide room for more students to attend UNH, and give them the chance to work with new technology and highly-touted faculty members.
To extend UNH's global outreach, Huddleston said that representatives from the university will join U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen in India in order to develop new international partnerships that will benefit the university and the state as a whole.
Student Body President A.J. Coukos and Vice President Jess Fruchtman, both of whom were in attendance, said they thought the address was brief, but thought the 16 reasons for confidence was better done that way.
"I think brief is always better in these kind of things," Fruchtman said. "I thought it was a good overview of what we've been doing, and what we should be proud of. It's good to focus on the positive more so than the negative at this point."
"By keeping it short, he allowed us to see the important points," Coukos said. "If it was an important speech, important points might get lost in the mix. But he concisely showed what was important."
Coukos added that it is typical in any state address, whether it is of the union or university, that the president points toward a direction in which the country or university is headed, and that Huddleston didn't do that in his address on Thursday.
"The name plays on the State of the Union, where the president gives a direction that he hopes to see his country go," Coukos said. "I was hoping to see President Huddleston give a little bit more direction of where he wanted the university to go. It seemed he more stated things that are going well for the university, which is good and which I like. I just was hoping to see a little bit more direction."