On the Spot with President Mark Huddleston
Full President Huddleston Interview
Interviewed on Tuesday, October 4 at 9 a.m. at Thompson Hall
Interviewed by Interviewed by Staff Writers Van Hendrickx and Mark Kobzik, Executive Editor Allison Bellucci and Managing Editor Elizabeth Clemente
Written and transcribed by News Editor Emily Young
Staff members of The New Hampshire sat down with UNH President Mark Huddleston last Tuesday, Oct. 4 at 9 a.m. in Thompson Hall to talk Homecoming, policy, accomplishments and visions for the future. Featured in the last issue of TNH on Thursday, Oct. 6 was Staff Writer Mark Kobzik’s article, which incorporated quotes from the interview. The following is a full account of the conversation, minimally edited for clarity.
Q (VH): In what ways do you think Homecoming exceeded expectations when you compare it to other years?
A: Well it was an unusual Homecoming obviously, because this year it overlapped with Hear Us Roar and the launch of the campaign, and attendance was better at every event that I participated in. We had a pep rally that, Lundholm wasn’t filled but there were a lot of students in Lundholm on Wednesday. And the parade, as we mentioned, was bigger than I’ve ever seen. There were more floats, and there were more spectators and more enthusiasm. The game had a record number of tickets sold, and the rain dampened the number of people who stayed, obviously, as you observed yourself. I think there was still a lot of enthusiasm around the new Wildcat Stadium, people were happy to turn out and support the team and that was nice. And you know, we’ve never had a 150th birthday campaign launch like this before, so it was hard to know what to expect, really, for the event on Friday night. But given all the other things going on, I was tickled to see the number of people who were in the Whit and who were excited, and it definitely exceeded my expectations.
Q (VH): You talked about the Campaign 150. What was the presentation to the alumni like? Were they receptive? Going forward, what’s the public phase going to look like?
A: That’s an interesting question. There are a lot of different layers. Actually, we’ve been engaged in the private phase of this campaign now for a quite a while and there’s been tremendous support and enthusiasm from our foundation board, which if you had to pick a group of alumni who are most connected and committed to the University of New Hampshire, it’s the folks on the foundation board and the alumni association. So they’ve known about it and been involved for a long time and they are absolutely passionately committed to making this succeed, and then there are concentric circles out from there. Whenever I go to alumni events around the country or otherwise talk to groups that are part of the broader UNH family, there is tremendous enthusiasm about the institution in general. People love their alma mater. They know how important private philanthropy is for our future, and they clearly are signing up. I think the number that I cited in my address on Friday night was 35,000 people are already in this campaign and have already made a commitment, they’ve written a check of some sort. And that’s indicative of a certain level of enthusiasm. But then, just on the couple of days leading up to the announcement, and certainly on the day of the announcement, we had multiple groups of folks on campus that I was able to interact with. For instance, there were people who were early in with the Wildcat Stadium and had written checks to support that. We had the foundation board meeting, and every one of them was –I don’t know how you’d could stick a thermometer in and measure the temperature– but there was passionate support and belief in not only the importance of this campaign but the fact that it will succeed and we’ll blow through the goal. Everyone was really optimistic.
Q (VH): How is the campaign going?
A: We’re three days into it, officially, so it’s kind of early to give you an official report. But again all the early indicators are that it will be successful. We’re already seeing a lot of success. We set a goal of $275 million for the public phase, but we’ve raised to date, I think officially the number that we’ve put out was 225. So we’ve already raised $225 million. Remember the last time that UNH, the only time that UNH had a major capital campaign, the goal was $100 million. And we’re already in the public phase with twice what we achieved in the total campaign the first time we did it.
Q (VH): I asked this question to Debbie Dutton, but I feel like it’s more appropriate for you. Do you see expanding these campaigns as part of what you want to do as president? Because before you were president, aside from $100 million, there’s not really been much. She said that campaigning didn’t really start until the 1980s and ‘90s, if then. So really, it’s only been the last 10 years or so. Could you explain how that fits into your agenda as president?
A: I’d say two things about that. First, at the most general level, my observation would be that public universities are really late to this game. So if you were at BU or Boston College or Dartmouth or Harvard, [places] that have turned this into a science, they have been really effective at raising private dollars to support their educational enterprises for decades, if not longer in some cases. And public universities, even those like UNH, which get very, very little support from the public, which is sort of an odd appellation that we have but, we just haven’t developed the infrastructure. We haven’t asked, traditionally, for alumni to support us. And I think what we found, and by we I mean public universities in general, what public universities found when they first started to ask was, ‘You get money from the state, I’m not going to give you a check when I need to support my church or synagogue or local boys club or whatever the charity is that I’m passionate about.’ And it’s taken a long time, I think, again I’m using the general ‘we’ here, for us to educate our alumni basis, that yeah, we really need the support just as much as Harvard and Boston College and Boston University. So that’s been the challenge. The second thing I would say is that, you were right, that UNH maybe even benchmarked against some other public universities– I think about the University of Michigan that is really pretty good at it, or the University of Delaware where I spent a lot of years, has been pretty good at it. It’s taken us a while to get to that point where we can begin to have some pride in our own ability to raise private funds. When I first got here, back in 2007, we were taking in, in every way of counting, about $12 to $13 million a year in private fundraising, and that was everything…But that counted annual fund dollars, it counted major gifts from big donors, it counts bequests that we might get through someone’s estate. It’s a lot of money, obviously, but it’s not a lot of money by comparison to most other universities our size, certainly not a lot of money compared to what we need to accomplish our greatest missions. In the last few years we’ve been up in the $40 million range. So, the second answer I would give to your question is I think we’ve gotten a lot better, and it has been one of my highest priorities since I’ve gotten here, is to try to build that fundraising capacity, and we can talk about some of the nuts and bolts and things that we’ve done to try to make that happen but it’s probably not important from your perspective. The final thing I’ll say, the third thing I’ll say, is that absolutely yes, that is something that I want to have a certain legacy that, this campaign that I hope, and I know will be successful, but for me it’s always been not about this campaign, not about this $275 million, it’s been about building a culture. A self-sustaining culture that will persist for generations. And we will move on to another campaign after this, and another one after that. I never want to see us just go back to the bad old days when we were raising that relatively small amount of money. We can’t afford to do that. So, that’s certainly my hope and I believe that we will do that.
Q (VH): What’s your vision for UNH in the next two to five years for this campaign? What will that lead to, essentially?
A: Well, when I think about my vision I guess I would segment it into various areas. Certainly, we’ve been talking about the campaign and fundraising, so my vision for the next two to five years is we wrap up this campaign, we have a huge celebration in June of 2018, and I believe we’ll probably be celebrating a number bigger than $275 million and that will probably be cause for another big campus-wide barbecue…So that’s my vision in that regard. A second vision I have for the next two to five years, and again this may sound a little bit down in the weeds, but I expect us in the next two to five years to become an even more national university in where we’re drawing students from. You probably have seen some of the marketing efforts that Eric and his colleagues have been putting on. And we’ve been in Denver and Seattle and Florida and all over the country, because I think this is an incredibly great place to come to school. What do we not have? We have almost anything that anybody could want. We’re close to a big city, but we’re approximate to the mountains and the seacoast. We’re kinda Goldilocks sized; not too big, not too small. You get to know everybody but you’re never bored because there’s always interesting things to do. I just think that we’ve only begun to tell our story about what a tremendous place the University of New Hampshire is, and the more we get out there on the road, I think the more students are going to be clambering to come here from all over the country, without ever losing sight of our primary mission to serve the people of the state of New Hampshire, and that is something that is obviously critical, but that is part of my vision to, that we will become a more national, prominent institution. A third element, for me, always has to do with our built environment. We’ve made a lot of progress in the last few years. You look out that window and see Ham Smith being finished…I started with the Peter Paul building, and this has been a capstone, really, of our academic buildings, I think in a lot of respects. But I hope that two more things happen at least. One is that the state steps up and underwrites the renovation of our biosciences facilities, Spaulding and Kendall, in particular desperately need to be brought into the 21st century, so to speak– biological sciences and bioengineering students as well as faculty who are doing research in those areas, having the facilities that they need to do what they want to do. I’m hopeful in the next two to five years we’ll see that happen. I know the state’s workforce needs are overwhelming in that area. I hear from employers all the time, including large local employers…and they desperately want UNH graduates who are skilled in that area. So that’s one thing. My real dream, and I’ve been saying this year after year ever since I’ve been here, we need to address our arts complex. We have Paul Creative Arts Center. It’s a wonderful place, but it really has outlived its usefulness in many respects. I used to say of our athletic complex that we needed a venue that reflects the excellence of the young men and women who play there. I feel the same way about the arts. It’s unfortunate and inappropriate that the number of talented student musicians that we have, and visual artists that we have, have to work in facilities that are really, frankly that substandard. The museum. Who could find the museum without GPS? It ought to be front and center on campus and be something that we share with Durham. We ought to have a performance venue that we share with the seacoast…People should know about that and be able to go to a comfortable place to hear their kind of music. Same with theater. So, my real final hope on that score would be that we will be able to build up on that. What we were thinking about is kind of a arts village, kind of modularized arts village that would grow the boundary between campus and Durham and would realize that dream.
Q (AB): So when do you see that happening?
A: That one is going to take a lot of private fundraising, and it will not be $5 or $10 donations from a million people. It will be identifying one or two folks who have the capacity to make that happen, and I’m still working on that. If you know anybody, let me know.
Q (AB): I’m a dance minor so I’m very involved with the arts program. So once you know you say you’ll get these facilities for them, do you think you’ll try to do something to actually get students to go? Because I feel like, personally, people are often more arts sympathizers than arts supporters…How will you make this a part of students’ core values and part of broadening their education?
A: I think you can set a virtuous cycle, whereby the nicer the venue the more people want to go and see it, the easier it is to attracts students here who are theater and arts majors, and put on performances that are really compelling. And it just kind of feeds on itself. And right now, I think the weak link in that virtuous circle is the facility itself. We’ve got great student performers and I know we’ve got tremendous, enthusiastic faculty. I’m not ready to say to that the vast majority of UNH students are not interested in the arts, I just think that it’s not visible enough, and the venue isn’t attractive enough for most people. And I’d use the athletics parallel. I think that the new stadium generated a buzz, and there are more students now who go to those games than I’ve ever seen before. I wasn’t here when the Whit was built, but I heard it the same story about the Whit, that hockey attendance went up even more after that. I think the same thing will happen with the arts performances.
Q (MK): I wrote an article about the unrestricted funds and how that works, especially with Robert Morin, and I just kind of wanted to clear it up for students who didn’t understand, because I feel like there’s kind of a disconnect between what the unrestricted funds were, and restricted funds, and when I talked to Debbie Dutton about how UNH leadership decides where unrestricted funds go to, it didn’t seem like there was a process in place for how that works, and with the negative feedback from not only the media covering it…but you could just kind of get like this feeling that people were disappointed in how the money was spent. Do you think there should be a process in place, although Robert Morin did leave you as the guarantor of the will…Do you think there should be some kind of process there, so that something like that doesn’t happen again?
A: Well, lets sort of unpack the various elements of the university. The first thing I would say is, obviously we’re very grateful to Mr. Morin for his generosity. It was a huge surprise for all of us…The second thing I would say is that this was unprecedented, for the University of New Hampshire, unfortunately. I wish we had a $4 million unrestricted request every week to worry about what the priorities were and where we would spend it, but we never had it before. In fact, Debbie Dutton probably has the exact statistics, but percentage wise, on the basis of the dollars that we receive, the amount that is unrestricted is infinitesimal…four percent. So, do we need a process to deal with four percent of unrestricted funds? I don’t think so… I think that is creating an elaborate scaffolding and infrastructure for just a highly unusual event…I don’t know what the parallel is. And let’s also talk about why we spent the money there, and we should also probably talk about why there was that negative reaction. The primary reason, well let’s take a half a step back, and remember that of the $4 million we spent, we spent $2.5, we spent the lion share of that money on building up a career initiative for our students, because I think it’s crucially important that you leave UNH not only with the skills that you need to be life long learners and be happy satisfied adults. You’ll also leave and get out of here immediately and have a set of skills and abilities that will allow you to get a job. That’s why we spent most of the money on that initiative. We spent $1 million on the video board, and the reason for that was, I felt that was a smart business decision. I believed, and I still believe, that spending the million dollars for the video board would generate far more return on that investment than virtually any other way we could have spent it. Let me give you an example. Had we taken that million dollars and put it in an endowment to fund scholarships for New Hampshire students, which I think probably would have gotten front page headlines in the Union Leader applauding that wise decision. That would have spun off $40,000 a year. That’s what the earnings on the million dollars in an endowment provide every year, $40,000; four percent return…It would have provided two and a half scholarships for New Hampshire students. I don’t want to trivialize it or minimize it. That would be a good thing, but by investing the money in the video board, through revenue advertising alone, from that video board, we’ll see $40,000, which we can then use for scholarships for New Hampshire students. Not to mention the number of eyeballs that will see that video board– perspective students and their parents who come to high school play off games or their kid brothers and sisters at graduation. When you graduate this May it’s going to be in that stadium, with that video board up there, and your mom and dad and grandma and your little brothers and your cousins are going to be watching you troop across that stage and imagining that they’re there. So when I thought about what investment could we make that would be the soundest business decision that would provide the most robust funding system to UNH for years and years and years. It wasn’t politically appealing, but it was the smartest thing to do from a business perspective. Over 70 percent of our revenue, the thing that pays our salaries, the thing that keeps the lights on, that allow us to do what we do to accomplish all of our missions is student tuition dollars. If we’re not attractive to students, those dollars stop coming in. We know, looking around America at a lot of other colleges and universities, that are not meeting their enrollment targets, they’re in trouble. So I feel as a primary steward of this institution, I’ve got to pay attention to those revenue streams. And I would make the same decision again. I still think it was a sound decision. And if you get outside the whacky world of Twitter and Facebook and you actually sit in that stadium during a game and you watch the enthusiasm from returning alumni, from students, parents, athletes, it is awesome. It’s awesome….I don’t think any of our competitors in CAA don’t have some kind of video board. And I think some of the ones at other schools tend to be even more expensive.
Q (MK): When I was talking to Debbie Dutton, she said that one of the other reasons that the million dollars was allocated there, was because there was a lack of funds. I don’t remember exactly what she said.
(AB): She said that it wasn’t in the original budget
(MK): So I’m just wondering if you know that you’re going to be updating the entire stadium, and you have this scoreboard that looks like whatever that was, I’m just wondering, why didn’t you include that in the original budget, or how would you plan to pay for it in the first place?
A: That is a great question. There are members of the career center who weren’t happy about that too. And it was suggested that we should have payed for that with other money as well. We should have budgeted for that somehow. This is a place that doesn’t have enough money to do all of the things that we want to do. Just put aside the career center for a moment. When we started talking about the stadium project, which was even before I got here, Marty Scarano has been talking about it for years, the wish list was pretty large. It had always, since I had been around, always included the idea of a scoreboard, but you have to, anytime you do any design for anything, you want to throw some things out, setting priorities, and it became clear early on in discussions with trustees and others who had to approve our budget, that $25 million was going to be the hard ceiling. So if you know that $25 million is your hard ceiling, than you have to start, then you have to start doing all that value engineering, deciding if it’s more important to have an extra skybox or is more important to build out a bigger student section. How about that nice bridge that got us up to…the second level of the stadium? And what about the scoreboard, how does that fit into the whole thing? And frankly, we decided, as nice as it would be to have a video board, that it was less important than doing the other things that we needed to do to finish out the stadium project, staying under that $25 million cap. So that meant that it got put on, kind of my wish list; if we could ever raise the private funds to do this, then that’s something that we could address. I never thought, seriously, I’d put it differently, I never had, like the arts project, I need to find somebody like a prominent giver or donor to do that. I always hoped I would find one of those people or a handful of those people to do the video board, but I didn’t know when I’d find it. I didn’t know anyone who would step forward and write a check for this. When the unrestricted funds came through, that gives us the opportunity to address things on that wish list that we hadn’t been able to fit into the budget for otherwise, and exactly the same is true of the career center. I’ve been worried about that for a while now, our ability to impress the needs of our students, outside of Paul College, which is especially pretty good at doing it. But university wide, we just haven’t done a terribly good job at career things, but I had no idea how we were going to find the money to do that. We were going to find two different sorts of funds. We had to find operating funds, on one basis, how do we get the staff that we need to pay to run that sort of facility, and how do we find the capital dollars to do the bricks and mortar renovation that we need to do for that project? And it was a real head scratcher. I did not know where those dollars would come from. So again, this almost unprecedented, in terms of amount unrestricted…the request came through for the first item on the wish list that we’ve decided to address with those funds…Mr. Morin’s financial advisor was a man named Ed Mullen, who I’ve known casually for a while. Ed told me that he wasn’t just a financial advisor; he was a real friend toward the end of Mr. Morin’s life and dealt with a number of his needs. But he talked to Mr. Morin repeatedly, and said, “Bob, you know everyone nowadays designates where they want what they’re giving to go,” that’s the 96 percent statistic that we cited earlier. And he was insistent, “No, no, I want $100,000 to go to the library, other than that I want it to be unrestricted.” And that was not just a one shot conversation. Ed had that repeatedly with Mr. Morin. And Mr. Morin was emphatic. He wanted $100,000 to go to Dimond Library. Could Dimond Library use more than that? Sure, every place on this campus could use more money. There’s just no question about that. But we honored that request, obviously, we always honor our donors’ requests, and assigned the rest to our new higher priorities.
Q (VH): On top of that $100,000 that he wanted, did he say specifically that he wanted to it go toward anything specific in the library?
A: He did not. No he didn’t. I thought a lot about that though. And even though you have to be legally required to do anything with an unrestricted request, I felt it was at least important to think about his life and what might have resonated with him. And the first thing I thought about was, here’s a man who clearly loved the University of New Hampshire. He’s a graduate of the University of New Hampshire, a native son of the state. He spent his entire working life at the University of New Hampshire. So, the first thing I thought was he would probably want us to do something with that money that would be a legacy like forever that would help secure our future forever, because he wanted the institution to go on forever. I think if he had been alive at that 150th celebration, it would have resonated with him the notion that we need to be thoughtful about the next 150 years, to make sure that our successors are still ranting, and celebrating the 300th birthday. So, that’s why I thought about trying to do things that would continue to pay dividends over the years, and both of those things will do that. I think that having a first class career professional success initiative will have parents and prospective students beating a path to our door because they know that they want that return after they spend however many tens of thousands of dollars on tuition, and I’ve already made the case for why I think the video board was a good business decision. So I think that that would’ve appealed to Mr. Morin. Secondly, the guy actually loved college football, and that’s how he spent his last couple years was watching college football at night on his little TV. So, Ed said, that he’s probably sitting up there smiling down at this conversation, at these games in particular. I can’t say that. He never expressed a desire to buy a video score board or invest in a career center. I wouldn’t make that case. But I don’t think that the decisions were all at odds with who the man was and what he would have found appealing.
Q (MK): So you’ve been saying that money is kind of tight. Do you think that will effect tuition at all?
(VH): In the future, in the next two to ten years, do you see tuition fluctuating at all, higher or lower? Or will it just stay the same?
(AB) We do have the highest in-state tuition.
A: We’ve actually gotten a little better on that score. Only because other states have gotten worse. But I think that UMass actually has exceeded us now, and I think that Vermont is now ahead of us, and if you UConn’s budget does what I think it’s going to do as a result of a state budget crisis, they will be ahead of us in the years to come as well. To answer your question directly, my hope is that we can begin to hold ourselves at tuition increases that are no greater than base levels of inflation. So, no I can’t say we’re never going to have more tuition increases, but I think that we all need to work really, really hard to moderate tuition increases, and use that as our metric… It might sound like I’m minimizing the cost for students, because I do think student debt levels are too high and cost levels are too high, but if you benchmark UNH tuition against, certainly our out-of-state tuition, against private institutions or other flagship publics, we’re actually on the low side, and then again, especially when you think about the value proposition. What you’re getting for that tuition. I’ll put us up against a lot of those privates any day.
Q (MK): Does that mean you work with the state government?
A: We always do. And remember that, I shouldn’t say remember, you weren’t around, but in 2010-11, that legislature, I think following the great recession, cut our budget in half in one year. And we’ve never gotten back to that pre-cut level. So our conversation with the state is always about partnership to keep tuition for New Hampshire residents, in particular, at as affordable levels as we possibly can.
Q (AB): On the basis of the government working with you guys, I know Maggie Hassan sent in a letter to the university. Do you have any statement on that at all?
A: I think it would be wise for me not to have any additional comment. I think she didn’t understand the reason for the decision.
Q (MK): I didn’t want to get too political, but we had Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders visit last week, and they specifically focused on free college. Do you have any thoughts on that? Do you think it’s feasible or realistic, in this state specifically?
A: I think that particular set of proposals, for a variety of reasons, is not feasible. The only way, in America, that things like that get enacted into law is not only if a president proposes it, but if congress disposes, and I don’t envision a next four years where the White House and congress are skipping happily together linked arm and arm around policy proposals like that. I just don’t think that’s going to happen. Second, substantively, the proposal itself has some flaws. Even if we all agreed that it was a good idea in most respects, I don’t see how a federal-state partnership that is called for in that proposal, would work in a place like New Hampshire, where given the track record here, even with other federal inducements that are dangled out, I don’t think the state is going to raise the revenue that they would need to raise to match federal requirements. I don’t think that is likely to occur. I think it’s great that it’s on the national agenda and people are talking about the cost of higher education. I worry, I’ll tell you the third thing that I worry about with that proposal, and that is what I think would be a tragedy if higher education policies were federalized in America. And what I mean by that is, I think it would be unfortunate if in an effort to solve this particular affordability crisis, I think we do have an affordability crisis, in an effort to solve that we were to write a series of regulations at the federal level that essentially marginalized higher education across the country. I’d worry about that. I think that one of the things that has made us the envy of the world in terms of our higher education system, as terrible as the cost issue is, we are still the envy of the rest of the world in terms of our higher education system. We’ve got about 4,500 institutes of higher education in the United States. We’ve got incredible numbers. Everything from large, flagship universities to large private universities to tiny religious institutions, all across the board. And I think it’s that rich tapestry of very different kinds of institutions that’s been a real wonder and a source of strength here. And if in an effort to try to address affordability issues we were to sand all of that off and make everybody the same, I think that would be a real issue, and I worry that some of these proposals would do that. Now, all that said, to come back to the premise of your question, I do think that we’ve got a terrible problem with affordability and access to higher education in America. As I’ve said many times, I’m a first generation college kid myself. My parents didn’t go to college, grandparents didn’t go to college, aunts and uncles didn’t go to college. And they didn’t have the money to send me to college. I borrowed money in student loans. I worked during the summer. I worked while I was at school. But at that time, it was possible to do that in a way that when I graduated, I don’t even remember what my student loan debt was, but it wasn’t crushing me. I was able to defer a lot of it because I taught, so that meant that I could defer it for a while, and by the time I had to start paying it back it was more than an annoyance, but it wasn’t like what a lot of you will face now, where it’s either pay your student loan or buy a car or buy a house. Those things weren’t a choice that I faced. And as a result of far too explosive growth in our cost structure in universities, wedded to a disinvestment in public education by states for many years, it’s no longer possible for you to do what I did. You can’t just work in the summer, get a part-time job, take out a few dollars in loans and be done with it. It doesn’t work that way anymore, unless your parents have the means to underwrite a lot of your education. And that is a problem not only for you, but it’s a problem for the country. And it does mean that your generation is making different life decisions than my generation did, and that’s not a good thing. It’s also not a good thing because, this is a cliché but it’s fundamentally true, in a knowledge driven economy and a knowledge driven world…where America is going to continue to be competitive in the world and have the most highly educated work force we can possibly have, and a large sloth of the population either doesn’t believe that it’s worth the investment, or they just can’t figure out how to make the investment. We are crippling ourselves as a nation in that economic competition. So, we’ve got to figure out how to solve it. I just don’t think that that proposal is probably going to do it.
Q (VH): What do you think is your biggest accomplishment as president?
A: I think probably weathering that economic downturn. Both in terms of the state disinvestment and holding tuition relatively flat in the face of that disinvestment, and not firing a bunch of people, not compromising on the quality of the education that we produce. I think not only surviving, but actually getting stronger, over that period of time.
Q (MK): Are there any policy proposals that you’ve seen that might possibly provide a solution?
A: No, is the short answer. In part because I don’t think that the problem lends itself to bumper sticker political solutions. I think it’s complex. I think it would take partnerships across a lot of different sectors. We have our own responsibility in higher ed. to figure out how to do things smarter, less expensively, and that’s not been easy for us, because we’re right up there with the church as an ancient institution. We’ve been around for centuries. It’s hard for us to change our ways, fundamentally. But we’ve got to responsibly have that conversation, but it also involves the federal government partnering to some extent. It involves state governments. It involves the community. I think that businesses banging on our door all the time for a different work force to meet their needs for employees, they’ve got a responsibility too to step up and help drive that cost, push that cost down. How do you put all that on a simple bumper sticker or policy proposal? I don’t know. I think there are some policy proposals, certainly that I would embrace, that raising the Pell grant ceiling would be really helpful for the federal government to do. I think that allowing, to stick with that one narrow issue, dollars to be used for summer, as well as for fall and spring, would be a smart thing to do, because we’d help students get through more quickly. I think in terms of states, they need to step up, again, and they make the kind of investment that allowed me, as a kid in New York State, to be able to go to college. So, there are a number of discreet policy initiatives that I would embrace, that no one or any politicians out there are banging a drum for, because it doesn’t fit on a bumper sticker.
Q (VH): What’s your biggest challenge as president?
A: The answer I usually give to that is making the numbers work. Trying to be responsible about keeping things as affordable as possible, because that really is my main game, while doing all the other things I’ve got to do to try to make it a safe campus and an attractive campus and pay people fairly and all that kind of stuff. It’s a hard juggling act to do every year. But another way to think about that question, another way to answer it is, my biggest challenge is I never know what the next day is going to bring. It’s not like in my earlier life, when I pretty much knew what my teaching schedule was going to be every semester and I knew what the lesson plan was and what topic we were going to discuss on November 3. But now, it’s both the virtue and the challenge of the job. It’s never boring and everyday is a little bit different. But it also means that I could be dealing with a firestorm on Twitter over something really dumb because people don’t know what the backstory is, or there could be a tragedy, or something that happens to a student, so it really is in some ways, the unpredictability of the job that’s the most challenging. But it’s also the most rewarding.
Q (MK): Is there anything that UNH can do to encourage sustainability throughout Durham? Because, where I live, specifically, there isn’t any recycling where I live at University Edge.
(EC) University Edge apartments on Main Street do not have recycling.
A: I’m really surprised. No recycling? …If I were you, and I were worried about that issue, as you obviously are and should be, I think that I would recognize that the town of Durham, as a town, is a very willing partner in these kinds of ventures. I think that, in fact, I’ll bring this up, I’ve got a meeting with Todd Selig, the town administrator, and as passionate as we are here at UNH about sustainability, Todd is too. I would get together with a group of students and go and visit Todd and some members of the town council and ask them why they can’t put some pressure on University Edge and the Lodges to make sure they’re recycling facilities. I’m shocked to hear that, and I’d be even more shocked if they weren’t receptive if you met with those folks…Partnerships are always better than just beating somebody with a baseball bat and making it one sided, and maybe there’s some way that the town working with one of the sustainability groups on campus working with the management of the Lodges could organize something…That’s a pretty big gap in town.
Q (VH): What school event or occurrence gives you the biggest sense of pride?
A: There are three occasions that jump to mind every year and are part of the cycle. Move-in day is fantastic because you see in the eyes of returning students and in the eyes of first year students this kind of glow. And amongst the first it’s happiness to be back on campus with friends and the second group is like, “Oh, wow.” It’s this whole new world opening up. So that’s one thing, and I love to interact with the parents dropping them off. It’s a nice part of it. Second, is the opposite end of the spectrum, Commencement is always a heartwarming, pride-inducing time of the year. And then University Day. I’ve come to love University Day every year, because it is just the embodiment of the richness, the variety, of things that you all take advantage of. It’s awesome. It’s just overwhelming. So those three things jump out.
Q (VH): Beer or wine?
A: I’m a wine drinker…I like red wine.