Shalala hosts student media press conference

Shalala // File Photo by Monica Herndon
Shalala // File Photo by Monica Herndon
Shalala // File Photo by Monica Herndon

On Wednesday, President Donna E. Shalala sat down for a press conference with student media. She talked about the future and financial status of the university.

The Miami Hurricane compiled select questions from the press conference.

Student Media: You’ve obviously had a lot of successes during your fourteen years as president. What would you say is the success that you are most proud of?

Donna Shalala: Well, I think I see my successes at graduation when the students walk across the stage, and in the discoveries of the great scientists at the university and the great teaching that takes place, and legacies are built around the core values and the core responsibilities of the institution that you’re responsible for.

SM: What do you think is still left to be accomplished that your successor will tackle?

DS: Oh, lots of things are left to be accomplished. The integration of modern technology into the classroom and into research … rethinking and rebuilding undergraduate housing on campus. … But the real core responsibility will be hiring a new generation of faculty.

This generation, my own generation, will be retiring in the next five years, and the quality of the university – its reputation – will be determined by the next generation of faculty.

SM: Why did you pick this year as your last year at UM?

DS: I actually picked four years ago. But the economic downturn made all universities in this country unstable, and therefore it was necessary to rebuild our financial balance sheet, to make sure we were financially in good shape. … Most people cancelled their campaigns because of the economic downturn, but we decided that we would try to raise $1.6 billion. And it looks like by June we’ll have raised that. I intended to leave though after 10 years. I just got waylaid.

SM: What are your plans after the end of the school year?

DS: I wish I knew. Lots of people are calling me up and giving me ideas about what my plans should be. But I honestly don’t know. I get a year off, and so I think I’m going to take part of that year and just read a lot of the books that I’ve been wanting to read.

I want to redo my course in the politics of healthcare, and so I need to spend some time doing that. I may write a book but I’m not sure. But I honestly don’t have any plans.

All I’ve done this year is say ‘no’ to anyone who wanted to put anything on my calendar.

SM: Recently, the Counseling Center has limited its visits so that students can only go 15 times per academic year. Are there any plans in the near future, that you know of, to increase funding for the Counseling Center to maybe improve the facilities and not have to limit visits?

DS: The counseling center’s decision was appropriate for a university, and I think that the Hurricane editorial had it exactly right.

They looked at the numbers. Ten percent of the students were eating up most of the resources.

The Counseling Center is a success center. It’s set up to support students so they can be successful at the university, and so finding a balance so that students have access. We have added resources. We hired a terrific new head of the Counseling Center, and I just think the students understood the explanation of why it was done. I think every student will be able to get access to the kind of help they need, and if we don’t have the kind of help they need, then they probably need to find it someplace else. They need a specialized kind of help that a university can’t provide, and we’ve had a wonderful relationship with the psychiatry department at UHealth. The building of the new UHealth center in front of the BankUnited Center I think will provide important health services, but I think we’ve got a very good Counseling Center. But there is a limit, because when you say, ‘we should add resources,’ you’re paying for it. I’m not anxious to increase the student fee for health resources. I think we can rebalance it, and I think that’s exactly what they’ve done. I thought the Hurricane had it exactly right, on both the reasons and the balance.