Lombardi cites progress on construction, faculty hiring and fundraising

By Daniel J. Fitzgibbons

Progress is being made on capital projects, private fundraising and faculty recruitment and there is a strong likelihood the Legislature will fund retroactive pay for faculty and staff, Chancellor John V. Lombardi told the Faculty Senate Nov. 18.

In his update, Lombardi said planners have a developed a “reasonable schedule” for $400 million in capital projects to be carried out over five years. Starting this summer, work is expected to begin on a central steam plant, an integrated science facility and a visual arts building. Renovation of Skinner Hall to house the School of Nursing is also slated to start.

“What this means is that by summer and early fall, we will be living with an extraordinarily messed up campus,” said the chancellor. “We should celebrate it because it will allow us to remain competitive. Without it, we will not be successful.”

Lombardi said a planned seven-year fundraising campaign is also gearing up as school and college development offices are beefed up and efforts continue to build a volunteer organization. While the campaign is not expected to generate any immediate income, Lombardi said many development officers and deans are scrambling to nail down gift commitments by Jan. 1 so the donations will qualify for state matching funds. Every dollar raised privately can receive a 50 percent state match

Earlier this year, lawmakers allocated $9 million in matching funds for the UMass system, with $6 million earmarked by the President’s Office for the Amherst campus. Any funds remaining after the end of year will be pooled at the system level and will be “up for grabs” and Lombardi said the campus will compete strongly for those monies.

Although the campus “has been extraordinarily successful in recruiting outstanding new faculty,” Lombardi said the number of full-time faculty will still fall short of 1,000 by the end of the year. “We still need to be in the 1,100 range, at least,” he said, to bring back the teaching cadre closer to the level before early retirements and budget cuts took a toll.

On Beacon Hill, Lombardi said, legislators are still grappling with a $1 billion structural deficit. “The good news is that no one’s talking about cuts. The bad news is that nobody’s talking about increases either.”

Meanwhile, he said, there appears to be strong legislative support for overriding Gov. Mitt Romney’s veto of $32 million in retroactive pay raises for 13,000 public higher education employees. “I’m 90 percent sure the retroactive pay raise will be solved,” Lombardi said.

As students register for spring semester classes, Lombardi said the SPIRE system appears to be handling demand without any major problems like those that disrupted the fall add-drop period.

“We’re holding our breath. All signs are good,” he told the senate.