Spring 2004


 

  Presidential Column - Retrospective: Look Back in Pride

 

Prof. Yehuda Hayuth
President, University of Haifa

 

“This is our purpose,” a certain historian and philosopher once wrote, “to make as meaningful as possible this life that has been bestowed upon us; to live in such a way that we may be proud of ourselves.”  For “this life,” I would like to substitute “this position, this presidency.”  Being “proud of ourselves” is the theme of this column, my last as President of the University of Haifa.

            The Focus newspaper has afforded me the opportunity to bring our friends—present and future—all over the world up to date on the progress that has characterized this wonderful and in many ways unique University during my decade-long stewardship, which will conclude on September 30, 2004.  Now, as the Board of Governors is about to convene to elect a new president, is the time for me to look back, with the objective of providing a broader perspective to the events I have written about.

            It has been with the great support both of my colleagues at the University and our many friends around the globe that this has been a decade full of achievements, enabling us to build together an institution of higher education and research whose name is respected world wide.  Of that, we should be proud.

            When I first occupied this seat, as Acting President, in 1993, our campus numbered about 7,000 students, of whom 15% were graduate students.  Today the student body numbers almost 16,000; and, importantly, fully 30% of these students are studying toward their Master’s or doctorate.

            Ten years ago, the plateau on Mt. Carmel that is the University campus held 700,000 sq. feet of construction.  The graduate of the class of 1994 would never recognize the vibrant campus of 2004.  Physical development has reached a total of 1.9 million sq. feet, the new edifices containing state-of-the-art laboratories, classrooms, faculty facilities, and dormitories.

            That all this growth was not the consequence of the proverbial “edifice complex” may be evidenced in the catalogs of the years bracketing my terms of office: the tremendous expansion in academic programs, ready to meet and even anticipate the needs of society, is readily apparent; perhaps less so is the quadrupling of outreach projects to surrounding neighborhoods and even districts of further distance.  The catalyst in both cases has been the fulfillment of the University’s mission: providing excellence in education to all sectors of the population and service to the community.

            Budget.  The increase is not cost free.  We were able to extract more funding from the government.  We have also been able to raise much more in fundraising among our friends and benefactors.  Until recently.  In the past three years, the government has instituted a series of drastic cuts in its budget to all universities.  We may be proud that, despite these shortfalls, the University of Haifa has been able to run a balanced budget operation, assisted in no small measure by innovative administrative procedures and structures.  There is no question, though, that the cuts do hurt and threaten to stymie our continuing progress.  

            Certainly the achievements I have been talking about have involved great team work.  Our dear friends in the United States, Canada, Europe, South America, Australia, and South Africa have been an inseparable part of allowing it to fulfill its mission.  We may be proud of our students, our faculty, and our administrative staff who have contributed, each group in its own way, to the development of a spirit of cooperation and unity, fostering the advancement of the University. 

Not least in this respect, and something of which I am particularly proud, is the spirit of pluralism that pervades this University.  Despite the difficult incidents and tensions surrounding us, and which have not entirely escaped us, this is still, I feel, an island of sanity that can radiate a very positive message.  And this gives us hope and optimism for the future, when the peace we all long for will allow a full utilization of the talents, innovative thinking, and intellectual curiosity that are so fundamental to a university. 

I am leaving my post as the president of the University with great confidence in its ability to meet the academic, scientific, and social challenges that lie ahead of it.  Despite its relatively young age, the University of Haifa’s 32 years have infused it with sufficient maturity and potential to maintain the pace of progress.  I have no doubt that the investments made in this institution in the past decade will help carry its reputation to new heights in the decades to come.  We all can be proud of our involvement with this University on Mt. Carmel.

 

   

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