Yearly Bienen address to focus on diversity, budget

Elaine Helm

With many students still nestled snug in their beds, University President Henry Bienen will deliver his annual State of the University Address at 9 a.m. Thursday in Norris University Center’s McCormick Auditorium.

Students, faculty and staff on the Chicago Campus can view a webcast of the speech, which will be available online, in Thorne Auditorium.

Bienen told The Daily in a Feb. 18 interview that he planned to talk about diversity — “an issue on my mind and other people’s minds.”

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Bienen expressed his support for taking race into account in admissions decisions. Northwestern, along with other colleges, filed a brief supporting the University of Michigan in two cases challenging its admissions practices. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the cases April 1.

Bienen also plans to discuss budget constraints that will compel the university to construct fewer new buildings than in previous years and hire faculty at a slower rate.

The speech also will include a review of the year to date and a look ahead, said Alan Cubbage, vice president for university relations.

“I think the university is in good shape and in a strong position,” Bienen said last month.

Bienen said “there’s not going to be any blockbuster surprise” in his speech.

Last year the speech focused on Campaign NU and the cost of ongoing growth. Bienen also offered justifications for the university’s proposal to fill in one-fifth of the Lagoon to create more space for parking and a pedestrian mall. The plan has since been put on hold indefinitely.

“How do people get in their heads that I’m going to put a Taco Bell on the Lakefill?” he said last year. “A pedestrian mall, for goodness’ sake — not a strip mall.”

The Northwestern University Staff Advisory Council is sponsoring Bienen’s address. NUSAC accepted questions via e-mail last week for a question-and-answer session with Bienen after his speech.

“We usually receive quite a few questions in advance,” said Shericka Pringle, NUSAC’s communications committee chairwoman and business coordinator for NU’s department of preventative medicine.

Pringle said during 1973, NUSAC’s first year in existence, it convinced the university president to deliver a yearly address to provide staff with information.

Until last year, the president spoke at both the Chicago and Evanston campuses. But with new Web technology, Bienen can speak on one campus and viewers can watch from remote locations in real time. Now he alternates between the campuses every year.

About 100 people viewed the speech last year in Chicago and at satellite locations in Evanston.

Pringle said the event usually is attended predominantly by faculty and staff. While the morning hour may attract fewer students, she said the time probably isn’t ideal for Bienen’s primary audience either.

“As far as the staff, it probably would be more accessible if it was during their lunch hour,” Pringle said.

State of the University Address

9 a.m. Thursday

McCormick Auditorium; webcast in

Thorne Auditorium on the Chicago Campus; available on the Internet

What: University President Henry Bienen’s annual address