Betz ready to stand up at Legislature

He’s only been in office for a few weeks, and he’ll probably return to the School of Medicine by summer, but Interim President Lorris Betz has a plan for the time in between.

In requesting money from the state Legislature, Betz said his first priority is cost-of-living increases in salaries for faculty and staff.

Being compensated for unfunded enrollment growth is further down the list, which means the cap on new student growth will remain through Fall Semester 2004.

Salary compensation must come first, Betz said, because the morale of faculty and staff has to improve before they’ll support continued student growth.

The enrollment cap is good for the U anyway, he said. The cap raises the academic standards of admission, which is appropriate for the state’s flagship institution.

“We need to be able to be selective,” Betz said.

It is also more likely the state will be able to afford the raises in salary while the U may have to wait longer for unfunded students to be compensated.

It is important, however, that the Legislature understands that it is holding an IOU to the U and reconsiders its formula for how it appropriates money to colleges and universities, he said.

The U’s second-highest priority in requesting funding from the state is $45 million to renovate Marriott Library, Betz said.

Money for the library will come out of a different budget than money for salaries or enrollment growth. But it will come out of the same budget as the $50 million a year needed to renovate the Capitol building. Until the Capitol is finished, there will be no excess funds to renovate other state buildings.

That is true unless the state is willing to go into debt by selling bonds to raise extra funds. If the state did bond the money, it would be able to afford the $27 million required to start work on the library as well as other projects in schools across the state, Betz said.

Other issues facing the U this semester include a recycling program proposed by student groups, and the so-called primate debate, in which a freshman protester is demanding that the U stop experimenting on primates.

Regarding recycling, Betz said he fully supports conservation efforts and believes U leadership should set an example for students in recycling. He has had bins placed in his own offices, he said.

But if an organized program were instituted, he’d like to see it done as a partnership between students and the U. If students were willing to help share the expense of a program through raised student fees, then he’d support it, Betz said.

In response to the primate debate, Betz said, “There are a lot of uninformed individuals that think it’s possible to do high quality medical research without using animals. Right now, that’s not the case.”

Betz was a neuroscience pediatrician before entering administration and remains a vice president of health sciences.

He also said he was a medical researcher himself earlier in his career and while earning his doctorate.

Strict protocols exist to monitor the treatment of animals in research experiments, he said. The U follows all of the required protocols, and any hesitation shown to release information about the experiments is not because researchers fear that abuse will be exposed.

Secrecy is vital in research, Betz said, to protect experiments and breakthroughs in a field that is fiercely competitive.

He said he agrees with the decision made to release research files as long as confidential information is allowed to be deleted. Despite the tough issues to be faced, Betz continually reasserts that he has no present plans to leave the U for another institution despite reports that he’s been offered much higher salaries elsewhere. Betz said he likes the U so much because of the teamwork between nurses and doctors in U Hospital; the research programs, especially in genetics, and the capital they generate; the support of the community for the Health Sciences Center and the U as a whole; and the people he works with, both in health sciences and in the office of the president.

As Betz is getting used to his interim responsibilities, U students are also getting used to having a new president. Of 50 students surveyed in the Union, only six knew the name of their new interim president and two of those thought he was a woman.

Many said they had received an e-mail about Betz’s appointment, but hadn’t read it closely.

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