Russi: ‘We are on the cusp of true greatness’

Oakland University president Gary Russi gave his annual state of the campus address Monday morning in the banquet rooms of the Oakland Center.

With about 400 members of the faculty, administration, board of trustees, and Oakland University Senate in attendance, Russi began with remarks about the plan made for the university in 1995 and the fulfillment of Vision 2010.

Russi presented evidence that, since the implementation of strategic planning, the number of students, faculty, academic programs, available teaching spaces, campus housing residents, and accredited programs has gone up.

“In order for us to move forward, we need to invest in quality. Specifically: quality education,” Russi said.

He stressed the importance of elevating OU toward becoming a first-rate research university and spoke of the increase in research activity at the school, particularly the $33 million in funded research.

“Research is essential at any institution of higher education,” Russi said.

He added that it adds distinction to the university.

Russi noted that the school is now considered a doctoral level research university and pushed for more work in developing graduate programs and avoiding things that may get in the way of fulfilling the president’s vision for the school’s growth in 2020.

He listed negative forces like competition, higher community college enrollement, a lower high school graduation rate, the Michigan economy and federal and state appropriation amounts as “serious threats.”

Russi began the question and answer session that followed by first addressing campus rumors on topics like athletic department salaries, where funding came from for the William Beaumont School of Medicine, OU’s appeal of a court decision regarding student Micah Fialka-Feldman, and parking and housing expansion.

He quelled rumors about the use of public funding for the school of medicine, spoke again about the creation of 468 parking spaces this summer and announced that the new planned housing complex project is now on hold.

In addition, he followed up on promises made in a November faculty open forum.

“All of you in this room, not a group or an individual, are true shareholders in this institution,” Russi said.

Audience members asked questions about everything from the graduate studies program at OU and governance to ad campaign spending and negotiating the proposed 2020 student enrollment goal of 25,000.

Russi noted his work and knowledge  on each issue, deferring to vice presidents Virinder Moudgil and Mary Beth Snyder when needed.

Russi unveiled a new website for communicating with the president:, where information presented at the address is available on the site as well.

“We are on the cusp of true greatness,” Russi said as he closed the talk. “We cannot allow anything to disrupt us on that path.”