"Best of Times, Worst of Times..." Text of Dr. Crain's Investiture Remarks
Thank you Dr. Moffett - Dr. Smith, Dr. Crain, Dr. Parker. It is truly an honor to be here today with so many of Southeastern’s past presidents. I have had the distinct privilege of working with and learning from each of these distinguished individuals, including Dr. Sally Clausen, who unfortunately was unable to be here today.
I want to thank my faculty and staff colleagues; our alumni, and community friends and supporters, as well as our elected officials.
I am extremely grateful to the members of our Investiture Committee and the many faculty, staff and students who helped plan and are helping carry out this ceremony today.
I appreciate my family members and close personal friends who have supported me and are with us today.
And, finally I want to thank the most important group of all - our students, without whom this university would have no reason to exist.
Recently, as we were in the midst of dealing with budget cuts and related challenges, I could not help but think of the immortal words written by Charles Dickens in the beginning passage of “A Tale of Two Cities.”
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
As you may recall, the passage actually continues further. It reads:
“it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way...”
I don’t know about you, but lately I have felt as though nearly everything was going “direct the other way.”
It has been many years since I read “A Tale of Two Cities,” but clearly, what made me think of that passage was the incredible contradiction we find ourselves in today. This University has grown and prospered, achieved great results, been recognized for its successes by virtually every individual or group that has evaluated our performance - surely the best of times.
Yet, despite all of these successes and accomplishment, we were recently forced to cut ten million dollars from our budget, and we face future budget prospects that potentially are even more dire - surely the worst of times.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” - I think we need to remind
ourselves that good and bad, hope and despair always co-exist - that even in the worst
of times, good things happen - even as our budget is being cut, we are graduating
record numbers of students who are well prepared and anxious to make their mark on
Even as our budget is being cut, we are attracting record numbers of new students who are well prepared to be successful at the university. And we have to remind ourselves that our institution has survived difficult times before. I was a new faculty member at Southeastern in the 1980s when we had another financial crisis in Louisiana and in higher ed, and eventually Southeastern emerged and became stronger and better than ever.
One of the other significant themes from “A Tale of Two Cities” is that individual effort and sacrifice provide the springboard for people to transcend tragedy and despair. I think everyone in this room is here today because you care what happens to this university and to our current and future students. For us right now, each of us has to ask and answer a simple question, “What will I do? What role will I play? How can I sacrifice to help this great university overcome this financial crisis that is unfolding around us?”
And while members of our university family, our faculty, staff, students, alumni and other supporters, certainly have to pull together as a team, everybody here as an individual also has to ask and answer that question - what will I do?
As a faculty member, will you make time to advise more students because we are not able to hire enough advisors? As a staff member, will you be understanding and patient when serving students because we can’t hire enough support staff to handle the work load?
As a student, will you be understanding and patient when the class you need isn’t available when you need it because we can’t hire enough faculty? As an alum or supporter of Southeastern, will you help champion our cause or financially support a program or student?
But it goes beyond our immediate Southeastern family members....for example, as legislators and State leaders, will you stand tall and defy the conventional wisdom to just cut the budget by helping to find real solutions to our State’s financial challenges? As higher education leaders, will you champion fair and equitable funding for all institutions that successfully execute their missions? As community and business leaders, will you stand up and support Louisiana higher education, despite its imperfections and the possible need for greater investment to ensure its survival?
And what about me as your President? What will I do? I pledge to you that I will continue
to be honest and straightforward in communicating with campus and community constituents.
I will continue to strive to be innovative and creative in helping to identify and
implement solutions to our challenges. And I will remain dogged and persistent in
championing the cause of this great institution and its people. I pledge that I will
do all of these things and more.
I am convinced that how we emerge from this difficult time will be a direct result of how we all respond, each of us, as individuals to help lift this institution.
One of the other themes in “A Tale of Two Cities” is renewal and resurrection - the hope of a better day, a new opportunity, something good emerging from a bad situation.
Recently, when we implemented our budget cut, we eliminated 65 faculty and staff positions, including 19 that were currently occupied. In other words, we fired 19 people. These were productive people, good employees who were contributing to the mission of our university, but the reality of our financial circumstances dictated that we had to let them go.
The other day as I returned from a meeting off campus, one of these employees happened to be in the office taking care of some last minute business as part of the check out process. She looked up at me and said very calmly and without any anger, Dr. Crain, I want you to know that I understand about this decision, but I want you to know that I love Southeastern, and I really loved working here. I just hope that when things get better, I might be able to come back to work for Southeastern.
There is probably nothing she could have said that would have both hurt and helped me more. The hope of renewal is very powerful. I truly believe that if we do everything we can do, not only as members of the Southeastern family, but as individuals, then hope will become reality.