By Tracy ZupancisHoya Staff Writer

In his first sit-down interview with reporters from campus media groups Wednesday, University President John J. DeGioia emphasized his plan for a three-pronged focus on faculty, financial aid and facilities, and discussed the financial challenges facing the university at the start of his tenure.

DeGioia also stressed a commitment to open speech and expression at Georgetown, while pledging dedication to university traditions.

To stay on track with Georgetown’s plans for development, the university must raise $300 million over the course of the next two years. Despite the recent downturn in the economy, DeGioia said he has “every expectation of completing that goal.”

DeGioia also said that since one-half of Georgetown alumni graduated since 1980, much of the university’s alumni is reaching an age when they will be interested in and capable of philanthropy.

Due to the economy’s downturn, DeGioia said university investments at Georgetown, as at other universities, “got hit pretty hard . at some point it was close to a 10 percent drop of the value of the endowment from our peak to our low. We’re down for the year, I think, overall due to the performance of the market. We raised more money than we ever raised in our history, but our endowment performance did suffer. But you have those kind of years.”

While 2000 was the most successful year for fundraising in Georgetown history, DeGioia described 2001 as “one of the darker years.”

“The goal is the financial long run, and I think in the long run our financial performance has been very stable,” he said.

DeGioia said his core plan of focusing on faculty, financial aid and facilities is the best long-term way to increase the strength of the university in the face of schools with more means at their disposal.

“The competitive context of the community is changing, and as a result we need to adapt,” he said.

Over the last 30 years, the university focused on building the faculty from within through hiring young faculty members at the beginning of their careers, DeGioia said.

“I think we’ve done an exceptional job with that strategy. But some of the folks who have now developed their careers are very attractive to other institutions, and so we need to ensure that we can retain these people,” DeGioia said. He sees competitive salaries and benefits for faculty as essential to ensuring that Georgetown be attractive to new and old faculty.

DeGioia said a university commitment to financial aid forms an important part of his plans for his time as president because he believes it is essential to guaranteeing that Georgetown has the best student body possible.

“The most important of the elements we can have is to ensure . that we can truly say to the very best students around the country that Georgetown is a realistic financial possibility,” he said, also pointing to Georgetown’s need-blind admissions policy and the importance of trying to get students the aid they require once admitted.

“Probably of the most interest to our community at this moment in time is facilities. We’re enhancing our physical plan, enhancing our infrastructure,” DeGioia said of the final part of his three-pronged focus for the university.

Development, he said, “ranges from the need to build a new science building, to a new home for the business school, to a new performing arts center . and completing new residence halls.” He added that facilities pose the additional challenge of maintenance.

DeGioia has spent much of his first few months introducing himself. Now that students have returned to campus, he said, “it’s been like a whirlwind.”

DeGioia also spent the summer beginning the searches for university administrators and continuing development on the plans for new facilities around campus.

An early hurdle for DeGioia has been the university’s attempts to gain Board of Zoning Adjustment approval of Georgetown’s plans for development.

“We’re very pleased that the BZA approved our master plan . but there were conditions. We filed the stay to say we don’t think it’s appropriate for us to be asked to meet some of these conditions, and that stay was denied . We were disappointed,” DeGioia said of the BZA’s Tuesday denial of the stay.

DeGioia said the university’s next step will be a lawsuit against the BZA.

Despite the difficulties posed by district approval of university plans for development, DeGioia said, “I believe you cannot find a better place for a university than where we are. Recognizing the challenges that creates, I just can’t imagine a better location than this.”

As Georgetown’s first non-Jesuit university president, DeGioia said he doesn’t feel “disproportionate pressure” concerning his tenure.

“I believe that Catholic identity is not in conflict with our mission as a university. In fact, to the contrary, I believe that the two are mutually sustaining . I expect to have a very close working relationship to the Jesuit community and Cardinal McCarrick,” he said.

DeGioia said he sees recruiting senior leadership positions such as those of the provost and senior vice president as one of the most important things he will be doing over the course of his first year in office.

DeGioia said he has been in contact with Cardinal McCarrick about Ex Corde Ecclesiae, the mandatum dealing with education at Catholic schools currently being developed by the Catholic Church.

Concerning the mandatum, DeGioia said, “I do not see anything at this point that I believe will compromise the academic freedom of any member of our faculty, nor do I see anything that compromises the institutional autonomy of the university.”

As for Georgetown University’s relationship to Georgetown edical Center since its purchase by MedStar, DeGioia said, “We very much need the hospital to be a great success because we depend on the hospital for the education of our medical students. We’re very pleased with the partnership, and we’re very closely linked.”

DeGioia expressed admiration for former University President Leo J. O’Donovan, S.J. “He taught me so many lessons,” DeGioia said. “He brought such an energy and enthusiasm to the job . I hope I am capable of the same . He embodies a whole way of being that is so exemplary.”

Though most of the goals DeGioia has are long term, he said he does not want to lose track of students currently attending the university.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.