Council Hears Plans to Move Forward on New Sanford School

Sanford Institute BuildingThe Sanford Institute for Public Policy is moving forward with its plans for becoming a school at the end of the current fiscal year, despite having fallen short of its fund-raising goal, Provost Peter Lange and Institute Director Bruce Kuniholm told the Academic Council Thursday.

The Academic Council will vote in April on the Sanford school proposal, which also must be approved by the Board of Trustees.

The 2006 financial plan for turning the institute into a school called for Sanford officials to raise $40 million over three years. The institute has raised just more than $30 million, but Kuniholm and Lange said the school was still financially viable. Lange said the intellectual rationale for the new school hasn’t changed: A public policy school is seen as essential to helping Duke develop its strategic priorities, such as internationalization and knowledge in the service of society.

“In the current climate, the strategic importance of a school like Sanford is even more important,” Lange told faculty members. “We need to keep the momentum. In a period of some entrenchment, to move forward is a strong statement of our commitment to our principles.” Lange added, “We wouldn’t create a school if it was financially weak.”

But officials have moderated their plans for the school’s growth. Kuniholm said the $40 million target was based on a different faculty hiring goal than the one currently in place. In response to the economic downturn, the school’s progress toward its goal of doubling the public policy faculty from 21 to 42 is being slowed. He said a greater emphasis on junior, rather than senior, faculty hires has also saved money.

Council members quizzed the two about the necessity of moving forward in tough financial times. When asked why not just wait a year for the economy to improve, Kuniholm said, “We can afford it now, and it makes sense. We have a balanced budget and we’ve managed our spending prudently. Even under the tough constraints of the next three budget years, we can manage this.” Kuniholm added that the planning process has been carefully done to minimize harm to Arts & Sciences budgets.

The initial reasons behind developing the school still remain strong, Kuniholm said.There is a need to expand and develop the public policy faculty, enhance its research mission and promote entrepreneurial activity, he said.

“We are routinely listed as one of the top 10 public policy schools in the country, even though we’re not (a school),” Kuniholm said.

President Richard H. Brodhead added his support for the proposal, noting he had just returned from a visit to Washington, D.C.

“On every issue, the people there are asking for good research and expertise,” Brodhead said. “I found Duke to be welcomed twice as much because of our links to public policy. This is a very particular strength of this university that we should capitalize on.”