University of Rhode Island President David M. Dooley held an open forum to address new faculty members and the priorities of the university moving forward last Thursday.

The university is also in the process of creating as many as 100 new faculty positions, which Dooley said will help to expand interests and ideas while also lending itself to opportunity and increased diversity.  The growth of research will not just be coming from the sciences, but from the arts and humanities as well.  

New opportunities and changes are presenting themselves to colleges outside of the sciences that are traditionally perceived to receive the most funding.  Associate Professor of Education Diane E. Kern said a new opportunity to partner with schools with many diverse students could potentially mean more students attending and finding success at URI.   

“We are in an exciting, changing time,” Kern said.  “As the President mentioned, the school of education is being reconfigured as part of a college of education and professional studies. I’m very optimistic about the opportunities.”

The event, held on April 7, was open to faculty, students and staff. The open forum event style was a rare opportunity for members of the URI community to share their ideas and comments about the university.

The conversation was organized around the “transformational” events occurring at URI, according to Dooley. The new Chemistry and Forensic Sciences Building, the recent general education program changes and the creation of the interdisciplinary health collaborative were just some of the achievements over the past 36 months that Dooley mentioned.   

Successes like these are what Dooley said he believes will make URI one of the world leaders in global education and outreach. At a time where even though we’re more connected than ever, global separation still exists, he said.

“Institutions like the University of Rhode Island have a more important role than ever in combatting that, in changing that,” Dooley said.  

As to the university’s most important goal for the future, however, Dooley said he is uncertain, but he has called on all members of the community to consider this for an upcoming campaign. Next year will mark the URI’s 125th anniversary, and despite not knowing what or when the campaign will be, Dooley said he has no doubts that it will be big.  

“We want to celebrate what this institution has been for the past 125 years and what it can be for the next 125 years,” Dooley said.   

Questions brought to Dooley from the audience concerned a wide variety of concerns for postponing the rebuild of the fine arts center, increasing international student services, better parking (which Dooley quickly laughed off) and the future of the Talent Development program.  

Newly elected Student Senate President Cody Anderson expressed his excitement for the new services and opportunities Dooley hopes to implement, but also added his concern for the rising cost of college at “one of the last truly affordable colleges in New England.”  

In response to Anderson’s concern, Dooley said that the university is working with the state government to increase higher education funding and be able to freeze tuition for both in-state and out-of-state students.  Dooley also addressed the increased services he plans to implement will be both efficient and effective.  

Coordinator of LGBTQ Programs and Services Annie M. Kosar also questioned Dooley, but with her concerns for the campus climate after anti-Semitic fliers were sent to URI printers on March 24.  

Although the university values freedom of speech, Dooley said that the First Amendment should not be used as a weapon.  

“We should not use speech to wound deliberately,” Dooley said.  “We should not be using speech to damage, but to respect other people that we share our community with, share our nation with, share our world with, enough to refrain from that, even though in some respects it may be our right guaranteed by the constitution. “