Ronnie Green nods to UNL’s 150-year history, looks to future in State of the University address

Ronnie Green nods to UNL’s 150-year history, looks to future in State of the University address
Ronnie Green, University of Nebraska-Lincoln chancellor BRENDAN SULLIVAN/THE WORLD-HERALD

LINCOLN — One-and-a-half centuries is a long time for any institution.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Ronnie Green looked back and ahead Tuesday in his annual State of the University speech at the Lied Center for Performing Arts.

His 45-page speech offered equal parts of pep talk and challenge. Green, UNL’s leader since 2016, cited the vision of those who founded the university in 1869 and the need for that kind of foresight in the years to come.

He expressed enthusiasm for UNL’s Charter Week celebration, which starts Feb. 11 and recognizes the founding of UNL as a land-grant college in 1869.

He said his Nebraska 150 Commission, a group of faculty, staff, students, alums and others, has created a vision for UNL. It includes:

» Research and creative work that transforms people’s lives.

» Establishing UNL as the leading public university in access and affordability.

» Collaboration between students and faculty members in which students “co-create” their experience, or play a more active role in developing programs that will equip them for the future.

» Strengthening partnerships with communities.

Green didn’t duck the challenges, including budget pressures; potential federal changes that could affect immigration and the way sexual assault and gender equality are handled; increased racist behavior; and mental health concerns.

Green also noted that UNL’s administration landed last year on the American Association of University Professors’ censure list. This came about because of the university’s handling of a conflict between a liberal graduate student-lecturer and a conservative undergraduate in 2017, an incident that brought its own raft of attention.

UNL ultimately punished the graduate student and didn’t invite her back for 2018-19. The AAUP said the university gave that person, Courtney Lawton, inadequate due process, or review by a panel of her peers. Faculty members and administrators are reviewing policies and considering changes, he said, even though he doesn’t agree with the AAUP’s findings.