Annals of MSU: 1991-1999
This era covers the term of Dr. Michael P. Malone (1991–1999), MSU’s tenth President.
In 1989, Governor Stan Stephens (1989-1993) established the Education Commission for the Nineties and Beyond. It suggested that enrollment limits be placed on MSU and UM, a suggestion dismissed by the Regents. However, the Commission convinced the Board of Regents to form two consortia of colleges and universities in 1994, one group headed by MSU and the other by UM. All the schools were renamed. For example, MSU became “MSU–Bozeman” and Eastern Montana College became “MSU–Billings.” The consolidation required that the campuses emphasize course transferability, shared resources, and telecommunication with students and among campuses. In 1997, the MSU campuses began to implement the Banner System for integrated computer database management of financial and human resource records. It forced all units to use the same terminology and metrics, potentially facilitating consolidation.
President Malone and VP for Research Robert Swenson worked hard to increase MSU’s research enterprise, building on the Tietz/Jutila foundation. A tremendous boost to that effort occurred when MSU obtained permission to retain 100% of the indirect costs (IDC) charged on grants and contracts. The monies thus obtained for a project were returned 30% to the academic units that generated the funds, 10% to the colleges, 10% to the principle investigators, and 50% to the VP for Research for strategic research investments across campus. In the 1995-1996 academic year, grants and external contracts accounted for nearly 50% of MSU’s total instruction & research budget.
The IDC investment successfully stimulated research, not only in science and engineering, but also in other disciplines. Swenson provided financial assistance, such as start-up packages for new hires, to support research/creative activity in mathematics, the arts, and letters. That assistance helped change the false perception that faculty in those disciplines were primarily service-teachers. By the turn of the century, those faculties were winning more outside support, attracting more graduate students, and building new doctoral programs!
Federal funding for MSU increased greatly. Initially, that support came from the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR). It was a competition initiated by the federal government for grants from a pool of money set aside for states that historically received few federal research dollars. MSU submitted successful EPSCoR proposals to multiple government agencies. Simultaneously, MSU researchers won non-EPSCoR support from both the government and private industry. To keep itself visible in Washington, D.C., the university hired a lobbying firm. The growth of multi-faceted research productivity compelled increased administrative oversight; e.g., crafting conflict-of-interest and intellectual property policies.
During the 1990s, MSU enrollment numbers remained high, starting from 10,390 in 1990, to 11,270 in 1995, and finally to 11,760 in 2000. Renovations and construction were necessary to serve so many students. MSU construction projects included the Michael P. Malone Centennial Mall (lying above a part of the new 1.6 mile long utility tunnel system, constructed 1995-2001), the Alumni Foundation Building, restoration of the cupola on Montana Hall (1993), Barnard Hall (1997), the Headwaters Complex of two residence halls, Jefferson Hall & Madison Hall (1998), the Plant Bioscience Building, Boosters West renovation of Bobcat Stadium (1998), and removal of the landmark smokestack at the Heating Plant (1999).
Many on campus felt that the long-time MSU motto “Education for Efficiency,” a relic of the century-old industrial revolution, should be changed. By the middle the of the 1990s the campus was considering alternatives. Finally, President Malone approved “Mountains and Minds” as MSU’s new motto. When someone asked why not move “minds” to the front of the motto, a professor answered, “It is more difficult to move minds than mountains!”6
A statistician’s comments on MSU mottos:
“Mountains and Minds” and “Education for Efficiency”
When I (MAH) arrived on campus in 1970 and came across the motto “Education for
Efficiency” on the MSU letterhead, I thought it was mundane. But on second thought,
I decided it was a good motto for a statistics professor. Efficiency is a major contribution
of statistics and of our statistics education program for multiple reasons. Statistical
thinking efficiently advances intellectual inquiries by identifying false conjectures,
exposing biased data, and weeding out irreproducible findings. It shows how to design
experiments and studies in order to arrive at convincing conclusions with as efficient
use of resources as possible. It shows how to extract the maximum available information
from a data set. Its summaries, charts, graphs, and tables are efficient communication
devices. Its efforts to provide mathematical models that adequately represent empirical
evidence often exposes knowledge gaps and guides future research. In the absence of
statistical thinking, intellectual pursuits would stumble along, but make progress.
With the aid of statistics, however, those pursuits are guided along an efficient
I agree that “Education for Efficiency” is not a scintillating motto for a university. But “Education for Efficiency” describes what activity is transpiring. The new motto “Mountains and Minds” describes place and person – where and who, but not what. Maybe the present motto is good branding that attracts students, however it doesn’t convey MSU’s unique educational and intellectual vigor. Perhaps no three-word motto can. Nevertheless, for an institution charged with creating and disseminating knowledge, I humbly suggest this motto: “Holistic Statistical Thinking.”
- Marty Hamilton 2019
Mimeograph machine showing stencil master on rotating drum.
In MSU's centennial year of 1993, voice mail technology reached MSU and the men’s and women’s intercollege ski programs were revived. Looking back from 2019, the campus work environment in the 1990s seems quaint or perhaps bizarre. Library card catalogs were still in use, as was the microfiche machine for viewing archival documents. Photocopies or mimeograph copies of a course syllabus were handed out at the start of a session. Students took notes by hand. Most students did not own their own computer; in fact, a 1 GB RAM desktop computer cost more than $3000 in 1993 dollars. However, computer laboratories for student use were scattered around the campus. Email was not widely available. White boards had replaced blackboards, and felt tip markers replaced chalk.
Overhead projectors and film-based 2⨯2 slide projectors were used in classes and research seminars. Computer screen projectors were rare, although Powerpoint 3.0 for digital projection was released in 1992. In the next few years, digital projection replaced other visual display methods, although many professors who had valuable collections of 2⨯2 slides could switch only after their slides were digitized, a slow, expensive process. By the mid- to late-1990s digital cameras were readily available and digital presentations became the standard.
During the 1990s, I (MAH) learned enough html to build my own www home page, as did many MSU faculty members. The web allowed each of us to provide class information to our students and make research information available to colleagues. A web presence also was good politics for a researcher because funding authorities, journal referees, potential collaborators, etc., could quickly access a resume, recent papers, and any other pertinent information via links on the home page.
When the decade began, the faculty salaries at MSU and UM ranked “dead last” relative to other doctoral-granting institutions. In 1993 the MUS began offering university faculty only a “defined contribution” retirement plan, administered at that time by TIAA-CREF. New faculty were no longer allowed to enroll in the “defined benefit” program administered by the Montana Teacher Retirement System (TRS). During the years leading up to 1993, each TRS member had to make a nonreversible decision, stay with TRS or switch to the defined contribution plan.
As became evident during subsequent years, fluctuations in the stock market could make it difficult to plan a retirement date under the defined contribution plan.9 Because all new hires since 1993 have been required to participate in the defined contribution plan, the vast majority of MUS faculty are now subject to the vagaries of the financial markets when it comes to planning for their retirement.12
In the mid-1990s, the universities bargained with Governor Racicot (1993-2001) about the properties of a formula-based funding mechanism for higher education. The agreement led to an increase of 6.9% a year in MSU faculty salaries for four years beginning in 1995. The formula also depended on the total state budget and was subject to revenue fluctuations. By the end of the decade, it became clear that appropriate funding for higher education required tuition increases; that is, support for higher education was shifted from “the public” to the students and their families.15
The MSU catalogs show the extent to which student expenses have increased. For the 1994-1995 academic year, the estimated student expenses were $8900 ($14,320 in 2017 dollars) for a resident and $12,950 ($20,830 in 2017 dollars) for a non-resident. Non-resident tuition was 2.8 times the resident tuition. For the 2000-2002 academic year, the estimated student expenses were $10,626 ($15,130 in 2017 dollars) for a resident and $16,375 ($23,310 in 2017 dollars) for a non-resident. Non-resident tuition was 2.9 times the resident tuition. In 1999, the average level of state support per full-time-equivalent student at MSU was about half the support provided to peer institutions by their respective states.18
Nevertheless, as MSU has done for decades, the institution persevered and found a way to excel. In 1999, MSU's accreditation review by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities was very positive and, for the first time, MSU was on the US News and World Report list of “America’s 100 Best College Buys.”
In December, 1999, the MSU community was shocked when President Malone suffered a fatal heart attack while exiting the local airport parking lot on his way home. Mike Malone summarized his aspiration for MSU by "prepare its students to find a higher path toward a finer day.”21
Last revised: 2021-04-19