Georgia Tech’s new president, Ángel Cabrera, gave his first address on campus Thursday in a place with personal significance.
The location was the school’s Ferst Center for the Arts, where Cabrera and his now-wife, Beth, had their first date in 1992. They met on campus as students and both have degrees from Georgia Tech.
Cabrera officially took office at Tech, one of the world’s top research institutions, on Sunday. The institution’s enrollment has increased by more than 11% from about 29,300 students in 2017 to more than 32,700 students last year, largely due to its online offerings. But its successes have been overshadowed over the past year by several instances of officials found to have violated ethics rules.
One task, he said, is embarking on a strategic planning process. Georgia Tech’s current plan is 10 years old, Cabrera said, and the plan needs to be updated in a rapidly changing world.
Here are four key areas Cabrera discussed in his remarks:
Several administrators resigned or were fired in the past 12 months for various ethics violations, such as one official who was a paid board member for a company that did work for the school. Georgia Tech has also been slow to investigate internal complaints, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has reported.
Cabrera said administrators will soon announce changes to improve ethics guidelines and a public awareness campaign to explain the rules to employees. “It’s all of our priority,” Cabrera told the audience.
Many students applauded Thursday when Cabrera said it’s an important issue for him. He noted the September 2017 incident where a student who left three suicide notes in his room was shot and killed after a confrontation with campus police. Two students died from apparent suicides late last year.
Cabrera did not offer specifics about how he’ll address the issue, but said he’ll work on it. “We have to do everything we can to take care of our students,” Cabrera said.
Sexual misconduct has received greater attention in recent years, in large part because more students are reporting complaints. Still, Cabrera lamented in his speech that “it’s an issue that doesn’t seem to be getting any better.” Cabrera has moved some offices under different divisions to be more consistent with how other universities investigate sexual misconduct. Georgia Tech investigated six reported rapes in 2017, the most recent year available. The school investigated 10 reported rapes each of the prior two years.
Georgia Tech reported 43% of its first-year students this semester are women, a 5 percentage point increase from five years ago. Still, Cabrera said the school can do better. Last year, 5.8% of its students were African American, the lowest percentage among the state’s five largest public universities. “We need to continue to do much more,” Cabrera said.