At the Web 2008 conference this year I was able to listen to the keynote from Steve Krug, the author of the classic usability book Don’t Make Me Think.
The one take-away I got from that session was that modern users expect the Home Page to kind of be an orientation page to the site (or part of the site). That can have several interpretations, but to me this would include linking to a table of contents, a short statement of the purpose of the site, an explanation of some tools , one or two unique features and who to contact for more information. Interestingly, the home page is likely to be the second or third page visited (after the content page Google found for the user).
It reminds me of another metaphor heard from a usability expert of comparing the home page to an entrance of a store or office complex rather than the cover of a book. That is, when you enter a new store, you may be looking for aisle labels and maybe some hot sales. You may or may not be interested in the perfume lady.
P.S. My other impression was how accurate his observations of the higher education Web culture. In fact, I was wondering if he had sent an astral projection of his spirit to some of the Web design meetings I’ve been. Spooky