December 9, 2015
Black Studies. Interim Provost Stella Deen and I received a letter last week from a group of alumni expressing their concern about the status and future of the Black Studies Department. We welcome and encourage the support and engagement of alumni in our shared goal to re-build the department. Because these alumni seemed to be basing their views and concerns primarily on the September 10 message to the campus community and alumni from me, the Provost and the Dean, we shared my November 19 correspondence to the campus community about more specific steps being taken to hire new faculty and in other ways support the department.
Many of the concerns and expectations expressed by alumni are similar to those conveyed to us in a student petition last month, and to which I responded in my November 19 message. As we have for students, we clarified for alumni that primary responsibility for the curriculum rests with the faculty, not the administration. Faculty must as well drive key elements of the process of hiring new faculty, including identifying and articulating needed disciplinary expertise. For these reasons, it is not appropriate or acceptable for me or the Provost to advance several of the expectations of alumni, at the same time we support those faculty efforts.
We also responded to a statement in the letter from alumni that "students of color become a smaller and smaller portion of the student body every year." In reality, the percentage of this year's incoming class who are students of color is the highest in our institution's history, continuing a positive and consistent multi-year trend. We continue our many efforts (and will explore new ideas) to recruit a diverse group of students, and to create a community where inclusion promotes and supports success of all students. Similarly, we have been increasingly successful in recruiting faculty of color to New Paltz in recent years, and will look to apply best practices for recruitment and retention in these efforts.
Donald P. Christian