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Presidential Reports and Communications

President’s Report
Academic and Professional Faculty Meeting
October 25, 2013

Rankings.  SUNY New Paltz was included in the top 100 (#98) of 200 colleges and universities ranked in the “Down + Dirty Guide to the Best Colleges” released last week by The Daily Beast.  Data for nearly 2,000 institutions were analyzed to determine the rankings.  Yale, MIT, Stanford, and Harvard topped the list.  Three SUNY research centers were included in the top 100 (Binghamton #51, Stony Brook #63, Buffalo #86).  New Paltz is the only SUNY comprehensive college in the top 100, with a notable “callout” for activities (#4 in the nation!).  Other SUNY campuses included in the ranking were Albany (#102), Oneonta (#134), Geneseo (#139), and Brockport (#183). 

We should be proud of this recognition of our accomplishments and quality.  At the same time, we should note that Binghamton, our top competitor for students, was recognized for “academics” and “graduation rate,” and New Paltz was not.  As I have shared before, Binghamton has a goal of increasing its enrollment by 2,000 students, and we must be attuned to how prospective students and others perceive our two institutions.  Highlights for both Stony Brook and Albany, with which we compete heavily for top students, also included “academics.”

The guide can be found here.   

Planning Updates.   I encourage you to review the message you received last week from Ray Schwarz, Chair of the Strategic Planning Council, about the ongoing work of the Council.  I will reinforce the encouragement that departments integrate the strategic plan into departmental planning and budget allocation requests, and that you let the Council know about departmental activities that support initiatives of the plan.  The Council has drawn heavily on ideas generated during the planning process – especially group-generated themes at the day-long planning retreat in November 2012 – in developing recommendations for major action items that advance each initiative of the plan. As Ray shared, the template, benchmarks, metrics to assess the plan’s progress, and recommended action items all remain works in progress. 

Marketing and Communication.  A major initiative of the strategic plan is to market New Paltz more effectively, for multiple purposes including student recruitment.  Given the heightened competition for new students, we are being much more aggressive in our advertising activity. We have elected to increase our profile through use of strategically placed outdoor ads in an effort to bolster our recruitment activities during the peak of the admissions recruitment season. 

Forum on Adjunct Faculty and Lecturers.  On October 30, Provost Mauceri and I will be at the SUNY conference on “Building a Smarter University,” and will not be able to participate in the forum on “contingent faculty.”  We will provide participants with a written document of points we would have made had we been able to speak there, and will be happy to share that document more broadly.  Here, I summarize our views and relevant data:

  • Under current and foreseeable funding models, it is without question that colleges and universities must retain a degree of financial flexibility, including hiring part-time adjuncts and non-tenure track lecturers;
  • Hiring priorities at New Paltz include increasing numbers of tenure-track faculty, a richer mix of full-time lecturers, and reduced reliance on part-time adjuncts. 
  • Adjunct faculty are compensated on a per course basis, lecturers are salaried employees.  Lecturers are not simply adjuncts with more courses to teach.  There is no basis for comparing adjunct and lecturer compensation on a per course basis.
  • The nominal workload of lecturers is the equivalent of 15 credits per semester, but the actual teaching load of almost all lecturers is less than that.  We do not believe that a 3-6 credit differential between teaching loads of lecturers and of tenure-line faculty sufficiently recognizes the increased expectations for research, scholarship, service, and leadership by tenure-line faculty, thus they earn higher salaries than lecturers. 
  • Baseline compensation for adjunct faculty at New Paltz ($3,001) is the highest among all state-operated campuses in SUNY for which data are available; admittedly two other campuses (Stony Brook, Potsdam) have virtually identical rates of $3,000.  Six (6) other campuses have rates above $2,500, and 15 offer minimum rates less than that.  Our adjunct compensation exceeds that of all nearby community colleges.  It would be an irresponsible use of taxpayer revenue and tuition for us to increase adjunct salaries to levels totally unheard of among peer institutions.  A proposed $5,000 adjunct compensation for a 3-credit course is far more than that sought by UUP as a standard in the most recent round of contract negotiation.
  • The local, voluntary policy and practice of the New Paltz administration since 2006 has been to increase adjunct salaries at the same level as negotiated salary increases in the UUP collective bargaining agreement; we intend to continue this practice.
  • Adjunct faculty are eligible for discretionary salary increases (DSI) consistent with the UUP bargaining agreement.  Terms of the current contract direct a substantial portion of the DSI pool be set aside for adjuncts; the calculated DSI pool assigned to New Paltz this year includes $69,296 for adjuncts and $143,515 for full-time academic and professional faculty.      
  • Adjunct faculty at New Paltz who teach two or more courses qualify for health insurance benefits, beginning with their first semester of teaching and continuing through all subsequent semesters teaching at that level.  The state pays 88% of the costs of the premium for employee coverage and 73% of the premium for dependent coverage.  No other public institution in the Hudson Valley provides such benefits.
  • The administration is committed to continuing discussion with union leaders about faculty  concerns in our part-time and regular labor-management meetings; we consider and adopt approaches to address those concerns when feasible and consistent with sustaining and enhancing our core educational mission, with responsible shepherding of institutional resources, and with the collective bargaining agreement.

Fund-raising and philanthropy.  As we think about “building a culture of philanthropy” and what it means, certainly raising more money comes immediately to mind.  We also need to be more strategic about spending private money at hand to support students and our educational mission, of course honoring donor intent.   Collectively, departments and units are not spending substantial amounts of funding that they could.  These funds, in Foundation accounts, are seemingly being reserved for some undefined or vaguely defined future use.

Part of our effort this year towards building a culture of philanthropy will be to encourage Chairs and departments to identify prime opportunities to spend such funds, and to actually spend them.  Provost Mauceri and Development staff will share figures and discuss strategy with Deans in an upcoming meeting. 

There are multiple reasons to use these funds, thoughtfully and strategically.  Probably the most important is to create more “impact stories” that are so meaningful in our messaging to donors and prospective donors – to inspire others to give and current donors to continue giving.   If these monies are not being used, they clearly are not generating impact that is so critical in our communication.  Part of the role of Development and Alumni Relations is to report back to donors on the use of their funds, and funds have to be used to complete that loop.  Finally, if funds are not spent, donors may conclude that more funding isn’t needed.

On a related matter, we have a number of small-balance, annual (non-endowed) scholarship funds that are not growing, indeed have little or no chance of growing.  The management of these funds is time-consuming and tedious, and we believe that we should be more aggressive in spending these funds down – to support our students, and again to be able to showcase for prospective donors the impact that their generosity can have on students and their success.  This topic will be included in discussions among the Provost, Development staff, and Deans.

The Foundation Board has voted to no longer charge an account fee on restricted funds.  This step was taken to ensure that all funds contributed by a donor are directed to the intended purpose (i.e., no portion will be withheld to cover administrative costs).

Erica Marks, our new Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations, participated in a recent meeting of our fund-raising steering committee, where we discussed strategy for increasing our success at cultivating donors for major gifts.  Erica’s first day in the office full-time will be Monday, November 4.  We are eager to have her join us, and will create opportunities to introduce Erica to the campus community.

Harnessing Systemness.  On Monday of this week, we hosted representatives of 15 SUNY campuses for a conference on “Harnessing Systemness:  Regional Discussions n Efficiency and Excellence.”  This was the fourth in a series of roundtable discussions on shared services, about topics including academic programs, support services, institutional research, procurement and strategic sourcing, financial aid and student accounts, human resources and payroll, information technology, and leadership.  These discussions are part of the ongoing SUNY effort to reduce overall costs and redirect financial resources to instruction and student success.

Alumni Relations.  A major initiative of our strategic plan is to engage our alumni in the life of the College.  We recently shared highlights of the alumni relations strategic plan with Chairs, Directors, and others at an Administrative Council meeting.  Vice President David Eaton noted that alumni tell us how tired they are of having their sole interaction with the College be a request to donate, when we have done little else to build a relationship with them.  That feedback is strong, widespread, and very negative, and alumni are especially troubled to receive multiple, uncoordinated solicitations. 

That conversation in the Administrative Council meeting prompted an academic department to inquire about its plans for an upcoming alumni event that included a modest funding request.  That inquiry was the first hint the Alumni Office had had about this event and the Development Office about the funding request.  As a result of that conversation, the department and the Alumni Office began working together to plan and implement this event in a way that supports and enhances both departmental and broader institutional interests.

Another excellent example of such cooperation was the recent alumni event developed by Athletics in coordination and cooperation with Alumni Relations to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the New Paltz swimming and diving program.  Participants included nearly 125 alumni from classes in the mid-1960s through 2013, current and former coaches and staff, and Director of Alumni Relations Brenda Dow.  This event was inspirational both to our alumni and to current student-athletes.

I applaud these examples of heightened cooperation between units/departments and our Alumni Relations office, precisely the kind of integration we need to be effective in engaging our alumni in the life of the College and, ultimately, improving our fund-raising success.  

Non-credit activities.   Each year, SUNY prepares a report for legislators and the public about the tremendous service that SUNY campuses provide to the State’s citizens through a variety of non-state-supported, non-credit instructional activities.  Our report for September 2012 through August 2013 was just submitted, and we were reminded of the challenge of getting data and information to compile the report.

I want to alert departments and units of this opportunity to highlight your work so that you might keep records throughout the year to inform next year’s report.  Requirements for an event to be on the report are that it be:  formally organized and scheduled; non-credit; instructional in nature (training, community service, self-improvement, personal enrichment); requires registration (loosely defined, I believe); campus employees are involved in the scheduling, registration and/or training; includes events on or off campus, or online.  For more information, contact Lucy Walker in Institutional Research and Planning or Helise Winters in the Office of Extended Learning.

3D and Start-Up New York Initiatives.   Our 3D printing initiative continues to attract interest.  We have been engaged in discussions with interested business, are exploring collaboration with other SUNY campuses, have an upcoming visit planned with the CEO of a major 3D equipment manufacturer, and received a nice call-out for our program at a recent event at which former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani was the keynote speaker.  While businesses continue to reach out to us about possible participation in the START-UP New York tax-free incentive, we await guidelines from the Research Foundation and the Governor’s office about implementation.

Curricular initiative.  A group of faculty came together recently to discuss concepts from the book Rethinking Undergraduate Business Education: Liberal Learning for the Profession, as a starting point for further conversation about helping students "make connections" across the curriculum.  Some of the themes of this discussion were highlighted in an essay in Inside Higher Ed just last week here. This group is organizing two faculty panels, the first on exploratory and instrumental orientations in student learning, to be held in the Honors Center before Thanksgiving, the second on student engagement.  This group’s brainstorming focused on concepts including:

  • Liberal learning and its essential dimensions (analytical thinking, multiple framing, reflective exploration of meaning, practical reasoning)
  • Exploratory and instrumental orientations to learning (how do we connect these two approaches to learning?)
  • Institutional intentionality
  • reciprocity (how can we help faculty in liberal arts and the professions learn from each other?)
  • Entrepreneurial thinking as liberal learning (the opposable mind: integrative thinking, thinking as a team, innovation as a team-based process, social impact, formation of entrepreneurial character)

I am pleased at the faculty initiative to undertake these discussions, which are steps toward a “designed curriculum” and toward advancing the strategic plan initiative of nurturing innovation and the learning environment by strengthening connections across the curriculum.  Patricia Sullivan and Stella Deen can provide more information. 

Assistant Vice President for Institutional Research.  The search for this position has been initiated, under the leadership of Vice President David Eaton as search committee chair.  Other members of the search committee include Lucy Walker, Interim AVP for Institutional Research; Stuart Robinson, Director of Athletics; Michael Rosenberg, Dean, School of Education; Catherine Hoselton, AVP for Sponsored Programs; Tom Nolen, Associate Dean, Science and Engineering and Associate Professor, Biology. 

Upcoming events. 

  • Open House for prospective students and parents is Saturday, October 26.
  • Robert A. F. Thurman will be this fall’s Distinguished Speaker.  His presentation on November 4 is entitled “Tibetan Culture as World Culture.”  He is co-founder and president of the Tibetan House in New York City, professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies in the Department of Religion at Columbia University, and President of the American Institute for Buddhist Studies.  A prolific scholar, Thurman was selected by Time magazine as one of the 25 most influential Americans in 1997.
  • Student Association is sponsoring a “Campus Symposium Openly Discussing Matters of Race, Gender, and Identity” on Saturday, November 16, 1-6 PM, SUB MPR. 

I will look forward to seeing you at Friday’s faculty meeting, where I will be available to respond to your questions.

Donald P. Christian
President