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Presidential Reports and Communications

Addendum Added Feb. 19

President’s Report
Academic and Professional Faculty Meeting
February 15, 2013

 

School of Business Accreditation.  Congratulations to Dean Hadi Salavitabar and faculty and staff in the School of Business for gaining international accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), a recognition afforded only 5% of the schools or colleges of business around the world.  Achieving accreditation is a rigorous process requiring extensive evaluation, review, and adjustment. Over a several-year period leading up to the accreditation review, the School’s faculty, staff, and leadership developed an outstanding program to assess student learning, used the results of that learning to improve courses and program offerings to align with accreditation standards, and clarified expectations for faculty performance.  I was rewarded to hear the many words of praise from the outside reviewers during their visit to campus, and am proud of the high caliber and deep commitment of our faculty and staff that is reflected in our AACSB accreditation.  It is great to have this additional mark of excellence as part of our institutional profile!

Alumni Relations.  Thanks to the search committee for its work in finding a new Director of Alumni Relations. Brenda Dow, who served previously as Director of Development Services in our Office of Development, assumed her new duties as Director of Alumni Relations on December 21.  She brings experience in alumni relations, fund-raising and development, and public relations and marketing communication.  The College has not had a dedicated director of alumni relations since 2009, and alumni networking, cultivation, and communication have been identified as shortcomings in several of our assessment efforts, and have emerged as a priority in the strategic planning process.

We look forward to Brenda’s leadership of this work, which will require close collaboration with faculty and staff throughout the College.  An all-campus message announced my formation of a task force that will work during the spring semester to develop recommendations for an outstanding alumni program. People invited to join the task force include Vice President David Eaton (chair);  Brenda Dow (vice chair); Brian Williams, Associate Director, Athletics, Recreation and Wellness; Shana Circe, Undergraduate Admissions; Juliet Coxum, Alumni Association; Alan Dunefsky, Development Office; Robin Cohen-LaValle, Student Development; Suzanne Grady, Office of Communication and Marketing; Ted Clark, School of Business; Myra Kressner, an alumna and Foundation Board Director.  Alumni and development staff and campus leadership at SUNY Oneonta have been gracious in sharing ideas and best practices to inform our planning.  Oneonta has one of the most vibrant and effective alumni programs in the System, reflected in its alumni giving rate of over  14%, about double that of SUNY New Paltz and of the System average. 

Gala.  The College will take a one-year hiatus and not hold the Gala Celebrating New Paltz in November 2013.  Our leadership transition in the development office makes it challenging to plan such a major event.  Furthermore, as you know, last spring we engaged in a feasibility study to enhance the success of our overall philanthropic endeavors and to inform our plans for a first-ever major fund-raising campaign. The feasibility study recommended that for the next year and a half to two years, we put a far higher priority than we have on engaging alumni and prospective major donors across the country as well as locally.  We cannot achieve this aim while continuing to hold the Gala at the high standard of quality that we have all come to appreciate.  The heightened and changed demands of planning and implementing these other outreach efforts must take priority in our allocation of staff time and effort.  Our planning during this hiatus will include evaluating other models for events that will support our scholarship and program needs and our upcoming capital campaign, and will certainly include ways to engage our local and regional communities.  I am keenly aware that achieving a different level of philanthropic success is critical to the future of SUNY New Paltz.  The strategic re-direction of our time, effort, and priorities at this time is essential to reaching these goals.  Thank you to those of you who participated in the Gala during its10-year run of supporting student scholarships.

SUNY Budget.  Earlier this week, Chancellor Zimpher gave her “Executive Budget Testimony” before a joint meeting of Assembly and Senate committees.  The proposed new model for allocating taxpayer support to SUNY campuses is off the table (for the present only), which means that New Paltz will not see the projected roughly $600,000 increase in taxpayer funding that I spoke about in December.  SUNY intends to continue working on a new model that more appropriately supports enrollment at the various campuses while “avoiding unnecessary competition amongst our campuses.”  In the absence of such a plan, the Chancellor has requested $19.9 million in new taxpayer support “to begin aligning support with [enrollment] growth.”  Additionally, she is asking for restoration of $29.8 million in 2012-13 funding for SUNY hospitals as well as an additional $99 million (or more) for Downstate Medical, $37.3 million in base funding for community colleges, $1.7 billion in critical maintenance bond funds (no new construction), and another roughly $166 million in other capital requests. The Downstate situation is not without consequence for us; the Chancellor noted in her testimony that without increased taxpayer support “the burden will have to fall on the backs of our other campuses.”  She has also requested $5 million in “performance based funding” for state-operated campuses to support “workforce development, time to degree, completion and graduation rates, accelerated and effective remediation, overall student success, and alternative academic delivery options that provide greater access and better learning outcomes.”  These themes are prominent in her goals and priorities for the SUNY system.

Budget Process.  Our budget process this year, like last, is focused on informing decisions about how to invest new tuition revenue that we expect from another year of tuition increase.  Proposed investments submitted by units and departments and still under consideration total $7.75 million.  This includes $3.5 million in one-time-only requests and $4.2 million in recurring costs. The recurring costs focus heavily ($3.6 million) on ongoing personnel requests (62 FTE positions, of which 48 FTE are in Academic Affairs, mostly faculty). 

We are proceeding with our process of consultation and gaining feedback about the proposals and priorities, even though several uncertainties remain (as above) and we will not know final figures for next year’s budget until the state budget is set later this spring.  Our best guess at this time is that about $2 million of new revenue will be available for allocation.  We have shared the proposals and tentative priorities and received input from the Wonk group and the Budget, Goals and Plans Committee.  We will meet soon for this purpose with Administrative Council and Student Association/Residence Hall Student Association Executive Boards, and have scheduled an open forum on the budget on Wednesday, February 27, 10:30-12:00 in LC 100.

The budget spreadsheets containing the proposals under consideration have been loaded in my.newpaltz.edu and can be found in the Budget Information Center under the Faculty/Staff Services tab.  I encourage you to review this information, to consult with your chairs and directors as they learn about the process at Administrative Council, and to attend the open forum.

Strategic Planning.  As you heard last week from Steering Committee co-chairs Stella Turk and Pat Sullivan, the strategic planning process is on schedule. Cabinet and I reviewed and offered comments on an earlier draft of the plan, and the Committee met recently to review the latest draft of the plan, discuss revisions, and plan next steps. Later this month, a draft plan will be circulated to the campus community for review and feedback. I hope you will take advantage of opportunities to attend open forums to discuss and give input on the plan. 

Faculty Numbers.  In fall 2012, the percentage of our courses taught by part-time faculty fell to 25.9%, the lowest in recent history. I commend this progress toward our long-term goal of reducing reliance on part-time adjunct faculty, a subject of serious criticism in the 2001 Middle States re-Accreditation review.  From fall 2008 through fall 2011, adjunct faculty taught just over 30% of our courses, down from 50% or higher in previous years.  Also noteworthy:  the percentage of GE courses taught by adjuncts in fall 2012 was 35.5%, down from 40.9-43.2% during 2008-2011. The number of tenured and tenure-track faculty in fall 2012 was 268, up from 258 last year, and up from 255 in fall 2007.  This is despite well over 30 retirements of tenured faculty during this period, including a pulse in the 2010-2011 early-retirement program, at a time that many colleges and universities have not been replacing retiring faculty to manage dwindling budgets. This is a direct result of our commitment to invest in full-time instructors.

In fall 2012, we taught 1,314 course sections, up from 1,261 in fall 2011, compared with a low of 1,232 in fall 2009 and a previous high the past six years of 1,265 in fall 2008.

Smoke-free campus.  You may have read or heard that the SUNY Board of Trustees passed a resolution last summer supporting state legislation that would mandate all campuses in the system become tobacco-free by January 1, 2014.  Some have interpreted this to mean that campuses will be tobacco-free by that date, and some SUNY campuses have declared themselves tobacco- or smoke-free.  However, the empowering legislation has not been passed.  I strongly support that goal in principle, while I also recognize the complexity of challenges in developing and (especially) enforcing such policies in a meaningful way. In the meantime, the Student Health Center is providing material, resources, and support for smoking cessation, and is sharing these materials with the Employee Assistance Program for employees seeking to stop smoking.  We await guidance from SUNY system on progress towards implementing the goal and spirit of the Trustees resolution.      

LGBTQ Campus Climate.  In my December report, I shared brief information about the LGBTQ campus climate survey conducted last year and the report of the results (http://www.newpaltz.edu/lgbtq/).  I have formed a task force whose purpose is to review key findings of the survey and develop recommendations for key actions that the College might consider to further enhance a very positive campus environment.  The ad hoc committee who initiated this effort, developed the survey, and analyzed results and prepared the report envisioned that the task force would meet with various student, faculty, and staff groups and subgroups to obtain feedback on survey findings, to inform development of recommendations. I hope that you will take an opportunity to provide your input on this work.

Members of the task force include James Schiffer, Dean, Liberal Arts and Sciences; Karl Bryant, Sociology; Ben Junge, Anthropology; Marcia Tucci, Academic Advising; Morgan Gwenwald, Library; Michael Patterson, Student Activities; Hampton Chauncey, Human Resources; and three students to be named.  Tanhena Pachecho-Dunn, Executive Director of Compliance and Campus Climate and Title IX coordinator, will serve as a resource for this endeavor.

Construction Update and Capital Planning.  The renovation of Wooster Building is proceeding on schedule, as is planning for a new residence hall and the next residence hall renovation (LeFevre Hall). Our other major in-progress projects (library renovation, new science building) may encounter slight delays, but funding and the initiation of these projects is not in jeopardy.  The state has annual limits on the amount of bonded construction funding that it can disburse, even if the funding has been approved.  It is likely that those limits will be reached this year, which would result in delays of several months in some SUNY construction or renovation projects.  It is possible that ours could be so affected, with continued progress delayed only until the start of the next State of New York fiscal year (April 1).  The most significant (and unfortunate) impact of that delay may mean that the renovated library would not be available for use until the start of spring semester 2015, rather than the beginning of the 2014-15 academic year.

In concert with the State University Construction Fund, we are encouraging our area legislators to pursue funding for our highest priorities for capital improvement on the campus, including $45 million for a new academic building and $39.5 million for renovation of Elting Gymnasium.  In advocating for these projects and freedom from state bonding constraints that will let our residence hall programs continue, we reinforce the reality that New Paltz has the smallest amount of non-residential space of any SUNY comprehensive campus, and the smallest amount of residence hall capacity for the 9 comprehensive campuses for which we have comparable data.  Continued progress on building and improving our physical environment is critical to our ability to serve current numbers of students with the high quality programs and opportunities they deserve – and to continue attracting the caliber of students we aim to serve.

External activities.  The New York City alumni reception held in conjunction with the December Foundation Board meeting was well- and enthusiastically attended, and the new and renewed alumni connections show promise for expanded support to the College. I met in December with executives at IBM about building new linkages with the College, especially in STEM areas.  I attended a Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce event in December, and attended an Ulster Counter Regional Chamber of Commerce breakfast and the Ulster County Executive Mike Hein’s State of the County address in January; these are part of our ongoing effort to enhance the visibility of the College with regional civic, business, and political leaders.  I have added five new members to the fund-raising steering committee I have described to you previously.   

In January, Shelly Wright (in her role as government relations officer) and I met in Albany with legislators to discuss campus initiatives and areas where their support during the upcoming legislative session will be especially valuable.  At SUNY Day earlier this week, I met again with legislators to advocate for our priorities that include 1) another year of the rational tuition policy and increased tuition that has made new faculty hires and many other initiatives possible for us; 2) increased taxpayer support per the Chancellor’s request (in some respects, in lieu of the increase in taxpayer support that New Paltz would have seen through the new allocation model – better aligning our resources with our strong enrollment); 3) legislation that would release bonding authority for residence hall construction and renovation from state bonding caps; and 4) our capital requests, as noted above.  In March, we will travel to Washington, D. C. for “SUNY Day DC,” meeting with congressional members and staff and our alumni and prospective donors, and learning about educational initiatives from national higher education organizations.

In January I traveled to Florida and Georgia to meet with alumni and prospective donors in individual meetings and at several organized events supported by alumni and Foundation Board Directors.  These were delightful events and conversations, and I continue to be impressed with the affection that our alumni have for their alma mater – certainly heartening for the prospects of engaging our alumni more effectively than we have.  We will be following up with a number of the alumni we met and visited with.

I look forward to seeing you at this week’s meeting, and to responding to your questions and comments.

Sincerely,

Donald P. Christian
President   

ADDENDUM: February 19

Colleagues:

At last Friday's meeting of the academic and professional faculty, I provided a late-breaking update to my written report of February 13. I also share this new information here. I wrote that our library and science building may encounter slight (i.e., 1-3 month) delays due to the state reaching its annual disbursement limits in the fiscal year that ends March 31. Subsequent information from the State University Construction Fund at mid-week raised the prospect that those disbursement limits also may well be reached next year, with projects that are currently "in the queue." This could cause more extensive delays on our projects, well into the next fiscal year. Ours are among >80 SUNY projects totaling >$700 million that may be affected by these caps.

We have spoken with staff members in the offices of our area legislators, who helped secure the funding for these two projects, about our concern over this disruption to our well-planned progress in campus improvements. We will continue to advocate for a lifting of the disbursements limits, as the Construction Fund is doing as well, and will keep you posted on the status of this issue.

Sincerely,

Donald P. Christian