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The Office of the President

Updates 02/13/2007

President’s Report
Faculty and Professional Faculty Meeting
February 13, 2007

February may be a short month, but with the start of a new semester our collective plates are very full and there’s plenty to keep everyone up to date on.

Faculty Hiring: Our conscious strategy (sparked by an early and healthy FY07 state budget) was to break out of the gate fast on faculty hiring, in the hope that this would help us attract strong candidates and finish our searches early. This approach is clearly working: 12 of our projected 38 hires are already made, and another four candidates are currently mulling over our offers.

As you know, our plan is to grow the ranks of full-time tenure-track faculty while also driving down the number of part-time faculty. In essence, we’re reversing a trend that flat or declining budgets forced us into over the years. Let me offer some historical perspective on the very large cohort of new hires we’re making. While we have added new faculty lines whenever we could over the past six years, one needs to go back all the way to the 1999-2000 hiring cycle to find a comparable set of searches. But there’s a big difference. During that hiring season, we had 40 new tenure-track faculty and three lecturer searches. But of all those searches, only 12 were for new lines. For this fall, we plan to add 24 new lines—twice as many!

I know that running such a large number of searches has packed many of your days with interviews, research and teaching presentations by candidates, and informal meals and conversations with interviewees. The juggling of faculty schedules required to accommodate all of this hiring has itself been a circus act worthy of Barnum & Bailey—so hats off to the departmental secretaries who’ve kept those balls in the air! On behalf of the Deans, the Provost and myself, I want to acknowledge how pleased I am with the faculty’s enthusiasm in hiring these new teacher/scholars, and for how seriously everyone has engaged in this vital process. Our time could not be better spent, for with these hires we are literally shaping the future of our college and our campus community.

I am impressed with the candidates I’ve seen and been hearing about. We are attracting many of our first choices and these hires come from renowned programs across the country and around the world. Let me share a few examples of the kinds of individuals we are choosing—and who in turn are choosing to come to New Paltz.

  • Dylan Patrick McGee, who has a B.A. from New Paltz, is returning to teach Asian Studies for us after completing his Ph.D. at Princeton.
  • Akira Shimada, who specializes in South Asian history, earned his Ph.D. from the University of London and just finished a research fellowship at the British National Museum.
  • In chemistry, Megan Ferguson comes to us with a Ph.D. from Cal Tech.
  • The English Department has signed on Cyrus Mulready, who has a doctorate from my old employer, the University of Pennsylvania.
  • And our School of Business has lured two new colleagues—Gretchen Vogelgesang and Anyuan Shen—from the University of Nebraska.

High-Temperature Hot Water Lines: This is a less happy topic—for (regrettably) last week many of you experienced first hand the consequences of the campus’s aging infrastructure. The water line break that forced us to cancel some classes and send many staff home last Monday continued to impact our work spaces and our employees in negative ways throughout much of the week as some buildings—Coykendall and Wooster, in particular—slowly returned to an appropriate temperature and level of cleanliness. As with any shutdown of a building in bitter cold conditions, restarting the flow of hot water can result in further burst pipes and leaks, and I was disturbed to hear how much some of our colleagues suffered. John Shupe tells me that Facilities pumped 60 gallons of water out of Professor Stacey Nunes’ office!

Our operations maintenance and custodial staff braved frigid temperatures both inside and outside of our buildings to find and repair the leak and to monitor the buildings and clean them up as they came back online. They were real heroes, and I know everyone joins with me in thanking them for their long hours, perseverance and good spirits during the emergency.

But if you’re like me, you’re also wondering: “What are we going to do to avoid a recurrence?” And I am glad to be able to report that there is in fact a silver lining in this ongoing cloud of bursting hot-water line pipes. These decades-old pipes are simply worn out and are going to be replaced.

We’ve been worried about this problem (this is not the first such burst) and therefore had earmarked funding in our 2004-09 capital plan to begin replacing the lines. When the Construction Fund first attempted to bid the work as one large campus-wide project, there were no bidders. Apparently firms were reluctant to take on a project of this scale and complexity. So the Fund broke the project into a Phase I, which includes the Hasbrouck Complex and the southeast quadrant of campus (this must be our first priority because people live in the buildings served by the rotting pipes), a Phase II, which includes the library courtyard and the main academic concourse, and a Phase III, which encompasses the north end of campus and the area between Smiley Arts Building and the Haggerty Administration Building. A contractor has already been hired for Phase I, which will begin this May and is scheduled to be completed by September. Phase II is slated to begin in May 2008 and be completed by November of that year.

But given the increasing number of breaks we’ve been experiencing—and their proven capacity to wreak havoc!— we’re trying in concert with the Fund to accelerate Phase II if we can, even if it means that this summer (between the air conditioning project and digging up pipes) the entire concourse would be a giant construction site. This is more about timing and obtaining contractual approvals from the State Comptroller’s Office than it is about money. Funds in the current capital plan plus the additional $3 million for critical maintenance at New Paltz in the Governor’s budget proposal should adequately cover the costs of Phase I and Phase II.

State Budget: Speaking of the executive budget, as you may recall from my recent e-mail to the campus, New Paltz in particular, and SUNY in general, fared well in this document. Most prominently for New Paltz, the Governor’s budget includes the rest of the capital money—$10.7 million—needed to complete the renovation of Old Main. It also covers contractual salary increases, some money for inflation and additional energy costs, and the funds I just mentioned for repair of the hot-water line system. It does not contemplate a tuition increase. Of course, this is just the first step in the budget process. The Legislature, which in the past has tended to add to the executive budget, now comes into play. Fortunately, both our local representatives, John Bonacic and Kevin Cahill ’77, have already expressed their strong support for the Old Main funding. I hope that SUNY System’s and UUP’s respective lobbying efforts help secure funds for more full-time faculty and a geographic adjustment for campuses like New Paltz that are located in high-cost areas. In the meantime, I shall continue my past successful work with our legislators to bring home resources for the college. It’s worth noting that during the last three years our lobbying has resulted in an additional $33.7 million in state appropriations for capital improvements to our campus. These additional monies have effectively doubled New Paltz’s allocation under SUNY’s capital plan, allowing us to move forward on much-needed projects. Which leads me to….

Campus Construction: Provost Lavallee has been working assiduously on two impending waves of space challenges: where to house our full-time faculty colleagues who’ll arrive this autumn and where to relocate faculty and staff who work in Old Main while that building is being renovated. Smart plans are now taking shape, and the Vice Presidents and I have approved necessary expenditures for this effort. Most of the new 2007 hires will be assigned to offices in Jacobson Faculty Tower currently being used by adjunct faculty. We’ll relocate these part-time faculty to a refurbished Wooster Geology Lounge that will contain amenities (lockers, private meeting space) designed to meet their needs. We believe we can reconfigure this Wooster space for about $75,000. Next, we’ll (1) take over the South Classroom Building and (2) spend approximately $300,000 to renovate the adjacent former Health Center (now empty) into faculty offices. Together, these buildings should accommodate the academic departments currently in Old Main. We are still wrestling with where to relocate some of the other programs and people housed in Old Main. Further information can be obtained from the Provost’s Office and Deans Benjamin and Michael; we’ll certainly keep everyone apprised as more definite plans and schedules emerge.

Federal Lawsuit: I would be remiss if I didn’t make brief mention of the lawsuit filed against the college and individual faculty and administrators by two students who were disciplined last year for misbehavior. As you are undoubtedly aware, a federal judge issued an order allowing the students to return to campus while this litigation proceeds, and the college is abiding by that ruling. As the attorneys delve into substantive and technical legal issues about student disciplinary hearings, I think it even more essential that we be mindful of the spirit of openness and civility that characterizes New Paltz at its best and that allows us to flourish as an academic community. In my view, Vice President for Student Affairs Dave Rooney’s recent message to the campus struck the right tone. All of us at the college should be committed to honest dialogue, to the sharing of ideas and perspectives, to building trust, and to effective problem-solving. I would have us focus on what unites us as a community rather than on what divides us.

Enrollment: Primarily because of a 12% increase in graduate student enrollment, our total enrollment for Spring 07 (headcount of 7,468) is up by 1.5% compared to last year at this time. We currently have 1,487 graduate students, and full-time graduate enrollments are at an all-time high of 578. Graduate Dean Garrick-Duhaney is justifiably proud!

Freshman applications for Fall 2007 are up 9.2% over last year, and transfer applications are at their historically steady-state level. Our Admissions staff is very pleased with the quality of the applicants. But the most important numbers in the student recruitment cycle are the yield rate and number of accepted students who enroll. Accepted Students Day on March 31 will be one of our best opportunities to convince them to make the right choice!

Banner: We’re making steady progress in our conversion to the Banner record system. Graduate applicants are now able to apply online, and undergraduate applicants can now view their status in Banner. The fall course schedule was sent through Banner to academic departments and next week, several offices will participate in a mock registration of about 400 students to give the system a test run before Advanced Registration in April.

Brown Bag Lunches: With the resumption of classes I have also resumed my series of brown bag lunches with faculty. A week ago I met with School of Science and Engineering faculty. These gatherings continue to be a valuable forum for me to learn about what’s happening in your programs and departments and to listen to your concerns. I encourage you to come out and meet with me at these events.

And in the meantime, have a Happy Valentine’s Day tomorrow!