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The Office of the President

Updates 03/13/2009

Faculty and Professional Staff Meeting President's Report 3/13/09

My report this month is significantly shorter than last month’s multi-page tome and for the first time even features a few illustrations!

 We’ve done a bit of research and found that our Admissions colleagues Lisa Jones and Kimberly Strano are the only SUNY New Paltz representatives to have their photo appear on the front page of The New York Times! Vice President David Eaton and I are a bit worried that now they’ll be approached by the William Morris Agency with offers for personal appearances and endorsements.

Publicity Bonanza: In all seriousness, our entire campus should take pride in last week’s front-page Times article with a headline that characterized New Paltz as a “well-regarded public college” drawing thousands of qualified applicants. This is an extraordinary media hit. Like many of you, I’ve received a flurry of e-mails and phone calls from friends and former colleagues across the country who recognize that this was priceless public relations for New Paltz. It has already led to spin-off articles in other local and national media outlets.  It was particularly gratifying that the Times piece even reminded readers of Newsweek’s “Hottest Small State School” designation – which shows how the positive buzz about New Paltz reverberates.  The Times plaudits are wonderful for our morale—and will surely benefit our future enrollments.

Student Recruitment: Let me turn to enrollment next. Recall that after our Newsweek accolades we experienced a spike in our yield (i.e., the number of accepted students who actually enroll in the college). In this economy, given our quality and our growing reputation, another upward click or two in yield is entirely possible – but would create difficulties for us.  With applications soaring to more than 15,000 for fall 2009, we are carefully doling out our acceptances to keep raising the quality of the entering class and employing a very long waiting list. We do not want a freshman class of 1,300 again.  We simply cannot accommodate that many students. Our target is 1,100, smaller than last year but bigger than fall 2007 (when we had a smaller-than-desired freshman class). It’s probably the hardest-to-predict admissions year in decades, so we’re literally monitoring the numbers daily.  You can see in the chart below that our deposits are right where we want them:  solidly between the 2007 and 2009 totals. That’s just where we hope to stay over the next few months. We also plan to enroll about 600 transfer students, a number that looks very attainable.

Accepted Students Day is Saturday, April 4. I know that many of you will be involved in this critical recruitment event. As we strive to get the best students to our campus, interaction with faculty is vital.  We’ve seen in the past that conversations with professors are a big factor in many students’ decision to choose New Paltz. Thanks in advance for your enthusiastic participation, and I’ll see you there!

State Budget and Advocacy: There isn’t anything dramatic to report on the state budget. The Legislature and Governor are focused on negotiating a 2009-10 spending plan before April 1 (a deadline that is frequently honored in the breach). During this critical period, the campus has been involved in a number of advocacy activities. A New Paltz delegation traveled to Albany for the annual SUNY Day. Four hundred representatives from 40 SUNY campuses descended on the state capital to make the case for restoring cuts to higher education and to fight the proposed tuition sweep. At last month’s faculty meeting, you suggested we take faculty with us on SUNY Day—so we did.  I’m grateful to Simin Mozayeni (Economics), Mary Kahl (Communication and Media), Shelly Wright, Vice President Dave Rooney and the three student leaders who were passionate and articulate spokespersons for our college.   

Yesterday, I went back up to Albany to meet with State Senator David Valesky, Vice President Pro Tempore of the Senate—an upstate Democrat with four SUNY campuses in his district. (He’s also a SUNY Potsdam graduate.) Upstate Democratic Senators are particularly critical in this year’s budget negotiations, as their party holds a thin majority in the Senate. I have also been carrying New Paltz’s message to the editorial boards of local newspapers, which has resulted in several news stories and editorials decrying the tuition sweep. Throughout all of these meetings, it is clear that our e-mail and letter-writing campaign has been effective. Both legislators and the Governor’s office have definitely noticed our efforts. Now we need them to heed our community’s voice.  To date, collectively we have sent 11,528 e-mails to elected officials! To those of you who have sent e-mails, my sincere thanks.  I would ask those of you who have not already done so to visit www.supportnewpaltz.com. It only takes a few minutes.

By the way, it is becoming increasingly clear that federal stimulus money will be no panacea for our budget gap. We’re being told that of the $2.5 billion in stimulus funds directed to New York for education, 99.2% will go to K-12 and CUNY. All of  SUNY would only receive $20 million over the next two years. Obviously, these one-time funds won’t fill our base deficit.  

Back on campus, we are carefully and consultatively working our way through the budget process I outlined in last month’s report. We have now settled on the criteria we’ll be using to make budget decisions; these were shared with the campus last week.  I want to thank everyone who offered feedback and ideas on the draft criteria; I’m sure you could see how your input helped us develop a much better set of measures and evaluation tools. We are now examining all of the revenue-generating and cost-saving ideas, guided by our ground rules, constraints and criteria.  Among the more than 300 ideas submitted, a number of themes have emerged, including energy savings, reductions in temporary service and overtime expenditures, cuts in travel, supplies and other than personal service costs, salary reductions, staff reductions and outsourcing. Vice President DiStefano and I had a very candid conversation with the Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate on March 6 about the budget situation.  Earlier this week, we also held a public information session with classified staff.  Let me reiterate that we want this process to be transparent and inclusive, so we welcome further comments and questions.  I know that Vice President DiStefano, Provost Lavallee, and I would be happy to speak about these matters with other groups and in other settings.

One question has arisen that I’d like to address here: How can we continue to hire faculty in this economic climate?  The answer: We always need to build for our future. If we don’t keep hiring faculty, we are letting the vagaries of attrition dictate our academic profile.  If we don’t keep failed searches going, we are telling departments that it is better to hire anyone rather than insisting upon someone good. If we don’t allow departments that have made hard decisions about reappointment and tenure to make new hires, we send them a not-so-subtle message that quality doesn’t matter in teaching, scholarship and service.  If we don’t stay alert to our changing intellectual needs, we stagnate and weaken.  I simply cannot imagine a world in which we cut off all faculty hiring. Such hires are our most critical investments. 

Speaking of vital new colleagues, let me close by noting the status of the…

Provost and Fine & Performing Arts Dean Searches: We are almost finished with both searches and hope to make offers in the next few days.  By the end of the month, I hope to be able to announce our new colleagues. I want to express my gratitude to both search committees for finding highly-qualified—indeed impressive—candidates for these important posts.

Have a wonderful spring break!

- Steve Poskanzer