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Updates

Faculty and Professional Staff Meeting President's Report 4/9/10

First, let me apologize because I will not be with you on Friday for the faculty meeting. I will, however, be back for Accepted Student Open House on Saturday, so let me start my report with a snapshot of where we stand in recruiting next year’s class.

Enrollment: Currently, we have 14,915 freshmen applications for a class of 1,100, more than any other SUNY college, but a -1.9% change from last year. This slight dip does not concern us because as you’ll recall from previous enrollment reports, the truly significant numbers here are the yield—the number of accepted students who actually decide to come to New Paltz—and, of course the quality, diversity and intellectual curiosity of the students who choose to enroll here. The current acceptance rate remains a very low 35%. The Admissions Office tells me that the current applicants are statistically superior to last year's pool in terms of academic preparation.
As you know, we have an opportunity on Saturday to yield more of these excellent students. Admissions anticipates that approximately 2,500 guests will participate in Accepted Student Open House; this includes 900 students who have been offered admission, plus family members or friends who will accompany them to campus. This program will be the same size as last year, possibly a little larger.
Those students will be here to take one last look before they make their final college choice. If New Paltz is not their first choice, we are certainly on the short list. How we collectively present ourselves on this day will be important. We have been very successful in the past by showing our guests how really good we are. Because we don't discount tuition, like private competitors, or re-deploy operating dollars to “buy” students like some sister SUNY schools, we regularly beat our very tough competitors by being ourselves and showcasing our talented faculty and students. I'm sure we'll do it again. I want to thank in advance those academic and professional faculty who will be participating on Saturday. You are the linchpin in our student recruitment!

State Budget: As of this writing, we do not have a state budget. We don’t know when it will be resolved or what the final resolution will be. It’s unclear whether there will be a tuition increase, how much it might be and whether or not we can keep it. We also don’t know if there will be union concessions to match the proposed cuts for this purpose. It’s also unclear how the cuts in the proposed budget will eventually be allocated across the SUNY campuses. VP DiStefano tells me that, with this many variables, we could be facing anywhere from an unlikely $200,000 to a more realistic $3 million reduction in our state operating budget for 2010-11. Remember that last year’s cuts were closer to $6 million. Unfortunately, there is always the risk of additional cuts post-election this fall.
What we do know is that we made hard decisions last spring that resulted in a $6 million budget reduction plan that has helped us manage this year’s mid-year cut and provides some leverage in addressing the 2010-11 cuts. With the budget situation so fluid and the certainty of the state (and our) economic difficulties lingering for several years, I anticipate that it will be necessary to revisit the College’s “economy” next fall and winter once everyone is back on campus for a new academic year. I’m sure many of you are hearing that some of our sister SUNY campuses are in the midst of announcing budget-cutting decisions. While we don’t have information on the specifics at each campus, we believe that they are now faced with making the difficult choices that this campus made a year ago. In the coming weeks, VP DiStefano will be sharing with the campus community a snapshot of how we have fared in achieving the $6 million in savings we projected in our plan.
Therefore, I don’t see a need to do anything this spring. With the hard choices we made last year and the reserves we still have, we will wait until next fall and winter to bring our budget into balance again with further reduction measures. We will use the same consultative process we used last year to make targeted choices to protect our liberal arts core and we will have the time to do this in a thoughtful way.

Old Main: A brief construction update on Old Main. To the campus’s considerable upset, because of what we believe to be a disagreement between the architect and the State University Construction Fund, the Fund has now advised us that we will only be able to build two stories of offices in the old gymnasium. Needless to say, the Vice Presidents and I expect the Fund and the architect to make New Paltz whole financially—and, just as important, to figure out ways to minimize the loss of 18 offices that the third floor would have provided. Be assured, that this mistake will not impact the offices for the School of Education faculty because the offices being constructed in the gymnasium were intended to add to our net office space on campus. (For those of you who heard the consultant’s report on our campus space needs at the last faculty meeting, you know that we needed these offices!) So, our plans to move faculty departments from other schools into this space must be revisited. However, we are assured that construction will be complete, and the School of Education will be able to reoccupy the building for the fall 2011 semester, as planned.

Distinguished Speaker Series: For those of you who attended the Distinguished Speaker Series event last week with writer Tobias Wolff, you know that it was a great success. The award- winning author treated a packed house of students, faculty, staff and community members to enthralling accounts of how he became a writer and a moving reading from “Old School,” the book our first-year students read last year as part of their Common Summer Reading Program. In keeping with the literary theme, I’m happy to report that we have secured another author for our fall speaker. African-American writer John Wideman, who currently teaches at Brown University, will be here on Friday, October 15. He is the recipient of many literary honors (He is the first person to win the International PEN/Faulkner Award twice.), and he is the second African American to receive a Rhodes Scholarship (in 1966). He will meet with students during the day and give his Distinguished Speaker Series talk as part of the Black Studies Department’s Diaspora Conference that evening. He will also be awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters at the evening event. My thanks go to Dean Schiffer for helping us to bring Dr. Wideman to campus.

Commencement Speaker: It’s hard to believe, but Commencement is just around the corner, so I wanted to tell you that one of our most accomplished alums—a most distinguished scholar—will be the featured speaker at our Undergraduate Ceremony on Sunday, May 23. Gary King (’80) is a Professor of Political Science at Harvard University and is the Founder and Director of the Institute for Quantitative Social Science (IQSS), which fosters interdisciplinary and highly collaborative projects to solve problems. Dr. King’s work on legislative redistricting has been used in most American states by legislators, judges, lawyers, political parties, minority groups, and private citizens, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court. We will award him an honorary doctorate of humane letters. I believe he will be a true inspiration to our graduates and this will be a most fitting homecoming for such a distinguished alumnus. I hope you’ll be able to attend.