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The Office of the President

Updates 05/09/2007

President's Report
Academic Faculty and Professional Faculty Meeting
May 9, 2007

As the academic year comes to a close, and as we gear up for a last push through exams, grading and commencement, I can’t help but observe that this has been a good spring. In my walks around campus, during my brown bag lunches with departments and in my many conversations with faculty, staff and students, the overall tenor reflects a happy and productive semester. While there is always room for improvement and work that remains undone, with healthy enrollments, a successful round of faculty hiring almost complete, a strong budget for next year and strides toward improving our physical plant, New Paltz continues to make good progress.

Enrollment:  The number of overall enrollments is up by 2.5 percent over last year at this time. Undergraduate enrollment has not changed, but graduate enrollment is up by 17.2 percent, from 623 at this time last year to 730 this year.

We are approaching 900 freshman deposits for fall 2007; we anticipate another 100-150. Even with some anticipated summer melt, the entering class for this fall should come in near our target or just over 1,000. Preliminary indications are that the quality of the incoming class is very strong, hopefully even a lot better than last fall’s cohort.

Deposits for transfer students are also in line with our target, and the quality of incoming transfers is also high (Most have a transfer GPA of 3.0 or better.).

Faculty Recruitment:  We have hired 31 new colleagues for you this fall and there are three more searches with offers out. Five searches have "failed" because we were unsatisfied with the pool or we could not land the candidates that we wanted. This is not an unusually high “failure rate,” and we should respect the search committees and departments that have hewed to high standards in making hires. Consistent with our past practice, searches that were unsuccessful this spring will be continued in the fall.

Construction Update: We have an approved schematic design for the renovation of Old Main, based in no small part on input from the School of Education faculty.  All of the necessary funds for this $25 million project are in hand. The newly designed space will accommodate all of the School of Education as well as 30 additional faculty offices. The plan incorporates a number of green design elements for energy savings and sustainability. Demolition of the old interiors will begin immediately after Commencement 2008. Education faculty will be moved to the South Classroom Building and the old Health Center during the renovation.

We are also getting close to an approved schematic design for the Student Union Building addition. This month the advisory committee and the architects have—quite properly, in my view—been discussing the inclusion of green design elements. For instance, the architects are talking about a 12,000-square-foot addition that will be so energy efficient it will not add any heating costs to the campus. This is good as we should be future-oriented environmental stewards when adding to our physical plant. 

As you know from John Shupe’s recent e-mail, we’re also going ahead with the Humanities air-conditioning project this summer. We have a new, lower bid ($7.4 million instead of $11.4 million!) for the project, and though it is still over the amount we had budgeted ($5.5 million), we have decided to proceed anyway, borrowing the remaining $2 million through the New York State Office of General Services. The project will now be done in three phases. Phase 1, which will be completed this summer, involves removing the existing heating system in the Humanities Building and installing new heating, ventilating, air-conditioning (HVAC) units. Phase 2, which will occur in fall 2007 and spring 2008, involves removing the existing chiller in Lecture Center and installing two new environmentally friendly, energy-efficient chillers. During Phase 3, to be done in summer and fall 2008, we will remove the existing independent HVAC units in Jacobson Faculty Tower and replace them with an energy-efficient centralized system. With this schedule, cool air should be flowing in the Humanities Building by fall 2008 with completion of the entire project scheduled for October 2008. In short, just one more potentially hot fall and spring in that building.

Finally, cranes are already sitting near the Hasbrouck Complex poised to dig up the aging and rotting high-temperature hot-water (HTHW) lines that serve the southeast quadrant of campus. The work will begin as soon as the students move out of the Hasbrouck residence halls. Because the same contractor has also bid successfully on the HTHW line replacement in the main campus area (including the Library Plaza and Excelsior Concourse), some of that work will begin this summer as well.

Campus Facilities Planning Task Force: We have now assembled the rest of the Task Force, which will include: Stella Deen, Co-chair; John Shupe, Co-chair; John VanderLippe, Presiding Officer; Chris DeLape, Chair of Budget, Plans and Goals; Peter Brown, Faculty Governance Designee; Patti Phillips, Faculty Governance Designee; Michael Vargas, Faculty Governance Designee; a Student Association Designee; Wyatt Krause, Student Ambassador Designee; Elena Adeji, RHSA Designee; John McEnrue, Design and Construction; Brian Pine, Facilities Operations; Portia Altman, Disability Resource Center; Kim Lavoie-Strano, Undergraduate Admissions; Julie Majak, Administrative Services and Parking; Ron Bottali, Staff/CSEA Designee; and Mary Beth Collier, Provost’s Office. Alan Dunefsky will be a Faculty Governance Alternate to the group.

As you’ll recall, the Task Force will work with an external architectural/planning consultant(s) to offer recommendations to me and the Vice Presidents this fall regarding the elements of a new campus facilities master plan, including overall campus appearance, campus circulation, accessibility, sustainability and the desired future location of building projects we would like to undertake in the next decade. There will be multiple opportunities for community input to and critique of the emergent plans.

Chancellor’s Awards: Congratulations to Stella Deen and Jonathan Raskin on receiving the Chancellors’ Award for Excellence. Both will be honored at the Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony on Sunday, May 20. Stella has been recognized for outstanding service in her role as chair of the English Department; John is being recognized for his achievements in research. I hope to see many of you participating in the Commencement Ceremonies in order to congratulate your colleagues and salute your students.

Campus Safety: What happened at Virginia Tech could have happened at just about any campus in the country; therefore, it behooves all of us to stop and reflect on our preparedness to prevent and to handle such an incident, as well as some of the deeper questions raised about how to identify and help members of a community who are in pain and who need assistance. Our campus Emergency Response Team, led by Police Chief Ray Bryant, has met and will continue to meet this summer to review our current protocols regarding emergency response, campus notification and mental health services. SUNY System Administration has also empanelled its own statewide task force to look into these matters.

Let me share with the campus community some of the resources we have in place to handle situations similar to what occurred at Virginia Tech and how we operate in such emergencies. The University Police Department has in place a comprehensive emergency response plan that outlines how the campus will mobilize to handle a variety of crisis situations, including scenarios that involve armed attackers.

Our campus police are certified New York State police officers and are trained in how to secure the campus, to protect potential victims, and to evacuate an area or building if necessary. Our campus police are also trained to work cooperatively with area law enforcement and emergency response agencies as part of village/town, countywide and New York state emergency response plans. In addition, campus residence life staff members receive training to respond to a public safety crisis, whether that is a fire in a residence hall or a random act of violence.

We are constantly revising our Emergency Response Plan to take into account various scenarios that could arise. The plan is also tested regularly with tabletop drills and the police are planning more actual drills later this summer and fall.

Regarding campus notification, as you may have read in recent news reports, even before the tragedy in Blacksburg, the college had contracted with a service that allows us to send text messages to all 9,000 members of our campus community (students and employees) within five minutes. Text messages will only be sent in the event of emergencies or school delays, cancellations or closings. Because we do not have a cell phone number on record for every community member and because the service has a minimal charge for each individual cell phone user, we are not mandating this service at this time. However, we recommend strongly that all students and employees sign up.

Before Virginia Tech, the college was also in the process of purchasing an enhanced 911-communication system to better serve the police in an emergency situation. We are also looking at a variety of additional notification systems, including intercom systems in buildings, remote, wireless radio transmission to such systems and other ways of broadcasting to the campus in times of crisis. System Administration and the New York State Legislature are also discussing how to equip campuses with enhanced communication systems and may mandate such a system or at least provide funding for such equipment and its installation.

Upon your return this fall, the college will make available to interested faculty and staff training sessions with mental health professionals from our Psychological Counseling Center and workplace violence specialists on identifying troubled individuals, on how our campus referral system works and how to prevent escalation of conflict in the classroom and workplace. Campus police will also offer guidance on how to handle classroom emergencies. You may have read in the papers that Chancellor John Ryan has been advocating with the Legislature for additional funds for mental health counselors on campus. I support this notion. 

Our thinking on campus safety will, of course, continue to evolve, as there is analysis of the Virginia Tech incident. The UUP Labor Management Committee and the college administration have agreed to have the UUP Health and Safety Committee discuss these issues and offer suggestions to the appropriate offices. Some of you have already offered some suggestions. If you have ideas that you think would be helpful to administrators who are currently wrestling with these issues, please don’t hesitate to contact the University Police, Public Affairs, Human Resources or Psychological Counseling Center.

Finally, in the midst of attention to campus safety, let us not forget the terrible human cost of events in Virginia. Let us resolve, each one of us, to do our part to nurture a culture here where those who are depressed, angry, lonely and otherwise in need of friendship and support can be assured of kindness and help.

Faculty and Staff Appreciation Picnic: Please mark your calendars for our fourth annual Faculty and Staff Appreciation Picnic and Barbecue, scheduled from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesday, May 22, on the Old Main Quad. This year, I’ll be handing out the new Classified Staff Awards at noon. Please don’t miss this chance to celebrate the end of another successful year at New Paltz.

I hope your summer is restorative and productive!