Because my September State of the College report was rather fulsome, I’ll try to keep my remarks brief this month. But even though you’re already abreast of most major developments on campus, there are some recent and upcoming events I want you to know about and hopefully take part in.
Student Recruitment: As the annual student recruitment cycle gears up, Vice President David Eaton reports that interest in New Paltz is very robust among prospective students and their families. The recent positive recognition we’ve received from Newsweek and USNews, coupled with a very strong applicant base in Long Island and the Hudson Valley, is leading to record numbers of campus tours and registrations for our annual fall Open House, scheduled for Nov. 10. We had 12,545 freshman applications last year (a record), and appear poised to do even better in 2008. With an acceptance rate for this fall’s freshman class of just 32 percent, New Paltz remains in the small group of colleges that admit less than half of their applicants.
While generating applications is important, convincing those students we’ve admitted to actually enroll at New Paltz over other schools is the real measure of our recruiting success. This is where faculty help is most needed—welcoming prospective students to sit in on classes, reaching out with email or calls to the very strongest candidates, and participating in events such as Open House. I want to thank you all in advance for your enthusiastic presence at this important recruitment event. Applicants regularly tell us that meeting and talking with faculty is a critical—and often decisive—factor in their final college choice.
Faculty Recruitment: Next week’s Chronicle of Higher Education will feature New Paltz’s advertisement seeking 29 new faculty for positions beginning in fall 2008. This is the second successiveyear we’ve placed our recruitment ad early, positioning us well time-wise in the national hiring market. The following week’s issue of the Chronicle will carry our ad for the next Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Provost Lavallee is working with the Liberal Arts and Sciences Senate to empanel the Dean search committee.
Federal Lobbying: In late September, I traveled to Washington to attend a SUNY-wide alumni event and to meet with our federal representatives and their staff members. SUNY Central has hired a new federal relations director and opened a new office on Capitol Hill to increase the System’s lobbying presence in Washington. While the House and Senate were busy passing continuing resolutions to keep the government running and positioning themselves for potential budget fights with the President, I met with Congressman Maurice Hinchey and key staff from the offices of Senators Clinton and Schumer and Congressman Hall—all of whom assured us that New Paltz’s federal funding requests for the Dorsky Museum and the new Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach are securely placed, with strong legislative support, in the Labor, Health and Human Services spending bill. These appropriations may become part of an omnibus budget bill passed later this year or in early January.
Governor’s Commission on Higher Education: Late last spring, the Governor charged a group of public and private education leaders, led by Hunter Rawlings, President Emeritus of Cornell, to consider the future of New York’s colleges and universities, with particular emphasis on public higher education and the SUNY and CUNY systems. To put this panel into historical context, this sort of review of public higher education has happened about once every 10 – 20 years in New York. It’s clearly the new Governor’s opportunity to put his stamp on SUNY. This Commission has been holding meetings around the state and has formed subcommittees on (1) Capital/Finance issues; (2) Workforce/Economic Development; (3) Tuition Policy; (4) Access; and (5) Governance. Although SUNY is represented on the Commission, the group’s membership is weighted more toward leaders from private college and universities.
As you might expect, SUNY Central has been busy preparing a series of white papers intended to inform and shape the Commission’s deliberations. I was concerned that we not react passively to this opportunity, so in early June I caucused with most of the presidents of SUNY’s comprehensive colleges to organize and articulate priorities for our sector. In addition to substantial new investments in SUNY’s operating and capital budgets (letting us hire more full-time, tenure-track faculty and address facilities needs), our sector would like to see:
The colleges seek recognition that our sector is very good—candidly, I’d argue that many of SUNY’s comprehensive colleges are better at what we do than our peers in other sectors. Above all, I hope the Commission will help counter the misperception that private higher education is superior to public higher education in New York. The Governor has asked the Commission to issue a preliminary report by December 1, and a final report by June 2008.
State Funding: Just a quick word or two about the annual state budget process. The Legislature may yet reconvene this fall to consider, among other things, additional capital funding for SUNY and approval of the Governor’s new nominees to the SUNY Board of Trustees. However, the prospects for more capital dollars dim the longer the Governor and the Senate leadership continue to be at loggerheads and the closer we get to the start of negotiations over the FY09 budget. On a brighter note, I’m pleased to report that both Provost Lavallee and I are now serving on SUNY Central’s Budget Allocation Process (BAP) committee. This committee decides how SUNY funds are distributed to campuses. While David and I cannot use this as a platform to lobby for our campus, we can certainly advocate for fairness toward the comprehensive college sector—and push SUNY to update the figures used in calculating the geographic funding differential that helps downstate campuses located in expensive areas—such as New Paltz.
Fund raising: I was in Chicago last week seeking alumni donations for our growing Asian Studies endowment. You may also have read that the college recently received two grants totaling almost $500,000 from the Dyson Foundation. The first of these grants will fund scholarships for New Paltz secondary education students transferring from Dutchess, Ulster and Orange County Community Colleges, hoping to alleviate the shortage of math and science teachers in high-needs districts in the Hudson Valley (Recipients will commit to teach for three years in these districts.) The second grant will help start a non-traditional English as a Second Language program within our Language Immersion Institute for migrant and immigrant children and adults.
Reunion Weekend: I want to encourage all of you to participate in the myriad alumni events scheduled this Friday through Sunday: lunches, teas, lectures, screenings, hikes, dramatic and musical performances. New Paltz alumni feel a strong bond with their former professors, and they truly look forward to connecting with you again.
John VanderLippe’s Departure: Lastly, I want to thank John VanderLippe publicly for his dedicated service to New Paltz as Presiding Officer of the Faculty during these last three and one-half years. Shared governance is hard and important work, and John brought a special level of passion, integrity, intelligence and candor to this task. Fortunately, the need to work closely with (and sometimes even to chastise!) the Administration never pulled John far from his faculty roots and responsibilities. But I know that the skill set that served him so well here will help him succeed brilliantly as Associate Dean of the New School for Social Research. We congratulate you on your new position, John, and wish you well!