Faculty and Professional Staff Meeting
President's Report 10/24/06
I thought I'd begin my report with a few words on admissions, as we are now moving into the heart of the student recruitment cycle. Our annual Admissions Open House will be Saturday, November 11, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and we once again expect a robust turnout of approximately 5,000 prospective students and their families. I hope many of you will be there to talk about your programs, because conversations with faculty generate much excitement about studying at New Paltz.
Vice President David Eaton tells me that the next month is a real crunch time for his team. In addition to Open House, admissions counselors are on road trips to high schools and receptions in recruiting hot beds such as New York City, Long Island and the Northern suburbs. And it won't be long before our first-year students head home for Thanksgiving, when they will report on their New Paltz experience to family and friends. The data show that such word-of-mouth is a powerful factor in college choices. So we're hoping to be the "Little Miss Sunshine" of campuses in students' college decisions! Again, your involvement in this process is important and appreciated.
On to facilities and construction. The Construction Fund (the "Fund'), our Facilities Management Office, the Provost, and Dean of the School of Education recently had a kick-off meeting with the architect for the Old Main Building renovation. We had hoped to phase the renovation to minimize the displacement of faculty and staff, but the experts are telling us that won't be possible. To redo mechanical systems the entire structure will have to be vacant for awhile. This means we will have to find swing space for more people. We're working on solutions and we'll share our ideas with you as they emerge. We handled just this kind of situation when we renovated van den Berg Hall, and I'm confident that we'll be able to do so once again.
At last week's meeting of SUNY Presidents the major topic was the impending shift in state government. Understandably, there is anxiousness about the post-election year budget. Several factors point to tight state funding in FY08: the new governor will inherit a large deficit; both candidates are talking about the need for tax cuts; and the presumptive governor (that would be the candidate with the 50-point lead in the polls!) has also spoken powerfully about making a multi-billion dollar investment in the New York City public schools to resolve the CFE case. Having read these tea leaves, System Administration is trying to build up SUNY's base budget so that campuses will be in the strongest possible position if there is no additional money next year or if there are budget cuts.
On the capital side of the budget, the Fund is pushing for dollars for campus infrastructure and basic maintenance projects, as opposed to new construction or major rehabs. The thinking here is that the Fund should build such support into its budget because in recent years the legislature has tended to add on monies for larger and more visible stand-alone campus projects.
As you all know, our highest unmet capital funding priority is the $10 million we still need to complete the Old Main renovation. We're already pushing for such funding under every possible rubric:
(1) designating Old Main as our top priority (it was striking that the total of all SUNY campus top priorities exceeded $1 billion while the current capital plan provides for only about $500 million/year!);
(2) making sure Old Main is prominently included in the Fund's list of partially-funded projects that require "finishing balances;" and
(3) pushing for Old Main's inclusion in the legislature's set of economic development-linked construction projects (which is how our local legislators John Bonacic and Kevin Cahill secured an additional $3 million for the project over the summer).
As you know, earlier this month Provost Lavallee solicited nominations for the ACE Fellowship program. As a former ACE Fellow myself, I was delighted to see a high level of local interest in participating in this very successful higher education leadership development effort. We had five strong candidates, each of whom would make a talented Fellow. I'm happy to report that New Paltz's nominee will be Professor Patricia Sullivan of the Department of Communication and Media.
October 28 is national "Make A Difference Day," and this will be the second year New Paltz has participated in this event as a campus. Our Director of Student Activities, Sue O'Driscoll, has been instrumental in organizing more than 200 students, faculty and administrators-including me and members of my Cabinet-to spend next Saturday volunteering with local social service agencies and other nonprofits. Our community service and our neighborliness are important components of our mission as a public university. If you're not already booked, I'd urge you to take a few hours of your Saturday to recognize the value of these organizations by giving them some of your time.
Finally, the "Celebrating New Paltz" Gala will be held Sunday, November 19 at Mohonk Mountain House, with proceeds going to support a scholarship endowment for local students who enroll at SUNY New Paltz. The Gala honorees this year are Kathy Cartagena from Family of New Paltz and Renee Fillette of St. John Bosco Child and Family Services. Past Galas have raised $94,000 for this endowment, and we look forward to adding to that important total.
I'm happy to talk about these or other topics with you on the 24th. If I don't see you then, have a Happy Halloween.Steve Poskanzer