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Updates

Faculty and Professional Staff Meeting President's Report 11/20/09

I'd like to start this month's report by saluting our Women's Volleyball team, which won the SUNYAC Championship while compiling a school record 33 wins (including 23 in a row). The team earned the right to host the championship tournament and then delivered big in front of cheering throngs to win our first title ever in this sport. The team's success continued with a first-round win in the NCAA Tournament, but they were ultimately defeated in a five-set thriller in the second round. Our volleyball team embodies our growing school spirit, and I know you join with me in congratulating the Lady Hawks and Coach Matt Giufre on a spectacular season.

Retention and Graduation Rates: Showing that New Paltz is on a roll, let me move to a second piece of good news. We now have official freshmen-to-sophomore retention rate figures, and I can confirm that our rate jumped from 84.4% to 88%-the highest in College history. Even more important, our latest four-year graduation rate (for the class entering in fall 2005) jumped six percentage points, from 42.8% to 48.5%. Our five-year (63.2%) and six-year (68.9%) rates stayed just about even with the preceding year. This makes sense because as more students graduate in year four there are fewer members of each cohort left to graduate in years five and thereafter. As we work to push our graduation rates up to nationally admired levels, this gives us a more secure base for improvement.

State Budget: You have surely seen media reports about the SUNY budget proposals for fiscal years 2009-10 and 2010-11. Let me update you on what this means for New Paltz. Our College's share of the mid-year $90 million cut to SUNY is $1,176,000. This is less than we feared, partly because System Administration is relieving $22 million of the cut with its own one-time reserves (a step that eases some budgetary pain this year, but may contribute to a yawning gulf next year). As I've explained before, we fully expected this cut to New Paltz, and it is well within the envelope for which we planned last spring.

The prospects for 2010-11 are less clear. The state's deficit is substantial and more cuts are likely. The SUNY proposal asks for funding for negotiated salary increases and inflation. It calls for flexibility legislation to allow campuses to generate new revenue and avoid rigid bureaucratic requirements. The draft plan, however, would accept last year's legislative and gubernatorial choice to redirect last year's tuition increase for noneducational purposes and to return only a percentage of those funds-this year's amount is 30%-to the campuses. And the Board is calling for a modest $100 tuition increase, bringing in-state tuition to $5,070 annually-which still compares favorably to other public universities in the Northeast. On the capital side, the Board's proposal includes a third installment of $550 million as part of a five-year plan to bring SUNY facilities into good repair. (This would include $16 million for New Paltz.) Finally, the proposal would allow SUNY's university centers to charge differential tuition, with the idea that comprehensive colleges may be able to do the same in subsequent years. Candidly, I have some reservations about this element of the proposal. I would not want tuition levels to create the misperception that SUNY's undergraduate colleges are somehow cheaper and less good than its research campuses. We are not Cal State to their University of California; indeed, I would proudly assert that New Paltz, Geneseo and other SUNY colleges are better at what we do than several of our sister research universities.

Of course this is SUNY's initial request and we must see what the Governor proposes in January. My deepest worry is that New York clearly does not have the wherewithal to hand out generous salary increases to public employees-not when most other states are furloughing or laying off state workers. As we've seen in the past, these funds may be "delivered" initially, but then they are taken away through separate backdoor cuts. We will watch the situation closely as it unfolds. As always, we shall continue to share information with you as it becomes available.

Campus Art and Aesthetics Committee: In consultation with faculty governance, I recently established a Campus Art and Aesthetics Committee to help shape the visual environment of our campus. This Committee, to be chaired by Vice President Jackie DiStefano, also includes Dean Mary Hafeli, faculty members Emily Puthoff (Art) and Rachel Mattson (Secondary Education), Brian Pine and John McEnrue of Facilities Management, Shana Circe of Admissions, Brian Wallace of the Dorsky Museum, and undergraduate student Mary O'Leary. I have charged the group with (1) developing policies concerning the visual/aesthetic environment of the campus and making recommendations to the Cabinet on public art proposals and projects; (2) generating and reviewing proposals for the installation of temporary and permanent displays of art both on the campus grounds and in buildings (with the exception of the Dorsky Museum); (3) evaluating gifts of art to be displayed on campus; and (4) informing itself about issues surrounding freedom of expression through art on public college campuses.

Distinguished Professor Fialkow: Please join with me in congratulating Lawrence Fialkow, Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science, on his newly announced promotion to Distinguished Professor. This is the highest rank and honor that can be bestowed on a SUNY faculty member. Larry joined the New Paltz faculty in 1983. The recipient of numerous National Science Foundation grants, he is an intellectual leader in the areas of elementary operators and multivariate moment problems. He has earned an international reputation for path-breaking mathematical scholarship that in turn has fueled other research groups at prestigious institutions. This is a well-deserved honor for our colleague and friend.

And so, just as we give thanks for this recognition, let me wish you the happiest of Thanksgiving holidays. Travel safely and enjoy your turkey and stuffing (or other delicacies). I'm craving pecan pie and a nap on the couch!

Steven Poskanzer