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photo of President Poskanzer

Presidential Reports and Communications

President’s Report
Academic and Professional Faculty Meeting
February 24, 2012

Board of Trustees Visit.  On January 26, we were honored with a 4-hour visit to campus by SUNY Board of Trustees Chair H. Carl McCall and Trustee Eunice Lewin.  This visit was part of their effort to familiarize themselves with life and issues on SUNY campuses and to provide better context for the policy decisions they face.  They met with me and members of the Cabinet, toured the new Atrium and Student Union, the Dorsky Museum, the Resnick Engineering Hall, and several other buildings, along with the newly renovated Excelsior Concourse. The trustees had several opportunities to meet and interact with New Paltz faculty, staff, and students. Undergraduate and graduate students shared their research on diverse topics, including biology, psychology, and theatre arts. Students, staff and faculty representing the Honors Program, EOP, the Turkish Dual Diploma Program, CRREO, the Solar Car Project, and the Student Association met with the trustees as well. The trustees expressed to me how impressed they were with our students, employees, programs, facilities, planning, and the sense of community we have on campus.  I was extremely proud of the engaged, enthusiastic, and compelling portrait of our campus provided by each person who met and interacted with the Trustees.  Thanks to everyone who contributed to this successful visit.

Student and Faculty/Staff Consultation.  I am continuing my efforts to meet and consult with students, faculty, and staff.  I enjoy and learn much from these interactions, and hope that the information and perspective I am able to share is helpful to the community.  I met in early February with my Student Advisory Group, have held two evening “hot chocolate with the President” events in the residence halls, and met recently with faculty and staff in an informal “brown bag” discussion.  Other such events are scheduled for the rest of the semester, and they will remain a regular part of my communication and consultation with the College community. 

Campus Climate and Compliance Officer.  The College is in the process of searching for a Campus Climate and Compliance Officer; this is a new Management Confidential position that will report directly to the President.  This position is in significant ways mandated by new requirements from the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the U.S. Department of Education to meet its expectations for Title IX oversight and administration.  The following is key background on the development of this position.

In my October, 2011 report, I shared information about the “Dear Colleague Letter” issued early last year by the OCR to every postsecondary institution in the United States.  The letter contained guidance for colleges and universities in educating students and employees about their rights under Title IX as they pertain to sexual assault, sexual violence, and hostile work environment issues, and about appropriate policies and procedures for handling complaints of Title IX violations.  Title IX violations involving student complaints about another student are evaluated through processes in Student Affairs, while those involving a complaint by either a student or employee about an employee are appropriately addressed by Human Resources.  Although our processes in each of those units have worked well, the OCR has established a requirement that campuses have a single point of contact for all inquiries about the above Title IX matters.

Cabinet explored an array of approaches to fulfill this requirement, and concluded that it was not possible to assign this responsibility to any current employee, while providing oversight independent of investigative processes.  Furthermore, we have been concerned that related issues require better coordination and more thorough attention:  campus climate issues for students and faculty, as we learned this fall; Affirmative Action; recruitment processes that contribute to diversifying our workforce; training for students and employees about these issues; compliance and ethics; various state and federal reporting requirements.  The person filling this position will have broad responsibility for such matters along with the above Title IX demands.  A full position description may be found on the Human Resources Web site.  Following candidate interviews the past several weeks led by a search committee that includes faculty, staff, and administrators, the search is drawing to completion, with an aim of having the Climate/Compliance Officer join us during the summer.

As shared in other recent correspondence, we are committed to focusing our new investments on academic priorities.  We also must recognize that we live in an era of compliance that demands that we properly staff such needs, and take other steps to ensure the learning and working environment that exemplifies New Paltz.

Administrative Search Updates.  You are aware from updates provided by search committee co-chairs Eugene Heath and Maureen Morrow that the Provost/VPAA search is progressing on schedule.   The committee has reviewed applicants, and selected a group of semi-finalist candidates to participate in confidential off-campus interviews on February 23-24.  I will follow the process employed by former President Poskanzer in the previous Provost search, interviewing each semi-finalist candidate on those days as well.  The consultants have expressed that the College President is a critical recruiter in attracting a strong provost. Once the consultants have performed background and reference checks, the committee will select finalist candidates from that pool who will be invited to campus for interviews.

Searches for the Deans of Education and Science and Engineering are progressing.  The search committees have begun screening applications at the same time they continue efforts to identify additional prospective candidates.  The search committee for the Dean of the Sojourner Truth Library has formed, met, and the position is advertised with a priority screening date of March 15.

Endowment Support.  The College’s Foundation holds a number of endowment funds, which are permanent investments of gifts given by alumni, faculty, staff, and friends of the College to support New Paltz.  The income from these endowment funds (i.e., the return on investment) is available for program support, when the market has been strong enough both to generate a return and protect the fund’s value against erosion from inflation. That is because the purpose of endowment funds is permanent investment.  Such returns have not occurred during part of our recent economic downturn. 

Stronger market performance in the 2010-11 fiscal year generated spendable earnings from the Foundation’s endowment, allowing the Foundation’s board to allocate more than $375,000 from the endowment for use as scholarships and for campus programs.  Recruitment scholarships offered by Admissions received more than $125,000 from the endowment.  This includes funds generated from the Scholarship Golf Tournament and the Celebrating New Paltz Gala, annual events that are supported by many people across campus and throughout the community.

Scholarships for current New Paltz students, and departments and programs such as the James H. Ottaway, Sr. Visiting Professorship in Journalism, the Dorsky Museum, and the Asian Studies Program collectively represented about a quarter of a million dollars.  Recently established endowments for which earnings are now available include the Smolen Observatory endowment and new scholarships for education students established in memory of alumnae Betty Lyons ’49 and Freda Heinz ’30.   We are grateful to the many donors whose gifts make these funds possible.

A general rule of thumb for our endowments and those at other colleges and universities is a payout, when markets are strong, in the range of 4-5% of the principal, plus a small fee to cover the costs of managing endowments.  That is, a $100,000 endowment typically returns $4,000-$5,000 of usable income each year.

Full-time and Part-time Faculty.  Several years ago, the College adopted a replicable methodology of counting full- and part-time faculty to provide a metric for tracking progress on our goal of increasing our reliance on full-time faculty, and I will continue our practice of sharing data on those trends.  We remain committed to that goal, even though it runs counter to national trends that have increased reliance on part-time faculty in the face of budgetary constraints.   The goal reflects in significant ways our core belief in the linkage between teaching/learning and faculty research/scholarship and creative work, best achieved by tenure-track/tenured faculty.  In addition, we have begun thinking more broadly about benefits that hiring more full-time lecturers may bring to fulfilling particular teaching needs.  At the same time, we recognize that the breadth of our mission and its depth in certain areas will always rely on the valuable contributions of adjunct faculty.

The percentage of courses taught by full-time faculty in fall 2011 was 69.8%, down slightly from 69.9% each of the past two years.  The number of courses taught by adjuncts in fall 2011 was virtually identical to the previous year (381 vs. 380), as were the number of adjuncts teaching 2 courses (104 this fall, 103 a year ago) and 3 courses (23 this fall, 24 a year ago).  The number of full-time faculty in our ranks during fall 2011 was 323, down from 334 a year ago.  This was not an intentional shift, but largely a consequence of unanticipated retirements at the end of 2010-11, on top of mid-year retirements through the early retirement incentive program.  Success in the searches for 22 full-time positions currently underway will allow us to return next fall to the highest number of full-time faculty in several years, a trend that we aim to continue.

SUNY Day and Advocacy.  Four of us traveled to Albany on February 6 for “SUNY Day,” our annual system-wide legislative advocacy activity.  Richard Winters of Undergraduate Admissions and Rita Celariste of our Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) represented New Paltz in a campus showcase, speaking with visitors about their programs and other aspects of the College; they joined more than 35 other SUNY campuses in this effort.  At a morning President’s meeting, we heard about and discussed implementation of goals of the Chancellor’s State of the University address, which include major focus on reducing costs and increasing productivity, access, and completion.  Specific topics included integration of IT systems, concern about high costs of remediation across the system, transfer student mobility, expanding online education, shared services, and performance-based funding.  We will continue to learn about the changing expectations in these areas.

Shelly Wright (Chief of Staff and Government Relations Officer) and I met subsequently with Assemblymember Kevin Cahill, who is a New Paltz alumnus, and with a representative of Senator John Bonacic’s staff.  We emphasized the following:  our gratitude for the rational tuition policy and tuition increase, along with the priorities we are using to guide investment of these increased revenues; our request that they support returning the next 10% of the “give back” of tuition revenue from state coffers to SUNY; our request that they help overcome state-level issues that may prevent approval of funding for a new residence hall that we are planning; and our invitation to attend a dedication of the renovated Old Main on May 11, as each was instrumental in securing funding for that project.

External Activities.  I continue to invest considerable time and effort away from the campus, focusing on building and sustaining relationships, fund-raising, and development.  I recently attended the Dutchess County Chamber of Commerce Gala and a Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress “President’s Breakfast,” part of my ongoing effort to showcase the College’s presence in the region and our many contributions. In addition to our regular Town Gown meeting, Shelly Wright, Jackie DiStefano and I met recently with New Paltz Mayor Jason West and Deputy Mayor Sally Rhoads to discuss shared issues and concerns about parking and other topics. 

I recently participated in a thank-you brunch with members of the regional community who loaned art by Eugene Ludins from their private collections for the current exhibition in the Dorsky Museum, along with the exhibition curator and other donors and supporters.  I participated in a recent fund-raising skills workshop sponsored by the Mohonk Preserve as part of its ongoing capital campaign, with obvious cross-over value for the College’s work.  We recently interviewed two firms and selected one who will consult, guide, and help frame the comprehensive fund-raising campaign that the College and Foundation is undertaking (those costs are paid by the Foundation).  Sally Cross (Director of Development) and I will travel to Florida at the end of this month to participate in a CASE (Council for Advancement and Support of Education) conference on fund-raising and board development. During the trip, I will meet with alumni and prospective donors. 

Other topics.

  • Student Association President Terrell Coakley and I have met to discuss more forums this semester to extend the conversations about campus climate begun in our November 30 forum about race and racism – activities that in the future will be led and guided by the new Campus Climate and Compliance Officer.
  • Inauguration planning continues, and invitations will be sent soon to the campus community to encourage participation in the April 13 installation ceremony, whether marching in regalia or serving as marshal (sign-up will be online).  Events the previous evening will include a Distinguished Speaker Series presentation on liberal education in the 21st century with an accompanying panel of New Paltz faculty, preceded by a reception showcasing student research, scholarly, and creative work. A special dessert reception at the president’s residence for student leaders is planned.  I encourage you to consider attending the benefit concert featuring renowned pianist Vladimir Feltsman on Saturday, April 14. Proceeds will support music, theater, artistic, and other cultural events and activities that enrich the experience of students.
  • Stay tuned for forthcoming information about parking changes on campus this spring as a result of construction and renovation projects.
  • As I noted above, I will not be present at the February 24 Faculty Meeting because of off-site interviews for Provost semi-finalist candidates, thus will not be available to respond to questions or comments about this report.  If you have questions or if I can clarify any points, please contact Cathi Castillo at the President’s Office (3288; castillc@newpaltz.edu)

Donald P. Christian
President