Edit Page

The Office of the President

Presidential Reports and Communications 05/15/2013

President’s Report
Academic and Professional Faculty Meeting
March 15, 2013

Strategic Plan.   As a continuation of our ongoing planning process, the draft strategic plan is available for review.  Steering Committee Co-Chairs Patricia Sullivan and Stella Turk presented and discussed the plan at last week’s meeting of the College Council and the “Wonk” meeting earlier this week. The SUNY New Paltz Foundation Board and the executive leadership of the Student Association and Residence Hall Student Association will discuss the plan next week.  The Steering Committee co-chairs will also be meeting with the Budget, Goals and Plans Committee. I encourage you to review the plan and participate in open forums on April 1 and 2 (classified staff only, April 1, 9 a.m., Student Union 100; all campus community members, 3 p.m., Lecture Center 100, both days).  Those forums will focus on increasing understanding of the planning process, strengthening the plan and the clarity of objectives, and ideas on measuring its success.  Drs. Sullivan and Turk are also receiving feedback and soliciting ideas through the planning email address (strategicplan@newpaltz.edu).  As always, I am grateful for the work of the Steering Committee and the participation by so many members of the campus community in this important planning process.

Alumni and LGBTQ Task Force Updates.  I charged both groups since my last monthly report.   The Alumni Relations Task Force is meeting weekly, advancing a goal that has emerged as one of the top priorities in the draft strategic plan (“Engaging Alumni in the Life of the College”).  The LGBTQ Task Force has begun meeting to develop recommendations for key actions that will further enhance the campus climate for LGBTQ students, faculty and staff, based on our recent survey and report (http://www.newpaltz.edu/lgbtq/).  Recent disturbing postings on a Facebook site (which the College does not control) have upset students, faculty and staff, and these examples of cyber bullying, misogyny, racism, homophobia, and transphobia highlight the importance of our continued vigilance in creating and sustaining a campus environment that is safe, open, and accepting of all members of the community.

Student Diversity.  A myth is floating around the campus that the racial and ethnic diversity of our student body has declined, and that our academic standards and admissions policies “conflate college rankings and selectivity with educational success.”  In our entire institutional history, the three years with the most students of color in our incoming first-year class were (in order) 2011, 2012, and 2010.  This year, our entering class of transfer students included more students from historically underrepresented groups than ever before.  For at least the last 9 years, the best statistical description of our enrollment patterns is an increase in the percentage of students of color in our entering classes.  The percentage of Asian and Latino students in our incoming classes has been increasing, while the percentage of African-American students in our first-year class has been stable at 6-7% for the past six years.  These statistics hardly reflect a decline in student diversity, and as you encounter this notion, I hope you will share these trends to help this myth disappear.

A diverse living and learning community remains a distinctive and valued feature of SUNY New Paltz.  Recruiting, retaining, and promoting the academic success of all students, including students from historically underrepresented groups, remain a top priority for this institution.  We are justifiably proud of our success in recruiting a diverse student body while increasing our selectivity and admissions standards, at the same time we seek to do better by continuing to address challenges that we and other collegiate admissions offices wrestle with to recruit outstanding minority students.

Budget process.  About 60 people participated in an open forum on February 27 about this year’s budget-allocation process and reviewed the proposals being considered for new budget allocations.  Assistant Vice President for Finance and Administration Michele Halstead and I shared perspectives on the economic context of our budget planning, and the numerous sources of uncertainty in the resources we will have to support our mission.  The Provost outlined his priorities for new faculty lines, which have been developed in close consultation with the Deans based on proposals put forward by departments.  Cabinet has begun prioritizing one-time-only and other requests.  Our goal is to have priorities established so that we can finalize budget decisions as soon as possible after the state and SUNY budgets are established and our campus budget for next year is known.  In reaching these decisions, we certainly must consider possible changes in our revenue and expenses beyond 2013-14.

Graduate School Open House and Accepted Students Days.  Thank you to the faculty and staff who gave their time and energy to showcase graduate education opportunities to prospective students at the Graduate School Open House on February 26. Participants were asked to respond to a short survey about their graduate program interests, and the responses provide useful insight into our continued planning.  Many expressed particular interest in evening courses, hybrid and online offerings (more strongly the former than the latter), and especially course offerings during summer (94% of respondents), winter session (100%), and weekends.  This semester Provost Phil Mauceri and Graduate Dean Laurel M. Garrick Duhaney are evaluating trends in enrollments in particular graduate programs, to inform decisions that we must make to eliminate or re-vamp those programs that have been losing students, and to encourage thinking about new graduate offerings.

Our “Accepted Students Day” events are scheduled for March 16 and April 13 – two events rather than the single one we have hosted in past spring semesters. We expect the same total number of students and guests as in the past (about 1,100 expected for this Saturday), but the new format will provide the opportunity for an official welcome and more personal one-on-one interaction with faculty and staff, much like our competitors.  As always, I appreciate the work of departments and faculty and staff to ensure that accepted students and their families are welcomed to the campus and able to learn as much as they can about our programs.

I have written before about the dynamic and unpredictable nature of student recruitment in the current economic and competitive environment. Our own application and acceptance numbers this year are strong and encouraging, but happenings on other SUNY campuses catch our attention – two that are facing budget issues because of enrollment declines of more than 5% since last year, others that are experiencing 8-9% declines in number of applications for fall 2013 admission.  We must continue to be focused on this important part of our institutional success – it requires a community effort.  I thank you in advance for your contributions to Accepted Students Day programs.

Chancellor’s Awards for Student Excellence.  We are very proud that five New Paltz students have been chosen to receive Chancellor’s Awards for Student Excellence.  These students have demonstrated exceptional achievement in their academic and other endeavors, and have excelled in a variety of leadership roles.  They are:  Faith Hassell (industrial and organizational psychology major); Kimberly Lepore (psychology); Destiny Denise Saldivar (psychology); Melissa Stephani (interpersonal/intercultural communication); and Chelsea Stokes (English). Please congratulate them as you see them in class and elsewhere on the campus. Vice President Rooney and I will participate in the Chancellor’s recognition ceremony in Albany on April 4.

VP Search updates.  Applications are coming in for the Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations search.  The committee, with support from the consultant, will begin reviewing applications this month, with off-campus interviews planned for early April and on-campus, finalist interviews later in April and in early May.  The process of selecting a search consultant for the Vice President for Administration and Finance is nearly complete, and we will be advertising that position soon with anticipated interviews during May and June.  Our goal is to have the VP for Development and Alumni Relations on board by June 1, and the VP for Administration and Finance here before the start of the next academic year.

Park Point.  In the fall, the faculty passed a resolution that student and faculty/staff housing at Park Point be designed to the same or an equivalent environmental standard as campus buildings, currently LEED Silver.  An energy consultant was retained by Wilmorite, the developer of Park Point, to analyze and score the design and planned features of Park Point housing relative to National Green Building Standard (NGBS) and LEED standards. He recently  reported his findings to the Town Planning Board, concluding that Park Point is designed in a way readily consistent with NGBS “Silver” certification.  If LEED were to have been selected as the standard, Park Point as designed would easily exceed the LEED “Silver” qualification.  This analysis should offer assurance that Park Point is being designed in a way consistent with the College’s commitments and standards for environmental sustainability.

Wilmorite will share this and other information as it develops written responses to questions and issues raised during the public comment period of the environmental review process.  Those responses will be incorporated into a “Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS).” We are contributing to that process by responding to concerns raised by the New Paltz Town Board that the College’s interest in this project is to expand our undergraduate enrollments – increasing traffic congestion and exacerbating other issues.

Beyond emphasizing that our long-term, publicly stated plan is to maintain current undergraduate enrollment levels, I will point out that New Paltz ranks last among nine SUNY comprehensive colleges in the number of residence hall beds per student.  Even though Park Point will not be part of the campus, the beds at Park Point, along with our current and planned residence hall capacity, would bring us only to the average capacity of our sister campuses.  The additional housing provided by Park Point would allow us to serve current numbers of students at a level already enjoyed by students at other campuses.  Furthermore, I am again emphasizing that we have less academic space per student than any other SUNY comprehensive campus.  Even with a new science building, we will remain “space-tight” in classrooms, laboratories, and studios, a pressing constraint even if we wanted to grow our undergraduate enrollments.

We are conducting a small “experiment” this spring to test directly the demand for housing among transfer students, one of the groups of students that Park Point would serve. We are stretching our resources (i.e., risking an increased rate of “tripling”) to offer a limited number of residence hall beds (about 100) to transfer student applicants for fall semester, something we have not done for many years. We are early in our admission season, but our “yield” – the number of accepted transfer applicants who have paid deposits to attend New Paltz – has increased substantially (by more than 50%)  even though numbers of transfer applicants and accepted transfer students is down.  The difference is driven by transfer students who have also paid housing deposits.  This effort provides very compelling evidence about the need and demand for student housing on and near the campus.  This need is continually reinforced in my conversations with students, who are excited about the prospect of high-value apartment style housing adjacent to campus.

In addition to sharing such information as part of the FEIS, I will be writing to the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency (IDA), the body that reviews and approves a PILOT – Payment in Lieu of Taxes. The student housing at Park Point qualifies for PILOT consideration, and my message will attempt to help the IDA understand the high level of student housing need and demand in New Paltz. Even with a PILOT for student housing, Wilmorite will pay full taxes on the housing units for faculty and staff, a key point that has been missed in some of the public and media discussion of this issue.

I share this information so that you are apprised of these recent developments, and also to inform your advocacy efforts for this project, which is so clearly critical to our future success in a terribly competitive student recruitment environment.

Ottaway Visiting Journalism Professor.  The 2013 James H. Ottaway Sr. Professor of Journalism is Deborah Amos, National Public Radio’s Middle East correspondent.  She will meet and interact with students and be a guest speaker during a two-week residency on campus this spring.  She will be introduced to the campus community at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 9, in the Honors Center, where she will be interviewed about her life and career.  At 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 18, Ms. Amos will give a public speech called "A Passport to the Middle East: A Career of Revolution, Upheaval and Hope" in the Coykendall Science Building auditorium, with a reception to follow at which she will sign copies of her book, Eclipse of the Sunnis: Power, Exile, and Upheaval in the Middle East.

Ms. Amos is an award-winning journalist who has reported extensively on the Arab Spring and sectarian conflicts in the Middle East. In 2012, she was one of the only American journalists allowed into war-torn Syria.  Her career has included numerous roles with NPR, a decade in television news, production of award-winning documentaries, and authorship of two major books. 

Distinguished Speaker Series.  This spring’s Distinguished Speaker is U.S. Ambassador Dennis Ross, who will speak on "Challenges for American Foreign Policy in the Middle East" at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 16, in Lecture Center 100. The Q&A following the talk will be moderated by Deborah Amos.  Alumnus Howard Goldblatt, a member of Dean James Schiffer’s LA&S Advisory Board, helped arranged Ross’ visit to campus and has provided financial support to help make it possible. The event is also being co-sponsored by the Center for Middle East Dialogue.

Construction.  Beyond sharing that the Wooster renovation remains on schedule, I regrettably cannot report any change in status of our other projects.  It is not clear when the disbursement-cap logjam might be broken so that our Library renovation and new science building projects can continue.  We anticipate that any action on addressing the residence hall bonding authority constraints will come later in this legislative session.
I look forward to seeing you at this week’s meeting, and to responding to your questions and comments.

Donald P. Christian