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The Office of the President

Presidential Reports and Communications 03/30/2012

President's Report
Academic and Professional Faculty Meeting
March 30, 2012

Welcome back from spring break, and to a very busy "home stretch" of the spring semester. Several construction and renovation projects are gearing up. You can learn more about these and the resulting impacts on parking and pedestrian pathways at the open forum this Friday, immediately before the Faculty Meeting (LC 102, 2:00 PM). The inconveniences caused by these projects may test patience and good spirit, and I hope that we can all keep the end game of an increasingly beautiful and well-functioning campus in mind during this process.

Reorganization and Relocation. Several offices have been or in the coming weeks will be relocated and re-organized to better fulfill key aspects of our mission, and to use existing resources more effectively. Some of these changes are responsive to the pending removal of Hanmer House and the nearby Center for International Programs, necessitated by the Mohonk Walk and new science building projects. This spring, Study Abroad programs will be relocated to Grimm House; the Geography Department has already vacated Hanmer and moved to the South Classroom Building. Other International programs are housed in former Nursing space in van den Berg Hall, a relocation that has already generated new collaboration and efficiencies.

Summer programs and extended learning, including distance and regional education, have relocated from Grimm House to the 8th floor of Haggerty. The closer proximity to the Provost’s Office and The Graduate School, along with several staffing and budgetary changes, will reinforce and make explicit the organization and lines of responsibility for summer programs and regional education. These units, housed within CRREO, have for many years been under the purview of the Provost, but that reporting line has not been clearly delineated from other CRREO activities and programs. This move will also support increased collaboration that will enhance graduate and other regional offerings, as well as summer programs. In turn, this realignment will facilitate CRREO’s ability to sharpen its focus on its expanding profile of research and outreach on regional issues and problems.

Institutional Research and Planning will relocate from the 6th to the 7th floor of Haggerty, in proximity to CRREO. This will allow these two offices to share support personnel more effectively, and will facilitate the growing collaboration among staff in these areas. This move will create office space on the 6th floor of Haggerty for the new Campus Climate and Compliance Officer that I wrote about last month; the search for this position is coming to closure.

The Office of Sponsored Programs, previously on the 8th floor of Haggerty, has moved to the 6th floor. As discussed in a forum earlier this week, we have invested considerable effort these past several months evaluating the most effective organization for our grants and external funding support, in consultation with the Research Foundation (RF) and including adjustments to conform to new expectations that the RF and SUNY System have for RF campus operations managers. As a result, we will be bringing “pre-award” and “post-award” functions together into a single unit. The previous responsibilities for the leadership of Sponsored Programs have been redefined. This position, to be filled through a national search, will report directly to the Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs.

Accepted Students Day is March 31, 10 AM- 3PM. This is a critical event in our ongoing efforts to recruit the number and caliber of students we seek (http://www.newpaltz.edu/admissions/openhouse/accepted_student.html). We appreciate the contributions that departments and faculty and staff make to ensuring that accepted students and their families are welcomed to the campus and 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. Some of our usual indicators of recruitment success are “up” this year over last, others are “down.” Other institutions are seeing similar patterns this year, and we must continue to be diligent and thoughtful in our recruitment efforts. I thank you in advance for your contributions to Accepted Students Day programs.

I am grateful to Chairs and Departments who developed and sent materials to parents and accepted students about this event, some in response to discussion and presentations by deans in last month’s Administrative Council meeting, and to Design, Print, and Mail Services for their contributions to creating and sending these cards.

Course Scheduling. In my discussions with students, I hear frequent complaints about course scheduling, including impacts on student academic progress and degree completion. These complaints confirm concerns that we have had for some time. Accordingly, we recently commissioned a review by a national organization of our course scheduling practices and oversight. We are still studying the report and recommendations of this review, and will share these more broadly with the campus community yet this spring. As a result, we will be implementing some fundamental changes in how we manage our course scheduling, beginning with spring semester 2013 course offerings.

Budget Update. We are pleased and encouraged that a state budget has been completed in advance of the April 1 deadline, and are grateful that our state leaders have adhered to the tenets of rational tuition (approving a second year of tuition increase) and “maintenance of effort” - a more-or-less flat budget that, while it may not cover all contractual increases, at least does not entail a significant cut (unless pending contract discussions entail an unfunded salary increase). While we do not know how the state budget and overall SUNY allocation will translate into our campus budget, we are proceeding with the process we outlined earlier to determine priorities for investing new revenues from tuition increase.

Proposals for investment have been received by deans and other levels, and are currently under review by vice presidents. These proposals will be shared with and input will be sought from individuals and various campus constituencies, as outlined in the timeline posted on my.newpaltz.edu and www.budget.newpaltz.edu. That consultation process will include an open forum with the campus community before the end of the semester. No decisions can be made until our campus budget for next year is known.

Inaugural Participation. I look forward to seeing many of you at the inauguration event on April 13. I am grateful to the members of the inaugural planning committee for their thoughtful work, and to the additional staff who have volunteered to assist the committee with planning and with inauguration logistics. I very much appreciate the spirit of the many faculty and staff who have agreed to serve as marshals, and to the faculty who have registered to join official delegates in the academic processional.

I hope that you will mark your calendars to participate in events on Thursday, April 12: A showcase of research and creative activities of students and their faculty mentors (6:00-7:30 PM, LC Lobby), followed by this spring’s Distinguished Speaker presentation by Dr. Debra Humphreys, “Liberal Education and the 21st Century Global Economy.” Dr. Humphreys, Vice President for Communication and Public Affairs at the AAC&U, and I worked together closely for several years on the AAC&U “LEAP” (Liberal Education and America’s Promise) campaign - Wisconsin was one of three initial pilot states. A panel of New Paltz faculty will respond to her presentation by showcasing initiatives at New Paltz that align with themes of her talk.

Tickets remain available for the benefit concert by Vladimir Feltsman on Saturday afternoon, April 14 (4:00 PM). You may also sponsor a student to attend the concert by purchasing an extra ticket. Your donation will be tax deductible, unless you choose to name the particular student you would like to sponsor. Proceeds from the concert and reception will support music, theatre, artistic, and other cultural events and activities that enrich the experience of New Paltz students. Buying a ticket for a student to attend this concert helps support this institutional goal.

You may be interested in viewing the pre-inauguration video clip prepared by our Office of Communication and Marketing (http://www.newpaltz.edu/inauguration/video.html). There also will be a Special Exhibit "The History of the Office of the President" featuring a historical timeline of the College April 7 - 15 in the Sojourner Truth Library, also prepared by Communication and Marketing and Library staff.

Freedom of Speech. As I have written in my December 2011 report, we are dedicated to supporting First-Amendment rights of faculty, staff, and students, and have policies in place that safeguard these rights. As a public college, we have a commitment to ensure that our campus is available for the exercise of free-speech rights of “third party” individuals - those not affiliated with the College and not on the campus by invitation of a legitimate student group or academic unit. We also have responsibilities to ensure the safety and welfare of all members of the campus community and all visitors; to maintain public order and protect state property; and to be certain that any third-party exercise of free-speech rights does not interfere with the fulfillment of our primary academic mission.

Previously, the College (like most SUNY campuses) did not have explicit policies governing third-party free speech rights. At its most recent meeting, the New Paltz College Council discussed and approved a new policy, effective immediately, which addresses the exercise of these rights in ways consistent with the institutional concerns noted above. All requests by third-party individuals or groups for use of the campus for such purposes will be evaluated and approved consistent with this policy. This policy will be posted soon on the Administration and Finance website.

Fund-Raising and Development. We recently secured a commitment from an alumna and spouse to establish, over a 2-3 year period, a $100,000 endowed “emergency assistance” program for students who encounter financial difficulties that threaten their ability to remain in school and graduate. This fund is modeled after one established several years ago and supported by the College Council.  We have seen the positive impact of modest one-time financial assistance (increments of up to about $1,000) on the ability of our students to stay in school despite financial disruption. Our new donors do not wish to have their names attached to this fund, but liked the suggestion of “Crossing the Finish Line Fund,” modeled after a recent book “Crossing the Finish Line” that analyzed factors influencing student retention and graduation. That title had particular resonance and beautiful symmetry because our alumna’s husband had taken an economics course as an undergraduate student at Princeton from the senior author of the book, William Bowen.

Congratulations to Dean Jim Schiffer for his success in establishing a new scholarship program to support low-paying or unpaid summer internships for Liberal Arts & Sciences students. The new program will offer two awards of $1,000 each. This program is funded by gifts to the Foundation from the Dean and alumni members of the LA&S Advisory Board that Dean Schiffer established last year, and that he continues to grow - in number of board members, commitment to New Paltz, and financial support.

State of the College Address. We will begin a new tradition of launching the academic year with a single gathering to which all employees (Classified, Professional, Academic and Management Confidential) will be invited, and at which I will present the State of the College Address. For 2012-13, this event will be on August 24, 2012, 9:30 AM (LC100), with an informal gathering and light refreshments beginning at 8:45 AM. I hope that scheduling this event before the start of classes will make it possible for all faculty and staff to participate. Our regular new-student Convocation will follow at noon that day.

This approach is consistent with my goal of building community and a stronger sense of shared mission across all units of the College. The past two years, I have found it awkward to have an entire month (or more) of the academic year pass before we come together to celebrate our successes and chart the course for the year - the aims of a State of the College event. This does not serve well either the initiation of the academic year or our longer-term progress toward institutional goals.

Graduate Program Strategic Planning: One of our priorities must be to evaluate and revise as warranted our graduate programs and their mode of delivery, to ensure that they meet regional needs, and that our graduate enrollments are healthy, in an increasingly competitive graduate education environment. Dean of Graduate Studies Laurel M. Garrick Duhaney is developing a strategic plan for the Graduate School, and is seeking input at three open forums, two to be held after you receive this report (April 3, 9-11AM and 2-4 PM, SUB 62/63). I encourage your participation and contribution.

Spring Clean-up Day is Wednesday, April 11, 2-4 PM, timed this year to have the campus in top appearance for inaugural visitors. We welcome all hands helping with this effort, even if for a short time

Dutchess County Chamber of Commerce Presentation. I welcome every opportunity to speak about the College, our goals and points of pride, the ways that we educate students, and the basis for our growing reputation for educational quality. I have been invited to speak to the Dutchess County Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, April 18, 7:30 AM at the Poughkeepsie Grand Hotel. I will speak about the above topics as well as our role as stewards of place within the Hudson Valley, the community contributions that we make, and our relationships within the region. To enhance the College’s regional visibility at this event, the President’s office will cover the costs of breakfast ($15) for each of 8 faculty or staff who do not normally attend this event.  Please contact Lisa Davis (davisl@newpaltz.edu or 257-3291) if you are interested (first come, first served; deadline COB April 11)

I will look forward to your questions and comments at the faculty meeting this Friday.

Donald P. Christian