Faculty and Professional Staff Meeting President's Report 3/9/06
Ni hao! (That's Mandarin for "hello.")
As I write this, I've been back in the States for almost a week after participating in a delegation led by Chancellor Ryan that opened SUNY's new Beijing office. As those of you who have recently been there can attest, visiting China today is literally "awesome" (n.b.: I'm not using Valley speak but referring instead to a true sense of awe generated by a nation so vibrant and economically ascendant). We visited both Beijing and Nanjing. Everywhere one sees forests of construction cranes building new skyscrapers. Everywhere one learns of international companies opening or expanding their presence and of educational institutions partnering with Chinese counterparts.
Two aspects of the trip bear particular mention.
First, the leadership of Nanjing University (which by most measures is among China's finest) evinced great interest in creating a Nanjing University/SUNY college to be based in Nanjing. Nanjing U. already has a joint program with Johns Hopkins, but this would be a much larger undertaking. The Chancellor has asked University at Albany President Kermit Hall to lead a SUNY-wide working group to develop this concept. The current notion is that the Jiangsu Provincial government would provide the physical facilities and that this new entity would offer a variety of 2+2, 3+1 and 4+1 joint degree programs with SUNY (this resembles the model in place with several Turkish universities). Of particular interest to New Paltz, this partnership could provide opportunities for faculty to spend a semester or even a year teaching in China, as well as a pipeline for talented Chinese students to study here. As far as student quality is concerned, Nanjing explained that they accept only the top 0.6% of Chinese secondary school students. Obviously, there are many details (as well as substantive structural issues!) that need to be resolved before this comes to fruition. However, Chancellor Ryan and senior SUNY officials were excited by this possibility.
Second, SUNY trumpeted its new China strategy with great fanfare at a reception for alumni, including the Chinese Minister of Education (a University at Buffalo grad). New Paltz was well represented; several of our alumni attendees are faculty at Beijing University. I hope that the Beijing office will provide logistical support for SUNY representatives and faculty doing business in China and that it will also function as a clearinghouse for Chinese students and faculty eager to connect with the entire State University.
Preparing for such a trip would not have been possible without the support of my "China Team:" Kristine Harris, Ron Knapp, Yoni Schwartz and Bruce Sillner. I'm grateful for their help. And a special Xie xie (That's Mandarin for "thank you.") to Chui-chun Lee for helping me master essential phrases.
My other major news this month concerns the State Budget. I spent today (March 7) lobbying in Albany and thus can provide a very fresh update. As you will recall, the primary challenge for SUNY this year is obtaining additional state support to (1) avoid a tuition increase; (2) restore base budget funds that were redistributed among campuses in the past (New Paltz was a large "donor"); and (3) seek money for more full-time faculty lines. The news is largely encouraging. The Assembly has proposed a budget that would obviate the need for a tuition increase, give SUNY the last $10 million (on top of $40 million already in the Executive Budget) needed to restore the redistributed funds, and furnish some new money for full-time faculty (although this last piece would apparently be done over two years). My best intelligence is that the Senate is likely to follow suit on tuition and some of these other items.
If such additional funds (approximately $100 million) are indeed appropriated, and if SUNY Central follows the proposed BAP model that Provost Lavallee helped craft, New Paltz should be in the (all too rare but still enviable!) position of having a meaningful increase in its base budget for FY07. Should this occur, as the Provost and I have noted on many occasions, the college's top priority will be meaningfully increasing the ranks of full-time, tenured and tenure-track faculty.
On the capital front, we continue to urge legislators on both sides of the aisle to enact a multi-year rolling capital plan for SUNY-and to include funding for the complete renovation of Old Main in such a plan.
Every indication is that the budget will be brought to closure before April 1, which is good because it allows us to plan for new expenditures well in advance of the start of the new fiscal year.
On another front, I learned yesterday that the college has received a $179,241 grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) for environmentally efficient design and construction in the Student Union Building addition. The grant application was a collaborative effort of Student Affairs and Facilities Management. Receipt of such funding reinforces the wise counsel of Brian Obach and other faculty (and students) who have been urging us to "think green" in this and other construction projects.
I understand from conversations with faculty colleagues that in mid-February there were some issues about locked classrooms in the Humanities Building. While I have been assured that these problems have now been resolved, if that is not accurate I would ask you to email Facilities promptly with the details and also to copy my office so we can follow up.
Next week I'm scheduled to spend about 72 hours in Florida-not on the beach, mind you, but attending alumni events and calling on potential donors. I trust you'll all stay warm and happy and well in the meantime.