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The Office of the President

Updates 11/19/2010

Interim President’s Report
Academic and Professional Faculty Meeting
November 19, 2010

I share the following information and updates, and will be happy to respond to questions and comments at this week’s Faculty Meeting.

Retention and Graduation Rates: We have taken pride in recent upward trends in our retention and graduation rates, important measures of our institutional effectiveness. Our latest first-to-second year retention rate is 86.8%, down very slightly from 88% last year (but still higher than any other recent year). Even minor declines in retention are noted, and we analyzed this year’s figure more fully. In-state students returned at a rate of 87%, compared with only 77% of non-international out-of-state students. It is likely that the latter figure reflects the economic downturn and an increase in non-resident tuition, and not institutional practices that should be a concern. But we will continue to watch these trends.

Our four-year graduation rate made another significant jump from 48.5% to 52.2%, following a large increase last year, and our 5-year graduation rate increased from 63.2% last year to 67.5%. These rates exceed national averages by an admirable margin, at the same time our graduation rates are notably lower than for our “aspirational” peers. We must continue our efforts to keep them moving upward.

Communication: I am implementing the new communication venues outlined in my State of the College address. At last month’s first “Brown Bag” session with academic and professional faculty, we discussed issues brought forward by faculty participants -- budgetary reductions, indirect cost allocation, institutional mission and vision, curriculum structure and development, and others. You recently received an invitation to the next session on November 30; I hope you will consider joining this conversation.

The “Administrative Council” (see State of the College) recently met for the first time. This is a new group focused on enhancing knowledge, understanding, and communication across the College. Members spent time getting to know each other (I noted business cards being exchanged at the end of the meeting!), followed by a presentation about our budget reserves and open discussion about the budget and other topics. I encourage you to speak with your supervisor for insight and information from this session. The next Administrative Council is scheduled for December 2. Possible topics for future sessions include admissions; graduate program offerings; energy management; building and grounds renovation and construction projects; emergency management; CRREO activities and efforts; and others as suggested by the membership.

Budget Reserves: I am aware that the topic of budget reserves is attracting considerable interest and discussion among faculty and staff, and speculation that we should “just spend reserves” to meet our budget problems, without economizing, eliminating programs, or taking other serious steps. I will spend a few minutes at the Faculty Meeting outlining key points that I shared at the recent Administrative Council meeting to help faculty understand the basis for my and the President’s Cabinet’s conclusion that such an approach is neither viable nor wise.
Budget Process: To accommodate the schedule of the Presidential Search Committee, we have re-scheduled the Budget Forum from December 13 to December 8, 3:00-5:00 PM (LC 100).

Presidential Search: In early November, members of the Presidential Search Committee began reviewing application materials received to date, and had an extended meeting this week to begin the process of narrowing the pool down to a group of semifinalists who will be invited to off-site interviews in mid-December.

Middle States Reaccreditation: Dr. William Ruud, chair of our Middle States Reaccreditation site visit team, had a productive and positive visit to campus on November 3. He toured the campus, met with the Steering Committee and others, and offered suggestions for our continued planning. He was very complimentary of the level and extent of faculty and staff involvement in the self-study process, and positive in his assessment of our readiness for review.

External Relationships: I continue to invest time and effort meeting with donors, prospective donors, and candidates for membership on the Foundation Board of Directors, and other efforts to continue building relationships that support our long-term fund-raising and development. Recently, I spoke at a breakfast ceremony honoring non-profit organizations in the region, sponsored by Ulster Savings Charitable Foundation. I shared information about the College’s economic impact in the region; the numbers of students, faculty, and staff who volunteer in the region; our support for people and organizations in the region through the SEFA campaign; and the positive contributions of student interns. Afterwards, I was pleased and proud to hear from so many people how well the College and our contributions to the Hudson Valley community are regarded. Thank you for all that so many of you do in these realms.

I hope that everyone has a safe and happy Thanksgiving Holiday with family and friends.

Donald Christian
Interim President

Addendum to Report:

Housing Development: Three years ago, the SUNY New Paltz Foundation, through a subsidiary private non-profit organization (Goshawk, LLC), acquired 40+ acres of land on the south edge of campus with the goal of developing apartment-style housing for students, faculty, and staff. That development is moving along, through collaboration between Goshawk, LLC and Wilmorite, a private development corporation. Wilmorite has developed housing facilities for several other colleges and universities, including Rochester Institute of Technology and Syracuse University. Last night, the Town of New Paltz made its initial consideration of Wilmorite’s application for approval of this project, and we want to apprise you of this effort.

Limited on-campus housing for New Paltz students has been a concern for the College and for many in our community. Currently, we have only enough campus housing for about half of our undergraduate student population and are unable to offer on-campus housing for transfer or graduate students. Many prospective transfer students tell us they are interested in a residential college experience, and when they learn about our lack of on-campus housing they choose to complete their college education elsewhere. This is a real loss for the Hudson Valley and our communities. Many New Paltz upper-division students would like to “graduate” to apartment-style living but continue to live in on-campus residence halls.

In addition, cost and availability of local housing creates a real challenge for many new faculty and staff, who end up living significant distances from campus. This project will provide affordable townhouse-style apartments at the edge of campus. We believe that the availability of proximate housing will assist us in our continuing efforts to recruit top-quality candidates who wish to work and live in the New Paltz community. Such housing will make it easier for faculty and staff to return to campus in the evening to participate in lectures and other co-curricular activities, strengthening the out of class room experience and interaction between faculty and students.

The project planning has given careful attention to each of the state-mandated environmental issues and has included consultation with town, village, county and state officials. Among the many important elements, there are several positive project attributes: students and faculty/staff living in this housing will be able to walk or bike to work or class instead of driving. The proposed development will include a new sewage treatment plant, and thereby will not tax existing village sewage systems.

Recruiting the best and brightest students, faculty, and staff remains an important priority for the College. Even though our continued planning is not to grow our enrollment, there is little question that declining numbers of New York high school graduates in the next decade will increase the challenge of recruiting appropriate numbers of top-notch students who want a residential college experience. We regard this project as a key tool in support of our recruitment efforts and the needs/wants of our future and current students, faculty and staff. We have wholeheartedly endorsed the application that the town is considering.