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Updates

Faculty and Professional Staff Meeting President's Report 12/10/07

As the fall semester comes to a close, there are several important items I want you to know about.

Faculty, Staff, Student Housing: I have some exciting news to share with you on the issue of campus housing. You’ll recall that for several years now I’ve been speaking about our lack of proximate housing for faculty and staff—as well as our desire to have more of our students live on or adjacent to campus.

Let me tell you about how we plan to start addressing this problem. Acting through the SUNY New Paltz Foundation, we have purchased from our longtime neighbors, the Moriello family, a 42-acre parcel of land contiguous to the southern boundaries of our campus. We are going to be collaborating with a group led by Mike Moriello to build on
this site rental apartments and town-home-style rental housing suitable for faculty, staff and students. The Foundation also intends to build new student housing on a portion of the land nearest our newest residence halls.

We envision this parcel of land as integrally related to the campus. Instead of having to drive to work or class, residents on this site will be able to walk or bike to the heart of the campus. We think this makes environmental sense and builds community.

This is a critical first step in ensuring that the New Paltz campus remains a residential community of students, faculty and staff for decades to come.

Enrollment: Being named the hottest small state school in the country by Newsweek is generating a lot of positive buzz, especially on Long Island and in Westchester. Open House reaffirmed this, with close to 7,000 attendees. So it looks like another very robust admissions year. While it’s still early in the cycle, New Paltz leads all SUNY colleges in
the number of freshmen and transfer applications.

However, we never want to rest on our laurels. So we are looking at our admissions operation and seeing what we can be doing even better than we are now. We have brought in a consultant: Lisa Angeloni, Dean of Enrollment Management at the College of New Jersey, one of our aspirational peers. She is also a former Associate Dean of
Admissions at New Paltz—you may remember her as Lisa Paponiac—so she knows us well and “gets” what makes us special.

Compensatory Release Time for Faculty: In my brown bag lunches with faculty over the last several years, I heard repeatedly one powerful theme and request: namely, that one of the most precious commodities you have is your time and that you yearn for ways to“expand the temporal envelope.” I know that many of you already regularly commit some of your scarce time to student scholarship, including teaching independent study courses and supervising undergraduate and graduate research and master’s theses. We want to be responsive to your needs and concerns, and promote even more of such good work. As you’ve probably learned from the Provost’s announcement earlier this week, we will now offer compensatory release time for faculty who participate in such activities. Our compensatory time plan was developed in consultation with the Deans, and it will take effect immediately. We hope that this commitment to faculty will encourage even more of you to become involved in promoting student research and related capstone experiences.

Federal Appropriations: Our two federal earmarks--$150,000 for the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art and $300,000 for the new Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach—are in limbo because of political forces considerably beyond our control. The President vetoed the Labor Health and Human Services spending bill that included these appropriations. Congress may pass a scaled-back Labor HHS bill (that may or may not include either/both earmarks) or it may pass an omnibus bill (that, again, may or may not include either/both earmarks). I wish I could be more definitive, but it’s a fluid state of affairs. There is one certainty, though – if these requests are not approved, we will resubmit them in the next federal budget cycle.

State Budget: On the state budget front, the SUNY budget request (approved by the Board of Trustees last week) includes funding for 1,000 more full-time faculty lines across the System and also covers inflation, energy and collective bargaining increases. On the capital side, SUNY has proposed a $7.25 billion five-year capital plan. This
includes investment in critical maintenance for existing buildings and new construction for strategic initiatives. This is a huge capital request. To illustrate: In the previous fiveyear plan, New Paltz received $33 million in capital funding. If this plan were enacted as proposed, our allocation for maintenance only would be well over $100 million.

How realistic these operating/capital budget requests are in what looks to be a lean budget year is a good question. But it’s heartening that SUNY is at least asking for more resources.

I should also note that the SUNY budget request includes a 5 percent tuition hike, which would raise annual tuition for a full-time, in-state undergraduate from $4,350 to $4,570 per year. This would be the first increase since 2003. It would still leave SUNY tuition well below the national average for a public four-year college (which is $6,185).

Fund Raising: We’ve had some very fruitful fund-raising efforts this fall. For instance, we’ve received a $200,000 gift to endow the publication of catalogs from Dorsky museum exhibitions (such catalogs can be an important part of the museum’s teaching function) and the overall museum endowment now stands at $1.3 million in gifts and pledges. And, we’ve just gotten a lovely $25,000 gift from Peter Bienstock to underwrite our first shot at running a prominent speaker’s series on campus, starting in 2008-09. I hope to have more announcements of significant gifts to share with you after year end, because December is a peak time for charitable giving.

Vice President Search: We are moving ahead as fast as we can on the search for a Vice President for Finance and Administration. Our consultant, Witt Kiefer, was on campus to meet with me, the Vice Presidents, the Search Committee and the managers within the Division of Finance and Administration. Now that they understand what we are looking for, they will reach out to their contacts to find good candidates. The official advertisement will appear in the December 14 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education, but most candidates will likely come from the search firm’s network of contacts.

Student Success: Finally, I have some nice tidbits of good student news to share with you.

  • Thomas Schramm '09 won second place for having the best student presentation on paleontology at the American Geological Society meeting in Denver, Colorado this month. He was competing with 100 other students, including doctoral students. Schramm’s research led to the discovery of the oldest occurrence of several key fossils in eastern North America. He collaborated with Alex Bartholomew of the Geology Department.

    As I noted earlier, these types of collaborations continue to increase on campus. Maureen Morrow, our Director of Student Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities, is optimistic that the number of applications for student sponsored research will be up again this year.

  • Our women’s volleyball team did exceptionally well this fall, finishing 8-2 and taking second in the SUNYAC east division, beating Geneseo in the first round before falling to Fredonia. (I like to be able to tell you about our victories over Geneseo!) And volleyball captain Katie Becofsky has been named an Academic All-American.
    Good luck with the final days of the semester (especially grading!), and I hope to see you all at the Holiday Reception at the President’s House this Saturday.