President’s Report to Academic and Professional Faculty

Read President Donald P. Christian’s January 2016 Report to Academic and Professional Faculty.

Welcome to the start of spring semester. I wish you each a productive, engaging, and rewarding term. I am pleased to share news and updates about the many activities and developments since my December report.


  • Provost Search – Candidate interviews are scheduled, and faculty and staff involvement in search strongly encouraged.
  • Lieutenant Governor Visit to Campus – She announced a statewide internet access initiative, learned about SUNY New Paltz programs.
  • Kiplinger’s Best Values rankings – New Paltz again was included in national rankings of public colleges and all (public + private) institutions
  • Black Studies – A new website has been created to inform community of departmental progress; Dr. Cruz Bueno has joined us as visiting assistant professor; tenure-track search and curriculum review are well underway; Anthony Winn ’92 was hired as special assistant to mentor students, arrange scholarly visits, and assist Department Chair; Mark Rumnit ’93 was appointed interim director of Scholars Mentorship Program.
  • Diversity Initiatives – We have created a new “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” website; possible approaches to hiring or appointing a Chief Diversity Officer and to developing a diversity plan are outlined. We will hold a town hall meeting about inclusion on February 10.
  • Performance Improvement Plan – Our revised plan has been approved by SUNY, is available for your review, and will be used by Strategic Planning Council to inform implementation and assessment of campus strategic planning work.
  • Performance Funding Request – New Paltz awaits decision on funding request to expand EOP and renovate space.
  • Library Renovation – The renovated main floor of Sojourner Truth Library is open, and receiving positive reviews.
  • Budget News – I provide a brief synopsis of relevant elements of Governor Cuomo’s Executive Budget, the starting point of developing next year’s State and SUNY budgets.
  • Professional Development OpportunityA day-long training session on working with veteran and military students will be held on February 17.

Provost Search. The search committee has selected five finalist candidates for Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, screened from about 80 applicants. They will visit campus on February 1, 3, 9, 11, and 15; a campus update from the search committee chairs sent on January 22 provides further detail. Each candidate’s name and CV will be shared shortly before the campus visit. I strongly encourage you to meet and hear each candidate at their open forums, learn about what that individual would bring to the position, and provide feedback to the search committee. It is good to remember that candidates are also “interviewing” the campus, and fulsome participation and interest among faculty and staff is essential to recruiting a strong provost.

Lieutenant Governor on Campus. New York State Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul visited SUNY New Paltz on January 8 to announce a new initiative to expand high-speed broadband internet access. I had the opportunity to speak with her at some length about some of our “points of pride” and some of our challenges (including enrollment pressures in some fields, space and facilities constraints). During her visit, the Lieutenant Governor spoke with faculty and staff in the Hudson Valley Advanced Manufacturing Center (HVAMC) about our 3D printing initiative, and in The Benjamin Center, about some of their research and outreach. In her comments at the media event, she spoke about “this great institution” and how “it gives young people great educational opportunities.” SUNY New Paltz received a great call-out from the Lieutenant Governor in her welcoming comments at the Chancellor’s State of the University address on January 11!

Kiplinger’s Best Values Listings. SUNY New Paltz was again named to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance ranking of “100 Best Values in Public Colleges,” based on measures of outstanding academics and affordability. New Paltz also was included in the top 200 institutions in Kiplinger’s “Best College Values of 2016,” a ranking that includes 300 public and private universities and private liberal arts colleges drawn from a starting group of 1,200 institutions. When I speak of these and other rankings, I try to be clear that while I am proud of such recognition, I am more rewarded by our success in measures that determine the rankings: first-year retention rate, graduation rate, student-faculty ratio, low tuition, financial aid, and low average debt at graduation. Achievements such as these reflect the dedicated, collective work of our entire community, and I commend you for your exceptional contributions to our continuing success.

Black Studies. The College has developed a website, “Black Studies: Building on a Proud Tradition,” (the site is accessible from the College home page and the Black Studies Department page dedicated to providing news and updates about steps being taken to ensure the continued strength and ongoing development of the Black Studies Department. The website highlights the Department’s history and contributions at New Paltz; draws together in a single site various news and communications from the fall semester; provides a timeline for recent past and future developments; and showcases relevant student organizations and programs. Among the news:

  • The Department has hired Dr. Cruz Bueno as Visiting Assistant Professor, beginning this semester. Bueno will teach Black Studies courses, advise and mentor students, assist with the department’s curriculum review, and provide programming to student residents of Ridgeview Hall. She holds a Ph.D. in economics from University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and is on a leave of absence from her faculty position at Siena College. Please join me in welcoming Dr. Bueno to the campus.
  • A national tenure-track faculty search is underway in Black Studies. Dr. Sunita Bose of Sociology is co-chairing the search committee along with Black Studies Department Chair Dr. Major Coleman. Sociology and Psychology faculty join two students as members of the search committee, and Dr. Glenn Geher of Psychology is supporting the process as well. Robust application numbers indicate strong interest in the position.
  • A task force of faculty and administrators have worked along with Dr. Coleman to review and evaluate the curriculum in light of feedback from last year’s external reviewers (part of the regular five-year program review), to guide the definition of desired expertise for tenure-line faculty hires and to set the stage for further evaluation and refinement of the curriculum.
  • Alumni Council Member Anthony Winn ’92 (Business Management) has been hired to a one-year, half-time position in the Department. In addition to teaching a course as an adjunct faculty member this spring, he will assist and support the Chair in departmental operations; mentor students; and coordinate visits by academic speakers or workshop leaders during the spring and fall 2016 semesters; these scholars will speak about topics related broadly to the Black Studies curriculum.
  • Alumnus Mark Rumnit (Academic Advising) ’93 has been appointed interim director of the Scholars Mentorship Program (SMP), ensuring service to students while the College conducts a search for a long-term replacement for Chanel Ward, who has accepted a position at another institution. Mark previously served as an academic advisor in EOP, and has worked as an instructor in the SMP Program.

Diversity Initiatives. As you learned last week, we have created a webpage titled “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion,” to communicate our ongoing commitment to building a diverse, equitable and inclusive learning community, and to highlight programs and resources that support the success of all students and employees. We hope that this information will also support our efforts to attract faculty, staff, administrators, and students of diverse backgrounds and experiences. This site is a work in progress, and feedback about additional resources and programs is welcome (forward suggestions to Lindsay Lennon at or 257-2604). Thank you to the Office of Communication and Marketing for their work in developing this valuable resource.

Chief Diversity Officer. Our plan for hiring or appointing a Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) is due to SUNY System Administration in March. The CDO will be a senior member of the campus administration, reporting to the president. The CDO will work collaboratively with offices across campus to elevate inclusiveness and implement best practices related to diversity, equity, and inclusion in such areas as recruitment and retention of students and senior administrators, faculty and staff; cultural competency programming; development of inclusive pedagogy; and others. Effectiveness in this role will require working with many offices including academic affairs, student affairs, human resources, enrollment management, admissions, and departments and schools. This cannot be a single-person initiative, and the history of such positions at other institutions suggests that some have failed because of wholly unrealistic expectations placed on a single position, inadequate staffing and support for key initiatives, and absence of a cohesive, underlying plan. We must continue our efforts to create a sense of collective, shared responsibility and action for this work. We will hire additional staff who report to the CDO to advance this work.

The CDO must be hired by August 15, 2017. Race and other elements of diversity are topics of intense national conversation; students on our campus are aware, active, and discussing these issues; and we have much work to do under the leadership of a CDO. In that context, August 2017 feels like a very distant future. With that in mind, I am weighing the possible benefits of a more-immediate approach to filling this position than a full-blown national search, and am gathering input from many individuals across campus to inform this decision. I am aware that there is an explosion of searches for chief diversity officers across the country, including across SUNY. This makes the success of a national search increasingly difficult, on top of the uncertainty of a national search for any leadership position. In addition, as discussed below, we will be developing our campus diversity plan this spring and summer, to be submitted to SUNY by September 1, 2016. An immediate appointment would allow the CDO to play a leadership role in developing this plan, whereas an externally hired CDO would come in and work with a plan they had no hand in developing. I continue to deliberate and consult about the relative pros and cons of an internal appointment versus an external search, and will share my progress on this decision soon.

Campus Diversity and Inclusion Plan. The Board of Trustees policy charges campus presidents with setting the process for developing the campus plan. I have been consulting with others, including Dr. Stephen Jones (nationally recognized consultant on diversity and inclusion with whom we have been working on cultural competency education) about establishing such a process, as well as drawing on other resources. Elements to be included in such plans include key principles for development and implementation of goals; student recruitment, retention, and completion strategies; strategies for recruiting and retaining administrators, faculty, and staff to increase diversity and inclusion; best-practice mentoring plans and strategies to meet the needs of diverse groups of faculty and staff; cultural competency programming and education, and an evaluation component aligned with campus planning and resource allocation processes.

No one individual or targeted group can possess the knowledge, insight, and capability to develop and implement such a plan. Hence I am considering forming an ongoing diversity advisory committee of 15-20 people who will develop recommendations for the structure of the plan and, after the plan is developed and approved by the Chancellor, oversee its implementation. The committee would be co-chaired by the CDO (or, initially, the CDO-designate) and a faculty member, the latter with scholarly expertise and strong experience in an area related to diversity and inclusion. The committee would include faculty (perhaps a representative of each School, selected through governance processes; others, including the Chair, selected by the President), administrators, professionals, students, a representative of the Alumni Council, and members of key offices whose responsibilities relate directly to implementing the goals of the plan. A goal in populating the committee would be to assemble expertise and capability in the complex intellectual grounding of this work, in strategic thinking, in strong teamwork and demonstrated community commitment, and experience to deal with legal, human resources, and related elements of diversity, inclusion, and equity.

Examples of committee tasks might include: collect, share, and model best practices; be “ears on the ground” to issues that we must address, including what’s happening in our classrooms; with training, help to implement best practices; perhaps serve as trained, outside members of search committees; share in or aid communication needs and responses to campus incidents; help interpret findings of campus climate surveys.

One purpose of the committee is to make the work of diversity and inclusion both “bottom up” and “top down.” This work requires a commitment to long-term goals. Evaluation components of the plan should include full scrutiny of the status and work of the committee after, say, three years. Some institutions have found that initial work led by such a committee blossoms to the stage that diversity and inclusion committees form in separate schools, to supplement and expand the work of a university-wide committee.

I am continuing to develop and refine my thinking about this plan, and would welcome email feedback and comment to inform my deliberation.

Town Hall on Inclusion with President Christian. We have heard and respect that many students and other members of our community want an opportunity to be heard about their experiences at New Paltz. Accordingly, we are hosting a town hall meeting to give a space for experiences of exclusion and inclusion to be spoken, shared, and heard. We (campus leadership, faculty, and staff) have a shared responsibility to hear these experiences, and use them to inform our commitment to strengthening inclusion and driving down instances of exclusion. Our consultant Dr. Stephen Jones will guide this session.

This event will be held in the Student Union Multi-purpose Room on Wednesday, February 10, 2:30-4:00 p.m. More detail will follow soon.

Performance Improvement Plan.  Our Performance Improvement Plan has been approved by SUNY and is available for your review. It is posted on the SUNY System website along with the plans for other SUNY campuses, and is posted on the New Paltz website as well. The plans spell out specific criteria for improving performance relative to SUNY-wide goals, and particular measures and metrics against which the performance of each campus will be measured in each of the next several years. As you review our plan, it will be apparent that it focuses very heavily on work that we already have been doing to advance initiatives of OUR campus strategic plan. I find it reassuring and rewarding that the expectations and areas of focus of the SUNY planning process align so closely with our campus planning.

Dr. Ray Schwarz and members of the Strategic Planning Council will be working to bring these two documents and planning processes together, identifying opportunities to use metrics of the Performance Plan to chart our strategic plan progress.

Performance Funding Request. We still await a decision on our request for funding that would allow us to grow our EOP program by 100 students over four years. That request included significant funding from the $4.2M of new, recurring EOP funds; funding from a different pool of money to renovate space to support EOP and its expansion; and support from yet a different pool of funds ($18M of one-time, new “performance funding” allocated by the state) to initiate several programs including expanded cultural competence training.

Decisions have been announced only for that third pool of funds. New Paltz was not one of the awardees, meaning that our request for research and study abroad stipends, support for leadership development programs, and expanded cultural competence training was not funded. It is not clear when we will receive word on a decision about the remainder of our request, which is the core and top priority of our proposal.

Library Renovation. The Sojourner Truth Library main floor is now open, and it is marvelous! During a walk through the building last week, I was moved by the number of students already making good use of the multiple group study rooms, classroom/meeting rooms, new furniture, improved lighting, new, expansive, and inspiring views of the Shawangunk Ridge, and a new coffee shop, Peet’s. There will be an official ribbon-cutting in April, with legislators who were helpful in securing funding for the project and other invited, official guests. In the meantime, I hope you will join our students and others in growing into this great space and attending the many events planned for the spring to celebrate this milestone.

State of the State and Executive Budget. Governor Cuomo gave his State of the State address on January 13, highlighting key elements of his Executive Budget. Those who are new to New York may not know that this is only the first “volley” in the budget process; the final enacted budget represents the compromises and tradeoffs among the Governor, Senate, and Assembly and the influence of our advocacy with legislators, typically by April 1. But the “starting point” set by what the Governor includes (or not) in his Executive Budget is an important factor in the budget process.

Items in his budget particularly relevant to our future include the following:

  • Renew NY-SUNY 2020 Predictable Tuition and Maintenance of Effort. The SUNY Board of Trustees would have the ability to raise tuition up to $300 annually, with many more conditions placed on that ability than in the previous five-year program.
  • The $55M NY-SUNY 2020 Challenge grant program would be continued, with focus on projects that 1) expand online learning; 2) leverage the START-UP NY program; and 3) provide experiential learning opportunities.
  • The $18M Investment & Performance Fund would be continued, emphasizing access, completion and success for students at State-Operated campuses like New Paltz.
  • Continuation of the $4.4 M of new EOP funding included in last year’s enacted budget; this is not an add-on of new funding.
  • Base funding for SUNY in the Governor’s budget is the same as last year’s enacted budget. SUNY will advocate for additional funding for contractual salary increases and other purposes.

We will be working with SUNY colleagues and meeting with area legislators to advocate for the funding that allows us to sustain and grow the high quality and impact of our educational offerings, including a larger capital allocation for our campus.

Professional Development Opportunity – Working with Veteran and Military Students. Our Institute for Disaster Mental Health in collaboration with the Office of Veteran and Military Services and other partners will host a training session on working with veteran students and their dependents. This session will be held 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on February 17. This is an opportunity for faculty and staff who work with students in many different capacities to learn more about the military backgrounds of our veteran and military students, military culture, training and lifestyle, and the challenges of being a student military veteran, to better serve this growing group of New Paltz students. Registration information is available here.

While this report does not coincide with a regular meeting of the faculty, I am happy to hear from you by email or speak with you about this report as I am out and about on campus. I look forward to seeing you at the next meeting of the Academic and Professional Faculty.


Donald P. Christian