President’s Report to Academic and Professional Faculty

President Donald P. Christian’s March 2017 report to the Academic and Professional Faculty:

Table of Contents

  • Adjunct Faculty – Contrary to what you may be hearing, we are not eliminating all adjunct positions.  See below for full information.
  • Women’s Basketball – Congratulations to the Women’s Basketball team on a great season that included the SUNYAC title, wins in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament, and reaching the “Sweet 16” for the first time in the team’s history.
  • Budget Update – Little new insight is available on what State budget will hold for SUNY; target deadline is April 1.  Cabinet has been reviewing suggestions submitted for revenue generation or expense reduction, and we have begun compiling possible savings and revenue generation in all areas. We plan to announce a first stage of expenditure reduction shortly after May 1.
  • Accepted Students Open Houses April 1 and 8 – Faculty and staff are again encouraged to engage with prospective students and their families, as part of our effort to increase yield of accepted students to reach (or exceed) our enrollment targets.
  • Chancellor’s Awards for Student Excellence – Congratulations to the five recipients, who will be honored at a SUNY-wide ceremony on April 5 (names and details below).

Adjunct Faculty. Contrary to a petition circulating on social media, there is no plan to eliminate all adjunct positions, nor has such a plan ever been discussed. However, in the next few days, “term adjuncts” who have taught at SUNY New Paltz for four or more consecutive semesters and who do not have a class or other academic role assigned to them at present will receive notice of non-renewal. The letter, which complies with a notice requirement articulated in the UUP Agreement and is standard at many SUNY campuses, provides notification that we do not have an assignment for them at present. This practice was used at New Paltz in the past, allowing the college the opportunity to more carefully plan for staffing needs while complying with the Agreement and SUNY Board of Trustees policies. Approximately half of our adjuncts will receive this notification.
Students begin registration for summer and fall classes in April. Following course registration, we will evaluate the need for adjunct faculty in each program. Many adjuncts will be asked to teach in the fall; some will not. This adjustment of adjunct instruction to need is a prudent planning practice and one that is mirrored at institutions across the country.
All adjuncts who receive this letter will simultaneously receive information regarding maintenance of their health insurance. Adjuncts who are currently enrolled in health insurance will continue to receive that benefit, in the same way they would otherwise, through the summer.
We will always need adjuncts in key areas and value the role they play in supporting our mission. But the substantial increase in expenditures since 2011 for both full-time faculty positions and adjunct positions with no increase (actually a slight decrease) in credit generation is clearly not sustainable in our current economy that includes declines in enrollment, and little or no increase in tuition rates and taxpayer support. The impact of an uncertain political climate on enrollment of international students is part of that picture. In this environment, it is possible that the strategic direction we have been pursuing of investing in and increasing reliance on full-time, especially tenure-track, faculty is also not sustainable.

Women’s Basketball. Congratulations to members of the Women’s Basketball team and head coach Jamie Seward on a tremendous season.  The team won 11 of the final 12 games of the regular season and captured the SUNYAC title with a final win over previous undefeated Geneseo.  The team won the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament, upsetting Bowdoin (62-61) and defeating Ithaca (83-80) to advance to the “Sweet 16” for the first time in the team’s history. The team lost to U Mass Dartmouth 67-57 on March 10.  A group of student fans traveled to Amherst MA to cheer for the team in that game.

Budget Update. We have little new specific insight into whether the State budget will include increases in either tuition or state taxpayer support. The deadline for announcing the new State budget is April 1, and the Governor has taken pride during his tenure in achieving on-time (or near on-time) budgets. However, in recognition of the uncertainties that changes in federal funding may have for states, there is now discussion of a possible “extender budget” that would continue this year’s state budget funding levels into next year.  Even with an on-time State budget, it is still some time before SUNY campus budgets are finalized.

Cabinet has been reviewing suggestions submitted for revenue generation or expense reduction, and we are gathering more detail on those that show promise of contributing to budget resolution; we are compiling areas of possible savings or revenue generation in all administrative and other areas. The Provost and Deans have been developing approaches to achieve economies in course offerings next year and the cost savings they would entail.

Our plan is to announce the first stage of expenditure reductions shortly after May 1. We will not have a clear picture of our enrollment outcome (thus tuition revenue) until after that date, nor of the final allocation of state funds to SUNY campuses.  Thus, we anticipate needing to finalize budget decisions during summer, and announce the final stage of the budget plan after students and faculty return to campus in the fall.

Accepted Students Open Houses April 1 and 8.  I again encourage faculty and staff to meet and engage with prospective students and their families at these events.  This is a critical part of our effort to increase the yield of accepted students, which is fundamental to reaching or exceeding our enrollment and tuition revenue goals for next year. Clearly, more tuition revenue means less need to reduce expenditures to bring our budget into alignment.

I thank each of you in advance for your contributions to this important effort.

Chancellor’s Awards for Student Excellence. Five New Paltz students, each a member of the class of 2017, have been selected for this SUNY-wide recognition, based on distinctive academic, athletic, leadership, service, and other achievements and contributions. The awards will be conferred in a ceremony in Albany on April 5. Interim Vice President for Student Affairs W. Wayne Brumfield, several faculty and staff, and I will attend. The names of the award recipients, their major, and selected accomplishments are:

  • Nicole Gottschalk (Communication Disorders), MVP of lacrosse team and recognized student-athlete, extensive work with children and adults with special needs, Emerging Leaders program and leader in Athletic Leadership Academy.
  • Tina Lloyd (Marketing), extensive internship experience, competed in national marketing competition, Senior Resident Assistant, president of her residence hall council, Student Ambassador in Admissions Office.
  • Kyle Marra (History), Honors Program, teaching assistant in Theatre Arts, Senior Orientation Leader, Resident Assistant, Admissions Welcome Center greeter, extensive leadership roles.
  • Gina Rondon (Communication Disorders), multiple internships, Dean’s list every semester here, extensive volunteerism and service record.
  • Jessica Weeks (Biology), Honors Program, mathematics and biology tutor for K-12 and college students, extensive service programs, Resident Assistant.

Please take the opportunity to congratulate these students when you see them on campus in the coming weeks.

I look forward to seeing you at Friday’s faculty meeting, where I will respond to questions and comments about this report or other matters.

Donald P. Christian