President’s Report to Academic and Professional Faculty

As we enter the home stretch of a busy, very eventful academic year, I share several recent developments and remind you of upcoming events and activities.  I will issue my final report of the year before the May 11 faculty meeting.

Table of Contents

Budget Forum – May 3, 2 p.m., LC 100; we will share information about the current budget situation and decisions to date.

Chancellor’s Awards – Congratulations to recipients of awards for Excellence in Teaching, Scholarship and Creative Activities and Adjunct Teaching (names and details below).

Fossil Fuel Divestment – The SUNY New Paltz Foundation Board Finance and Investment Committee continues its work on divestment approaches, with a goal of having a plan in place by the end of 2017.

Diversity and Inclusion – Our draft plan, submitted for SUNY Administration review in November, was approved and is posted on the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion website.

Successful Conferences – The College hosted two very successful conferences – the 14th annual IDMH conference, and Women in Politics, planned and organized by several units and external sponsors (detail below).

Minds at Work Events – Friday, May 5: Celebration of Writing Day, 3:00-5:00 p.m. (Sojourner Truth Library Lobby); Student Research Symposium, 4:30-7:00 p.m. (Sojourner Truth Library)

Commencement – See below for information about dates, commencement speakers, Faculty Grand Marshals, and special ceremonies.

Budget Forum. Provost Arnold, Vice President Halstead, and I encourage your attendance at a budget forum on Wednesday, May 3, from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. in LC 100.  We will announce an initial round of revenue-generating and expenditure-cutting decisions to be implemented for the coming academic year to reduce our budget deficit. We will need to continually reassess our budget situation in the coming months and into the 2017-18 academic year and beyond.

We will also update the campus on what we know about the state and SUNY budget and implications for our campus.

Chancellor’s Awards. I am pleased to announce the following Chancellor’s Award recipients, and ask that you join me in congratulating these colleagues on this System-wide recognition of their outstanding contributions. We will formally present these awards at the first faculty meeting in the fall:

  • Lauren Bone Noble, Adjunct Faculty, Department of Theatre Arts, Excellence in Adjunct Teaching
  • Glenn Geher, Professor of Psychology and Chair, Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities
  • Susan Lewis, Associate Professor of History, Excellence in Teaching
  • Cyrus Mulready, Associate Professor of English, Excellence in Teaching

We await word from SUNY about our nominee for the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Classified Service.

Fossil Fuel Divestment.  The SUNY New Paltz Foundation Board Finance and Investment Committee is continuing its work on developing an approach to divest from fossil fuel investments in the endowment.  The Committee has been learning about key principles of divestment, drawing on expert guidance and information gathering about the experience of other colleges and universities, and discussing alternatives with the investment managers. They have also been reading and discussing the multiple views on fiduciary responsibility of non-profit boards. The Committee will share its plans for divestment from fossil fuels no later than the end of December 2017. I have tried to be clear in all of my communication, before the faculty resolution last semester and since, that I strongly support the goal of divestment but that I regarded the May 2017 target date for divesting from direct investments as unrealistic. I hope that the community will continue to be patient as we work toward this important goal.

Diversity and Inclusion. Our draft plan, submitted for SUNY Administration review in November, was approved, with the assessment that our plan “reflects the campus commitment to diversity and inclusion through its mindful approach to mending potential divisions and improving climate.”  The plan is now posted on the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion website.  I am grateful to task force co-chairs Rita Celariste (EOP) and Reynolds Scott-Childress (Department of History) and to Tanhena Pacheco Dunn for their leadership and hard work in developing this plan. I see the plan as providing an outstanding framework for the work ahead.

Major sections include:

  • some of my reflections on the plan and the work ahead;
  • membership of the task force that developed the plan;
  • mission and vision;
  • inventory and overview;
  • diversity and inclusion goals;
  • planning strategies and implementation tactics;
  • assessment and evaluation.

The Diversity and Inclusion Council began meeting this semester to prioritize actions and work for next year. Additional faculty members recommended through Faculty Governance will be appointed to the Council before the end of the semester.

Successful Conferences. The Institute for Disaster Mental Health hosted its very successful and well-attended 14th annual conference titled “Psychological Response to Pandemic Disasters, Infectious Diseases, and Bioterrorism” on April 7.  The conference brought together experts in critical medical care, traumatic and psychosocial stress, disease control and prevention and disaster preparedness, along with students, faculty, professional providers, and community members.

The “Women in Politics: Past, Present and Future” conference April 21-22 was very well-attended and well-received. This conference has been in development for several years, to commemorate and coincide with the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in New York State. The conference was planned and organized by the Benjamin Center and the departments/programs of History, Political Science, Sociology, and Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies along with several external partners. The program included diverse sessions – a thoughtful stage-setting by Associate Professor of History Susan Lewis, a presentation by Associate Professor of Sociology and Benjamin Center Director of Research and Evaluation Eve Waltermaurer on results of a survey on “Views on Women,” an address by U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a panel of current and former women elected officials moderated by commentator Liz Benjamin, a presentation by New York Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul, concurrent scholarly panels that included New Paltz faculty, and a teachers’ workshop.

I know the hard work and careful planning that underlie successful conferences like these, and am grateful for the efforts of all involved.  Such events provide great learning opportunities for our students, extend our faculty expertise beyond the campus, and elevate the profile of SUNY New Paltz in the region and beyond.

Minds at Work Events. Two events on Friday, May 5, showcase and celebrate our students and some of their best academic work, consistent with our goals to give our students undergraduate research opportunities.  Celebration of Writing Day will be held 3:00-5:00 p.m. in the Sojourner Truth Library Lobby, and the Student Research Symposium 4:30-7:00 p.m. in the library.

Commencement. I hope that we will have a substantial representation of faculty at this spring’s commencement events, the culminating ritual that means so much to our students and their families.  The Graduate ceremony will be on Friday, May 19, 6 p.m. in the Athletic and Wellness Center; Dr. Anne Balant, Associate Professor of Communication Disorders and Presiding Officer of the Faculty, will be Faculty Grand Marshal and macebearer.

Undergraduate ceremonies for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences will be held on Saturday, May 20, at 10 a.m. Alumna Jessica Faieta ’85 will be the commencement speaker.  She is UN Assistant Secretary-General for Latin America and the Caribbean, and regional director for the UN Development Programme.  Dr. Susan Lewis, Associate Professor of History, will be Faculty Grand Marshal and macebearer.

Undergraduate ceremonies for the Schools of Business, Education, Fine and Performing Arts and Science and Engineering will be on Sunday, May 21, at 10 a.m. SUNY New Paltz Foundation Board Chair Michael Keegan will address the graduates.  He is Senior Vice President with M&T Bank and area executive for Upstate New York and New England, and an ardent advocate for the value of public higher education.  Dr. Kevin Caskey, Professor, School of Business, will be Faculty Grand Marshal and macebearer.

First World Graduation will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 20, (Studley Theatre) and the Honors Program ceremony will be on Sunday, May 21, at 1:30 p.m. in Studley Theatre.

I look forward to seeing you at Friday’s faculty meeting, where I will respond to your questions and comments. Best wishes for the remaining weeks of this academic year and I hope you take time to partake of the smorgasbord of culminating senior thesis presentations and projects, student art shows, plays, student awards ceremonies and honor society inductions, and other end-of-year celebrations across the campus – especially commencement. For me, this showcase of student, faculty and staff collaboration and accomplishment is one of a president’s proudest moments. I’m looking forward to stopping in on many of these celebratory events and sharing them with you.


Donald P. Christian