President’s Report to the Academic and Professional Faculty

President’s Report to the Academic and Professional Faculty
January 19, 2018

Welcome to the start of what I hope will be a rewarding and productive spring semester for each of you. Below, I share news and updates since my December report. Before that, I want to say that I am proud of how this community has continued to navigate troubled, rapidly moving waters that I referenced in my State of the College address. We’ve continued our progress – as a community (another theme of that address) – despite the many challenges that we and the rest of higher education face. I appreciate that we have sustained our commitment to the day-to-day work of educating students and pursuing and sharing new knowledge, and to the higher societal purpose of that work. I know that academic and professional faculty have done so despite working without a new contract and all the attendant uncertainties and strains. We should take heart in the ample and compelling evidence that many people continue to think that higher education is necessary and worthwhile, despite some contrary voices and warning signs in public opinion surveys that we cannot ignore.

Seizing opportunities to forcefully counter perceptions that Americans doubt the value of college generally should be part of our roles as educators, as we interact with friends, neighbors, students and others. Such messages may dampen the impact of those who would cut funding or other support for higher education. Focusing on the value we provide to students, employers, alumni, and the region is the most powerful advocacy message we can advance. I certainly frame my interactions with legislators, business and civic leaders, and donors in those veins. It is particularly important that we help our students understand the meaning that a degree and an education will have for their lives and futures. It’s worth reminding them and others that most people who say “not everybody should go to college” are still sending their children to college, and it’s not typically vocational school. And, those who advance such arguments often think that it’s “other” people who shouldn’t go to college.

Several reports I share below provide substance for you to use in such discussions.

Table of Contents:

Hasbrouck Building Names – I encourage faculty and staff to participate in community forums about the Hasbrouck Complex building names (Thursday, January 25, 6:00 -7:30 p.m. [LC 102] and Friday, January 26, 12:30-2:00 p.m. [SUB MPR]) hosted by the Diversity & Inclusion Council.
Student Achievement Measure (SAM) – An alternative measure that reflects student mobility; most recent data show that at least 85% of students who began their studies at New Paltz earned a bachelor’s degree.
Economic Impact Analysis – The largest employer in Ulster County, SUNY New Paltz contributes more than $359 million to the Hudson Valley economy and nearly $416 million to the New York economy. Employee volunteerism is far beyond national averages.
Rankings – SUNY New Paltz is in the top 3% of 1,363 colleges and universities in a ranking that measures how well we influence the socioeconomic mobility of our graduates, and #76 in “best value” among public institutions nationwide by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.
Federal Tax Law – Impacts of federal “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” on higher education are expected to be significant, not fully understood at present. I am concerned about impact on employee financial well-being.
Ban the Box – Prior felony convictions are no longer considered in admission decisions, beginning this semester. As required, new policies and practices guide student access to campus housing, participation in clinical or field experiences, internships, or study abroad programs, and conditions on such access.
Spring Semester Speakers – Announcing a repeat presentation (“Know When It’s Time to Leave the Plantation”) by 1967 alumna Janus Adams; the inaugural presentation in the Dr. Gary King ’80 Lecture Program focused on quantitative social sciences; a speaker series titled “Whose Free Speech?”; and a Distinguished Speaker Series presentation on climate change.

Hasbrouck Building Names.  The Diversity & Inclusion Council is hosting two community forums as part of the process to evaluate names of buildings in the Hasbrouck Complex. Council members will share information about the history of the building names and of the Huguenot families, and lead a dialogue about these topics. The goals are to increase understanding of issues surrounding these building names and to gather community input and perspective. This process is being undertaken in consultation with Historic Huguenot Street. HHS has invited descendants of Huguenot families, HHS Board Members, employees and supporters to participate in these forums as well. We are grateful to HHS for their support of and participation in this process. To learn more about HHS and their work, please visit

I hope that you will consider joining one or both of these forums, which will be held on Thursday, January 25, 6:00 -7:30 p.m. (LC 102) and Friday, January 26, 12:30-2:00 p.m. (SUB MPR).  I encourage you to participate, and to read in advance the FAQ about the Council’s work and a brief history about the Huguenot families available on the College’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion webpage.

Student Achievement Measure (SAM). An alternative to the standard graduation rates that we often share is the Student Achievement Measure (SAM). SAM tracks student movement across postsecondary institutions to provide a more complete picture of undergraduate student progress and completion within the higher education system, compared with the standard “first-time, full-time” rate. For example, on top of our latest 6-year graduation rate of 72% (as I reported last month), an additional 13% of students graduated from another institution after starting at New Paltz. A further 6% were still enrolled either here or at another institution. Only 9% of students in that cohort were of unknown status, probably not continuing their studies. Thus, the SAM measure shows that minimally 85% of students in that cohort earned a bachelor’s degree, with potentially more than 90% doing so. For full-time transfer students, 79% graduated from New Paltz within 6 years, and another 6% graduated from another institution – an 85% overall graduation rate.

This is an important completion measure, because graduation rates are used by policy makers and the public for judging not only individual institutions but also the entire enterprise of higher education. It’s good for us to understand the differences between the standard federal rate and measures like SAM, as we speak with others and advocate with policy makers for the value of what we do.

Economic Impact Analysis. We measure our regional and statewide economic impact every three years, and share these results widely. In the course of fulfilling our primary mission – education — we have a major positive economic impact. SUNY New Paltz is the largest employer in Ulster County, with a workforce of 1,707 full- and part-time employees (excluding student workers).

Our economic impact underscores the College’s centrality to the well-being of the Hudson Valley, and our key role in creating and retaining jobs today while educating the workforce and citizenry of tomorrow. This is another data point you can share with neighbors, friends and family when talking about our value to society.

Indeed, our impact has increased. The College contributes $359.2 million in overall economic activity and 3,439 jobs annually in the Hudson Valley (Ulster, Dutchess, Orange, Sullivan, Rockland, Putnam, and Westchester Counties) and $415.9 million and 4,100 jobs to the New York State economy. These are increases of $23 million in economic activity and 178 jobs in the Hudson Valley since 2011-12.

Our latest analysis is based on data from the 2014-15 fiscal year and uses a standard methodology. These analyses measure the economic impact of direct expenditures by the College and our students and visitors, and the indirect economic impacts as those dollars “flow through” the economy. Here are some additional highlights:

  • Our salaries totaled $75.9 million, 91% to Hudson Valley residents and 99% paid in New York.
  • SUNY New Paltz also stimulates the New York State economy through non-employee spending – the money paid to vendors and contractors to support campus construction, maintain campus facilities, and purchase new technologies to provide the best possible learning environment to students. The College’s expenditures totaled $56.1 million, which generated 135 jobs in the Hudson Valley and 341 in New York State.
  • Our 7,692 students spent $115.4 million (exclusive of tuition), which generated 1,399 jobs in the Hudson Valley and 1,619 in New York State; visitors (estimated at almost 26,000) spent an estimated $4.3 million on lodging, meals, recreation, transportation, and shopping, generating an additional 68 jobs.
  • We have about 52,000 alumni of working age, 42% residing in the Hudson Valley and 71% in New York State. They generated nearly $1.1 billion in value-added earnings, beyond what they would earn with a high school degree; $450 million of that was earned in the Hudson Valley, about $765 million in New York State.
  • SUNY New Paltz employees volunteered about 158,000 hours in the region, generated more than $4.3 million in economic impact. A 2017 Benjamin Center survey found that 89 percent of our employees had volunteered their time during the previous 12 months – significantly higher than the national average of 25 percent.
  • The College supports local emergency services and transportation providers by donating more than 8,700 gallons of fuel to the New Paltz Fire Department, the New Paltz Rescue Squad and the Town of New Paltz/Ulster County Area Transit LOOP Bus.

Rankings. Kiplinger’s: SUNY New Paltz received high marks in the 2018 edition of the Kiplinger’s Personal Finance “Best College Values” list, ranking #76 among public colleges nationwide, and #240 overall among all public and private colleges and universities. The Kiplinger’s list is drawn from an assessment of nearly 1,200 public and private colleges and universities, and recognizes schools that perform well on objective measures of academic quality (such as admission and retention rates, student-faculty ratios and four-year graduation rates), as well as measures of affordability (such as cost of attendance and average debt at graduation). SUNY New Paltz has been included in the Kiplinger’s rankings for several years running.

Social Mobility Index. This year, we ranked in the top 3% of institutions nationwide in this data-driven ranking system (by CollegeNET) that measures how well schools improve socioeconomic mobility by providing affordable, high-quality education. We ranked #45 among 1,363 institutions included in the ranking, joining four other SUNY campuses in the top 50 ranked institutions and seven others in the top 100. Last year, we ranked #72 of 918 schools included in the ranking, up from #88 among more than 900 public and private institutions the year before.

This recognition is a strong testimony to our impact and effectiveness as a public university committed to improving the lives and futures of our students and graduates.

Federal Tax Law. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act approved by Congress and signed by President Trump last month carries significant implications for higher education. Some of the impacts will be felt gradually over time and are not fully known. The new law is projected to add more than $1 trillion to the federal deficit over the next decade, posing a potential threat to federal funding for higher education. The bill makes changes to state and local tax deductions that are likely to impact state budgets and state investment in higher education, especially in high-tax states like New York. I also am aware of and concerned about impacts of these changes on the financial well-being of College employees. The bill also changes the standard deduction in ways that are expected to reduce the use of the charitable deduction, with projected loss of charitable and philanthropic gifts that will affect all nonprofit institutions including colleges and universities and our foundations. The SUNY New Paltz Foundation is planning to reinforce in its messaging the importance of our mission, as we are reminded that most donors give primarily to support students and programs. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, in his recent State of the State address, outlined New York’s intention to pursue legal action against the constitutionality of this bill as well as other paths to lessen its impact on state finances. It is too early to know how and when those efforts will happen.

The President of ACE, the American Council on Education, wrote recently that even though a number of harmful proposals were not included in the final legislation, “this bill will make higher education more expensive and less accessible at a time when postsecondary degrees have never been more important to individuals and the nation.”

As they become known, we will make every effort to keep the campus community informed of the implications of these and other federal actions and impacts on the New York State and SUNY budget for the coming years. We are also tracking and continuing to advocate through our national organizations for positive outcomes on DACA and other immigration-related legislation and on the Higher Education Re-Authorization Act, which was last renewed in 2008.

Ban the Box. Last year’s action by the SUNY Board of Trustees to bar consideration of prior felony convictions in admission decisions becomes effective with students matriculating this semester. New Paltz faculty and student governance leaders were instrumental in advocacy for this new policy. Under this policy, admitted students are required to disclose whether they have a felony conviction, and campuses are required to develop policies and practices to consider whether individuals with felony convictions may be permitted access to campus housing, clinical or field experiences, internships or study abroad programs, and any conditions on such access. Such judgments require careful evaluation of the relevance of an individual’s previous felony convictions to the activities/services requested, to be consistent with the legal standards articulated in the New York State Corrections Law. Students may not be prohibited from pursuing a particular course of study; however, campuses are obligated to advise students that a prior felony conviction may create significant challenges in completing the requirements of some academic programs or achieving licensure in certain professions.

Based on guidelines and parameters provided by SUNY, our policies and procedures are in place. The College has formed a committee to review and evaluate felony conviction records of admitted students, and make recommendations to the Vice President for Student Affairs. It is not known at this time whether any newly admitted students qualify. These are new policies and practices that no doubt will evolve as we determine the best way to provide educational opportunity for these students.

Spring Semester Speakers. We have a full agenda of speakers coming to campus this spring, including:

  • Janus Adams, a 1967 alumna, Emmy Award-winning journalist, and author, will return to campus on February 13 (7 p.m., College Terrace) to repeat her spring 2017 Distinguished Speaker Series Presentation titled “Know When It’s Time To Leave the Plantation.” This presentation is sponsored by the Diversity and Inclusion Council, the SUNY New Paltz Foundation, and the President’s Office.
  • Ariel White, Assistant Professor of Political Science at MIT, will be the inaugural speaker in the Dr. Gary King ’80 Lecture Program on March 15 (further information forthcoming), hosted by the Benjamin Center. Dr. White studies voting and voting rights, race, the criminal justice system, and bureaucratic behavior, using large data sets. This program was created through the generosity of Political Science alumnus Dr. Gary King, Weatherhead University Professor and Director of the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University. It is fitting that Dr. White was a doctoral student of Dr. King’s at Harvard, and with another co-author recently published a paper in the journal Science on the impact of non-mainstream media.
  • I have agreed to support a proposal by the Women of Color Network for Faculty and Staff and allies to bring three scholars to campus this spring to speak about free speech issues in a series titled “Whose Free Speech?” These speakers and their topics are (locations TBA):
    • Dr. Dana L. Cloud, Professor of Communication and Rhetorical Studies at Syracuse University: “Putting Struggles over ‘Free Speech’ and ‘Academic Freedom’ in Historical and Material Context,” February 22, 5:30 p.m.
    • Dr. Farhana Sultana, Associate Professor of Geography, Syracuse University: “Decolonizing Academia: On Responsibility, Accountability, and Ethics in Academic Publishing,” March 30, 4 p.m.
    • Dr. Kade Crockford, Director, Technology for Liberty Program, ACLU Massachusetts: “Surveillance, Repression, and White Supremacy in the Age of Artificial Intelligence,” April 18, 5:30 p.m.
  • Our 2018 Spring Distinguished Speaker Series will feature Dr. Henry Pollack, Professor Emeritus of Geophysics at University of Michigan. He will speak on “Confronting Climate Change: What Are the Challenges?” on April 5, at 7:30 p.m. Pollack was a contributing author to the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Report. He and IPCC colleagues shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice-President Al Gore. He created and led an international research consortium that has reconstructed the past 500 years of Earth’s climate history, primarily through measurement of subsurface temperatures around the world. Dr. Pollack has worked on seven continents, published widely, and earned a reputation for explaining complex scientific ideas simply and clearly to general audiences. He currently is a science advisor to Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project.

Again, best wishes for a successful spring semester. I will respond to your questions and comments about this and my February report at the inaugural meeting of the Faculty Senate on February 7.


Donald P. Christian