President’s Report to the Academic and Professional Faculty
March 6, 2018
Table of Contents:
Governor’s Events – We hosted a recent public forum of the New York State Council on Women and Girls. Governor Cuomo was here on February 27 for a regional forum on “Harmful Algal Blooms.”
Gun Violence – Steps we take to prepare for responding to an active shooter, useful resources, and March 14 rally and panel.
Legislative Advocacy – We continue to advocate with legislators for increased support for SUNY.
Enrollment Update – Fall enrollment projections remain very strong.
Middle States Reaccreditation – We’ve begun assembling Self-Study Committee for 2020-21 reaccreditation review.
Hasbrouck Complex Building Names – Update on recent forums, reflections on the process.
Governor’s Office Events. The College hosted two recent events for the Governor’s Office, including a public forum of the Council on Women and Girls on February 2; Dr. Cruz Bueno of Black Studies was a panelist in that discussion. On February 27, Governor Cuomo was on campus to launch the first of four regional forums on “Harmful Algal Blooms,” a key issue threatening water quality across New York. Dr. David Richardson of Biology is part of the planning group for this region’s work on that issue. Hosting events like these serves our mission of supporting information exchange and dialogue about important issues; brings civic, business, and government leaders to our campus; showcases the expertise of our faculty; and provides additional learning opportunities for our students. I am grateful to the many offices – including UPD, Facilities, Student Activities and Union Services, Conference Services, and Communication and Marketing — who work quickly to assist the Governor’s staff in planning such successful events, and to the faculty, staff, and students who turned out for these events to represent our campus community so well.
Gun Violence and Our Efforts. The engagement of high school students across the country in demonstrations and political action to reduce or prevent gun violence has been impressive. Last week, we joined a national effort to assure college and university applicants for admission that their engagement in such activities and any resulting disciplinary action will not be viewed unfavorably in our admissions process. Our statement applies to demonstrations or protests of all sorts, not merely related to gun violence, and is consistent with our long tradition of supporting student activism, free speech, and peaceful, lawful protest.
I want to reinforce key elements of the February 27 message from University Police Department (UPD) Chief David Dugatkin about our campus preparedness to prevent or respond to a shooter. He highlighted the constant training of UPD officers to address such situations, and the agreements that we have with other law-enforcement agencies to assist each other as a need might arise. Chef Dugatkin also drew attention to a full page of information and instructions on how to deal with an armed intruder on campus here, including a video, “Crisis on Campus: Shots Fired,” made a few year ago by UPD together with our faculty and students. That video summarizes recommended steps in the event of an armed intruder on our campus.
You may be aware that in October 2017 we conducted a small-scale “lockdown” drill in Wooster Hall that tested the college’s response to a hypothetical active shooter. That drill gave us valuable data that will allow us to prepare and train for a full-scale campus lockdown drill scheduled for September 2018. You can read more about the drill here. Earlier this week, we conducted a regular test of our emergency mass notification system. We are also identifying the highest priorities for ongoing improvements in our readiness to respond to such emergencies.
UPD will be rescheduling an active shooter awareness training class originally scheduled for Wednesday, March 7, 2018 for students, staff and faculty. Any employee may attend this training as part of their workday, so please make every effort to attend. If you are interested in attending, please communicate with your supervisor regarding your participation. Release time should be granted for those who choose to attend. Safety programs are continually offered on campus and are updated here. Programming for departments or groups is available upon request to UPD.
Stay tuned for information about events being planned by several faculty and student groups for March 14 in connection with the National School Walkout Against Gun Violence, including a rally at 4 p.m. (outside Coykendall Science Hall) and a panel discussion at 5 p.m. in Coykendall Auditorium. I am grateful to the faculty and students who have taken the lead in developing these events.
Legislative Advocacy. We continue to meet with area legislators to advocate for increased support for SUNY and for public higher education in New York, in an era of significant fiscal challenges to the state. Our key messages include sharing the many successes and growing reputation and profile of the College; the need for relief from stagnant salaries for hard-working faculty and staff; sustaining or increasing affordability for low-income students; and capital funding to help address our ongoing space shortage, renovate aging facilities, and improve energy efficiency.
Enrollment Update. Projections for fall semester enrollment and tuition revenue remain very positive, according to Enrollment Management Vice President David Eaton. The number of paid deposits for first-year admission is nearly 30% above last year at this date, and transfer numbers are on par with last year. The number of first-year applications from underrepresented minority students is up by 12%, the number of acceptances up by 11%, and the number of paid deposits is 33% ahead of last year. Graduate program applications and acceptances are 41% and 36%, respectively, ahead of last year, with increases in both domestic and international applications and acceptances, across a broad array of graduate programs.
Middle States Reaccreditation. We are beginning work on our next institutional reaccreditation review by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education – our regional accrediting body – in 2020-21. While it may appear to be a long way off, those who have participated in our previous reviews know the extensive discussion, analysis, organization, and writing required to adequately reflect our strengths and accomplishments and secure full reaccreditation. We have begun to assemble the Self-Study Committee by appointing co-chairs for each of the seven accreditation standards by which we are measured, and by identifying those who will provide administrative support for each standard working group. We will continue to appoint other members of the committee as this work proceeds. Recall that our accreditation was reaffirmed in 2016 in a mid-term “periodic review” that followed our previous decennial review in 2010-11.
The development of our “Self Study” will require considerable effort and attention as we work toward a complete draft by November 2020, in preparation for a site visit by the review team during spring 2021.
The standards by which we are measured include I. Mission and Goals; II. Ethics and Integrity; III. Design and Delivery of the Student Learning Experience; IV. Support of the Student Experience; V. Educational Effectiveness Assessment; VI. Planning, Resources, and Institutional Improvement; and VII. Governance, Leadership, and Administration.
Hasbrouck Building Names. The Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Council hosted two community forums in late January about building names and what they mean, involving students, faculty, staff, and community members including members of Historic Huguenot Street (HHS) and of the Huguenot families. The Council recently held three forums for students in the residence halls. All of the forums have included summary presentations of Huguenot history in New Paltz, the history of these building names, and reflections on the meanings that building names should carry. The Council used results of its January survey to inform how the forums were structured, as well as to develop an FAQ to respond to common questions that helped inform forum participants. As part of its ongoing collaboration with HHS, nine members of the D & I Council visited Historic Huguenot Street on March 1 to learn more about the inclusive programming the museum provides about the Native American and slave experience and hear from museum staff how they wrestle with this complex history and are committed to bringing it to their visitors.
I have attended all forums, and have been pleased and impressed with the respectful, thoughtful expression of diverse viewpoints in these discussions. It has been rewarding to hear how much our students value being part of this discussion, and how proud they are that the College is taking on this topic.
At the same time, I am humbled by the varied and complex views that the D&I Council must wrestle with as it develops its report/recommendation (due to me on April 15), and the challenge that I will face in reaching a sound decision to keep the names, change them, or pursue a “hybrid” strategy. Those views and sentiments include those of students of color who live and dine in buildings that carry names of families that include former slave owners; alumni who have lived in these buildings; Huguenot descendants; those who argue we must not “erase history.” I consider my own thoughts about not contributing to the amnesia that white America has about the legacy of slavery, our knowledge of the extensive contributions that the Huguenot families made to education in New Paltz, and how any decision made in 2018 will be viewed by future generations.
While there has been thoughtful discussion that has made many in our community think beyond one particular position, I know others would like to see the issue of name change brought to a vote. However, I intentionally structured the charge to avoid reducing this important decision to a vote for a particular position. The framing of this charge was designed to create opportunities to educate one another, better understand our institutional history, and think about both the historical and contemporary issues of slavery, race and community. I am aware that the Student Association is considering a resolution based on the assumption that a majority of students favor changing the names. That resolution, if passed and if accompanied by thoughtful deliberation of the issues involved, would be among the many factors that inform next steps in the process.
After I receive the D&I Council’s report, I intend to take time to consider it thoughtfully, and consult with others, including other campus leaders, members of HHS and our College Council, and leadership of the SUNY Board of Trustees (which must approve any name change). I do not anticipate finalizing my thinking to be able to bring this matter to the College Council before the end of the semester. Any decision to pursue changing one or more names will be brought to the campus community for further input and discussion, probably early in the fall semester.
I will respond to your questions and comments about this and my previous two reports (given cancellation of the February 7 and March 7 Faculty Senate meetings) at the inaugural meeting of the Faculty Senate now scheduled for April 4!
Donald P. Christian