President’s Report to the Academic and Professional Faculty
April 30, 2018 (in advance of May 2 Faculty Senate Meeting)
As the year winds down and we look ahead to 2018-19, I share my appreciation and admiration for your work to serve our students and our educational mission. I recognize that faculty and professionals have done so at a time of heightened uncertainty and frustration (see below), and I am especially grateful for your patience and continued dedication to our students. Thank you. I share here several news updates and key information.
Table of Contents:
Chancellor’s Awards – Congratulations to recipients of awards for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities, Faculty Service, and Professional Service (names and details below).
Student Behavior – Faculty may report non-emergency concerns about student behavior using the Incident Report Form available on my.newpaltz.edu, or by referring students to the Psychological Counseling Center (257-2920).
Advocacy for Faculty and Professional Salary Increases – Please see below for analysis and commentary on some of our advocacy work.
Commencement – A reminder of graduate ceremony Friday, May 18, 6 p.m. in the Athletic and Wellness Center; Liberal Arts and Sciences ceremony Saturday, May 19, 10 a.m. in the Old Main Quad, and Schools of Business, Education, Fine and Performing Arts, and Science and Engineering Sunday, May 20, 10 a.m. in the Old Main Quad.
Consensual Relations – Our policies conform to recent resolution passed by Board of Trustees that all campuses have policies in place by July 1, 2018 prohibiting romantic or sexual relationships where a power differential exists.
Budget – We have reduced the need to draw down campus reserves from projected level of $1.8 million to about $567,000; uncertainties remain about 2018-19 budget.
Fund-Raising – We have already raised more than $4 million this year, highest ever, and up from the >$3 million each of the past three years and an average of $1.5 million annually in previous years.
IDMH Conference – 15th annual conference (“Psychosocial Responses to Mass Violence”) on April 27 attracted more than 450 participants to campus.
DACA – Federal judge continues DACA program, orders federal government to accept new applications, but longer-term status still uncertain.
Minds at Work Events – See below for additional information about campus-wide and other showcases of student work and achievement on Friday, May 4.
Faculty and Staff Appreciation Picnic – Wednesday, May 23, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., Old Main Quad (rain location: Athletic and Wellness Center)
It is always with great pleasure and respect for their accomplishments that I announce each year’s recipients of the Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence. Please join me in congratulating each of these colleagues for their selection as this year’s awardees. We will present these awards at the first faculty meeting in the fall:
- Antonio Bonilla, Director, Educational Opportunity Program, Excellence in Professional Service
- Myra Mimlitsch-Gray, Professor, Art, Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities
- Ilgu Ozler, Associate Professor, Political Science and International Relations, Excellence in Faculty Service
- Jay Palen, Director, Telecommunications, Excellence in Professional Service
- kt Tobin, Associate Director, The Benjamin Center, Excellence in Professional Service
No nominees were put forward this year for Excellence in Teaching or Excellence in Adjunct Teaching.
Student Behavior. At an especially stressful time of year, I remind you of resources for reporting disruptive behavior or behavioral changes that may indicate a student is distressed, disturbed, or in crisis. Student safety and security is our top priority, and we want to be sure that students in need receive essential support and care.You may report non-emergency concerns using the Incident Report Form available on my.newpaltz.edu, or by referring students to the Psychological Counseling Center (257-2920). For a medical crisis or a situation that poses an immediate danger, you may call University Police at 257-2222.
Advocacy for Faculty and Professional Salary Increases. In a recent biweekly meeting with the Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate, we discussed my advocacy for State funding, including the availability of resources to fund healthy salary increases for faculty and professionals. In that discussion, I clearly heard that faculty may not be aware of my efforts to advocate on your behalf, and I let these colleagues know I would highlight those activities in this report.
I want all professional and academic faculty to know that I am keenly aware of and share your frustration that settlement of the UUP bargaining agreement has stretched out so long without resolution. I recognize that this has been a hardship for many as salaries have not kept up with the increasing cost of living. I am also painfully aware of the high cost of living (especially housing) in the Hudson Valley that exacerbates stagnant salaries and salary compression, impacting the quality of life for our employees and leading some employees to leave for better conditions elsewhere. I have raised this issue about geographic differences in cost of living with former Chancellor Zimpher and with new Chancellor Kristina Johnson, and will continue to do so.
Regrettably, with nearly 80% of our campus revenue derived from tuition – and tuition set at the state (not campus) level – our resources to adjust for these differences are severely constrained (see “Budget” below). I am acutely aware that pointing out this reality does not ease your financial pain, nor does the knowledge that declining taxpayer support and increased reliance on tuition plague public universities, students, and employees across the nation. Finally, I know that salary can be a major consideration in decisions faculty may make to remain at SUNY New Paltz or to seek employment elsewhere. While we have many assets that make working here enjoyable and rewarding – great students, great colleagues, a naturally and culturally rich location near the New York City metropolitan area, those are not always sufficient to counteract the financial constraints that may lead someone to leave. We have taken steps in recent years, within campus resource constraints, to allocate funds to address salary equity issues, and to position the campus to offer more competitive starting salaries without inverting the salaries of current faculty. Regrettably, without a contractual agreement (and funding) we are constrained in our ability to reward meritorious performance and contributions with salary increases.
When I meet (as I do) in person with our area legislators, I discuss both the high quality and broad array of educational opportunities we provide and our most pressing budgetary needs, I have emphasized the need for higher faculty and staff salaries in the context of living and working in an expensive region. I bring to those conversations compelling data about trends in the percentage of our budget derived from tuition (increasing) and from state support (decreasing), the resulting impacts on students and their families, and the constraints placed on campus leaders to sustain the quality of our programs and to compensate personnel adequately. Given our significant space deficit, I advocate for larger capital allocations to improve current facilities and build new ones, but I take care to emphasize that we can’t use capital funds for operational needs and that we need more investment in higher education at the state level. While legislators insist they would like to invest more in higher education, they point out their own fiscal constraints in meeting the competing needs that quickly devour state resources, especially health care and K-12 education.
I also find I need to work to deconstruct certain myths held outside the academy about higher education, such as the typical work life of dedicated faculty. I point out that our professional and academic faculty go above and beyond in terms of sharing their time and expertise with students and colleagues to advance our teaching goals while also maintaining their scholarship and service. We follow up on these personal meetings with additional communication with legislators and their staff to reinforce these messages.
Relationships and communication between SUNY and the Governor’s Office are managed by the Chancellor and SUNY Government Relations staff. It is generally inappropriate for campus presidents to involve themselves individually in such interactions unless we are asked to do so. I am constrained by needing to understand the system’s primacy, and work through the university on these issues. Similarly, it’s worth a reminder that collective bargaining agreements, including the UUP agreement, are negotiated statewide through the Governor’s office; campus leaders are not involved in the process, and generally speak about it with caution (see below). I did seize the opportunity to speak about these topics in a conversation with the Lieutenant Governor while she was on campus last week. I highlighted some of our recent accomplishments, along with our concern about flat salaries for faculty and professionals, and the high cost of living in the Hudson Valley. I shared my hope that the Governor will provide funding for salary increases once the UUP bargaining agreement is reached, and the serious consequences to the College and our students if that funding is not provided. That outcome would impact negatively our sister SUNY campuses as well.
A member of the Executive Committee asked my view on a recent public statement by SUNY Plattsburgh President John Ettling about the SUNY budget and salary increases, I believe with the underlying point that I have not spoken publicly about this topic. It’s worth recognizing that his statement was made as part of a public radio interview, not a media release by the campus. His responses in the interview included other topics such as enrollment pressures, internal resource allocation, alumni giving, the racial climate on his campus, and the reality that inadequate budgets are a reality for public universities across the nation (especially regional comprehensive campuses like ours). I certainly speak about such topics in response to media inquiries. Especially right now, when additional state funding for eventual salary increases is under consideration, I do so with great care.
Here is what Dr. Ettling said in that interview:
“Two things fell out [of the state budget] that from my point of view it’s unfortunate. Those would be additional appropriations to pay for negotiated salary increases for the people who work there. That’s not in there. But that hasn’t been in any of the state budgets that we’ve lived with for the last two or three years. So what we have to do is to find internal resources to pay those raises. It’s because we’re obliged to do and that’s fine. The people who work there, the faculty and staff, deserve those raises. But it means fewer people working at the college in order to pay the raises for everybody else.”
If additional funding does not come to cover these well-deserved salary increases, the campus will have to pay for it within a generally flat budget (same allocation as last year, except for possibly increased tuition revenue). And so like my presidential colleagues, I have advocated both for salary increases and funding for those increases. My recent media statements include the following: “The College is confident that both UUP and the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations will come to a mutually beneficial agreement that supports the high quality work of our academic faculty and professional staff.”
In all my presentations, media inquiries, and conversations with regional civic, business, and political leaders, I am honest that we work under significant and consequential financial challenges. But I also make every effort to highlight the great work of our faculty and staff, our exceptional graduation and retention rates, growing recognition and rankings, new programs, the accomplishments of our students, and our roles in the region. I know some would like me to speak or write (as some in our community have done) that we are a failing institution because of our budget situation. I don’t believe that’s true and we must consider how such “doomsday” messages can harm our viability and competitiveness in an increasingly challenging marketplace. We are on the same side in our knowledge that the quality and character of our college could falter without further funding. But campus presidents and faculty have different roles, publicly and privately, in addressing this key question. I am fortunate to be in a position to have many positives to highlight, even as I advocate – in my judgment in the right ways, at the right time, and with the right messages – for our funding needs. We certainly will continue this advocacy.
Let me conclude by saying that none of this is to downplay the deep concerns that I share with many of you about employee compensation given current levels of state support and tuition revenue and our ongoing campus budget deficit.
Consensual Relations. I will provide brief background on the message you received on April 23 from Tanhena Pacheco Dunn (AVP for Human Resources, Diversity, and Inclusion and Title IX Coordinator). She wrote about a recent SUNY Board of Trustees resolution that every SUNY campus develop and disseminate policies prohibiting sexual or romantic relationships where a power differential exists. Apparently, only about half of SUNY campuses had such policies in place at the time the Trustees passed that resolution. Clearly, we are ahead of that curve with the policy that we passed last year prohibiting such relationships between faculty or staff and students. I am proud that our policy is more stringent than existing policies at some of the other SUNY campuses, and makes clear our expectations about professional and ethical behavior. The Trustees resolution addresses power differential in the supervisory relationship as well. Non-harassment/non-discrimination between and among employees is well established in employment law and Title IX, therefore, we felt there was no need to develop additional policy at the campus level.
As Tanhena wrote, the College remains committed to building and sustaining a working and learning environment free of sexual harassment and discrimination.
Commencement. Please see my April 4 report for detail on dates and times, commencement speakers/honorary degree recipients, and faculty grand marshals.
Budget. You may recall that we entered this year with a budget deficit – projected expenditures greater than projected revenue. We expected to spend about $1.8 million out of campus reserves to balance our budget. As a result of careful planning and a combination of one-time and recurring budget decisions, we were able to reduce that “withdrawal from savings” to what we now predict to be about $570,000 at year’s end (June 30). This is a substantial improvement but still not a sustainable long-term budget. We do not have a budget surplus this year to invest in one-time initiatives, much less recurring expenses such as salary increases.
It is too early to predict our budget situation for 2018-19. The most significant uncertainty is whether the State will provide additional funding for UUP salary increases (when the bargaining agreement is reached), along with final approval of a tuition increase and eventual 2018-19 actual undergraduate and graduate student enrollments (see below).
Enrollment. The budget assessment above underscores how critical enrollment (and tuition revenue generation) is to our economy. Acceptances and paid deposits by new first-year students are very strong and ahead of last year; transfer student deposits are down slightly but application numbers are sound, so there is cause for optimism that we will reach our target. Our incoming undergraduate students continue recent trends of increasing selectivity and racial diversity. Two very successful Accepted Student Open Houses earlier this month played a significant role in these outcomes, and I am grateful to all who contributed to those efforts.
Numbers of new graduate applications, acceptances, and registrations are ahead of last year by substantial margins, including a substantial increase in the number of international student applications. These are great signs that we may be moving out of the graduate enrollment drought that has plagued us for several years.
Fund-Raising. I’m excited to report that with two months remaining in the current year, we have already surpassed the $4 million threshold, a new high-water mark in our philanthropic efforts. I have shared previously that last year we completed a three-year “major gift initiative” in which we successfully doubled our annual fund-raising to >$3 million from the previous average of about $1.5 million. That means more than $9 million in gifts from 2014-15 through 2016-17. These successes were driven by the excellent leadership of Vice President Marks, the great work of her staff, and increased involvement by Deans, Department Chairs, and faculty, with some reallocation of my time and effort to this purpose. Our Foundation Board members have substantially increased their involvement and financial participation, and we are grateful for their volunteer service and philanthropy. In addition, we are gaining new perspectives on the importance of estate giving from bequests, IRAs, paid-up life insurance, and other contributions beyond direct cash giving.
IDMH Conference. Congratulations to Institute for Disaster Mental Health (IDMH) Director Amy Nitza and her staff for a very successful April 27 conference titled “Psychological Response to Mass Violence.” This was the 15th annual IDMH conference, each addressing a unique issue in this broad field. The IDMH annual conference has grown into a “must attend” event for mental health professionals, health clinicians, first responders, and others. This year’s conference, co-sponsored by the Office of Emergency Management of the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, attracted more than 450 participants – an impressive number of them SUNY New Paltz alumni!
DACA. We have all been concerned about the future welfare of immigrant students and their families under federal policies, and the fate of those enrolled in the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program, which has protected nearly 800,000 Dreamers from deportation. Last week a federal district court judge in Washington, D.C., ordered the Trump administration to continue the DACA program and accept new applicants. The judge called the administration’s decision to rescind DACA “arbitrary and capricious.” By ordering the government to accept new applications for DACA status, this ruling goes further than previous federal court rulings.
The judge stayed his ruling for 90 days, allowing the government an opportunity to provide the rationale for ending DACA. The long-term status is still uncertain, as this issue will likely reach a U.S. Supreme Court hearing. The American Council on Education (ACE) – my source for this summary – continues to push for legislative action, but sees partisan gridlock on Capitol Hill making it unlikely that Congress will act to protect Dreamers anytime soon. Several relevant bills have been introduced in the House to achieve a permanent solution, but it is unclear if House leadership will advance any resolution. We will continue to monitor the situation, as it is a concern to many of us and has direct impact on many of our students.
Minds at Work Events. Provost Basden Arnold shared yesterday the schedule of events for Friday, May 4, where student research, creative, and scholarly achievements will be showcased. At the Student Research Symposium, I will offer brief comments, announce this year’s recipient of the Faculty Mentor Award, and thank Dr. Maureen Morrow, who will step down this year after many years of leadership of our RSCA program.
Faculty and Staff Appreciation Picnic/Year End.A brief reminder that our all-campus end-of-year barbeque and picnic will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesday, May 23, on the Old Main Quad (rain location is the Athletic and Wellness Center), sponsored by the Office of the President and organized and hosted by Development and Alumni Relations. I hope that you will consider joining us to spend time with colleagues to celebrate the successful completion of another academic year and to help honor this year’s Classified Staff Presidential Recognition Award recipients.
I look forward to this community gathering, now a campus tradition, in which we celebrate another academic cycle completed and acknowledge the many individual and community accomplishments of the year.
As I noted in my State of the College Address last August, we are all in this boat together. Together, we face the unrelenting pace of our work, the dramatic shifts confronting higher education and our broader society, and the perilous waters ahead. By building community and drawing on the thoughts and talents of the diversity within the SUNY New Paltz tribe, we harness the forces moving us to take us where we wish to go.
Wherever you plan to be this summer (I plan to spend some of it in my canoe!), I wish you all a restful, rejuvenating period to prepare you and New Paltz for the next stretch of water that we face.
As usual, I will be happy to respond to your questions about this report or other matters at the Faculty Senate meeting on May 2.
Donald P. Christian