President Donald P. Christian gave his 2018 State of the College Address before an audience of faculty, staff, alumni, College Council members and Foundation Board members on Aug. 24, 2018.
He framed his address by asking listeners to envision the state of SUNY New Paltz in the year 2040 – in terms of its physical landscape, the academic curricula, the tools and technologies employed for teaching and learning, the makeup and priorities of the faculty and the student body, and the broader picture of public education in New York and throughout the United States.
“I’m sure that if I could survey you in this instant, we would find very different imagined forms for our college in 2040,” President Christian said. “Which will actually come to pass? How will decisions we make – or do not make – in 2018 and 2019, influence that outcome?”
President Christian’s exploration of these questions, and his description of the future he sees for SUNY New Paltz, touched on a range of topics. Selected excerpts are transcribed below; the full text transcript and slideshow presentation of the 2018 State of the College address is available via this link.
On recent successes in student recruitment and outcomes: “The three largest incoming classes in our institution’s history – first-year and transfer students together – have been the past three years, and that’s with no relaxation of our admissions standards. That’s a clear indication that we are offering programs that students want, in an attractive environment. […]
“Our overall four-year graduation rate in 1996 was 19 percent. Last year it was 62 percent. Our six-year graduation rate has grown from 53 percent in 1996 to 72 percent in 2017, and our preliminary assessment is that our latest graduation rate might run as high as 76 percent. Those are the most dramatic increases in graduation rates on any SUNY campus during that time frame.”
On changes to the campus physical environment: “Our facilities and grounds personnel deserve a great deal of credit for the way our campus is maintained and how it’s improved. We built two new academic buildings, three residence halls, an athletics and wellness center, and an art museum. We’ve renovated space to support programs and initiatives. We improved parking and pedestrian travel and safety and added and improved wellness and recreational facilities. We’ve wholesale renovated several existing academic and support buildings and three residence halls, overhauled dated electrical and high-temp, hot-water systems, and made smaller-scale improvements in numerous other residential, academic and support spaces.”
On recent philanthropic successes: “We are making headway – still with lots of room to grow – in diversifying our revenue streams, raising private funds for student support and to create a ‘margin of excellence’ beyond what we can do with state funding and tuition. In 1996, our private fund-raising efforts generated $960,000. In 2017, that figure was just over $3 million and in 2018 was about $5.8 million.”
On the increasing diversity of the student population: “The percentage of students from historically underrepresented groups in our incoming first-year class has increased from 33 percent in 1996 to more than 45 percent this fall. […]
“We are proud that students of all backgrounds are admitted to SUNY New Paltz based not on quotas or special considerations but on assessment of their individual ability to thrive, succeed, and contribute to our learning community. Our support for diversity and inclusion includes not only race but gender, sexual orientation, national origin, ability, religious belief, and other dimensions of human difference. […]
“Beyond admitting diverse students, we want to ensure they flourish here. […] As our student body continues to grow in diversity, and we become more aware of the differences among students, we must increasingly meet individual students where they are.”
On the Hasbrouck Complex building names dialogue: “I am grateful for the excellent, thoughtful work of the Diversity and Inclusion Council in leading this process. […] The report I received from the Diversity and Inclusion Council, which will be made public today, included the recommendation that the building names be removed and replaced. […]
“I am strongly and fully persuaded that changing the names is the right path for our campus at this time. […] “My recommendation – and it is a recommendation – is consistent with the main theme of my speech today: making such a change now is consistent with our community values of fostering a diverse and inclusive learning environment, and that must include active anti-racist steps. Addressing this key imperative will better position us to be a leading contributor to fulfilling the state’s educational needs in 2040. […]
“As I shared when we began this process, naming buildings or changing building names is not within the authority of a SUNY campus president. That authority rests with the campus College Council and thereafter with the SUNY Board of Trustees.”