President’s Report to the Academic and Professional Faculty

President’s Report to the Academic and Professional Faculty
Oct. 1, 2018 (in advance of Oct. 3 Faculty Senate Meeting)

I hope that each of you is settling into the rhythm of the semester, and finding your work and engagement with our students rewarding. In this report, I will update you on recent happenings, work in progress, and several upcoming events.

Table of Contents:

Budget – Reminders of September 21 email update to campus community about budget; budget forum on Friday, Oct. 19, 1 p.m. in LC 100.

Chancellor Johnson’s Inauguration – Several of us attended Chancellor Kristina Johnson’s September 14 inauguration. Her inaugural address is available here.

Distinguished Speaker Series (Thursday, Oct. 11, at 7:30 p.m. in LC 100) – Dr. Neyooxet Greymorning, political anthropologist and 1973 alumnus will speak on “Wading into the Waters of Language, Culture and Reality.”

Alumni Reunion – October 12-14, schedule of events available at Honorees are named below.

Fall Open House, Saturday, Oct. 27 – For prospective undergraduate students and parents. Thanks in advance to all who participate in helping showcase our strengths, high-quality offerings, and welcoming community.

Puerto Rico Initiatives – Thanks to faculty and students for installation commemorating one-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria and raising awareness of conditions and development initiatives. Institute for Disaster Mental Health to take leadership role in new recovery and rebuilding initiatives, focused on disaster mental health services.

Smoke-Free/Tobacco-Free Campus – Campus is beginning a process to evaluate becoming a smoke-free/tobacco-free campus.

Shango/College Hall, Mural Preservation, and the “Shango” Name – A brief summary of long-term plans for the building’s future, preservation of murals and Shango name, and construction of additional residence hall capacity.

Hasbrouck Building Names – Faculty Senate to consider resolution in support of recommendations to remove and replace these building names, to inform continued discussion by College Council.


Budget. The Vice Presidents and I shared the broad outlines of our current budget challenges in a Sept. 21 message to faculty and staff. We described factors contributing to our current budget shortfall, steps we’ve begun to reduce the budget imbalance, and the significant work ahead. We must address this challenge as a community, and I encourage you to mark your calendars for the budget forum on Friday, Oct. 19, 1 p.m. in LC 100. This will be an opportunity to learn more detail about our budget situation in all its complexity and to hear about steps in process and in planning. Successful institutions like ours are innovative and forward-looking even in the face of constraints and challenges such as this. We’ve handled these situations successfully in the past, and I am confident we will do so again, through the dedication of every unit on campus.

Chancellor Johnson’s Inauguration. SUNY New Paltz was well-represented at the Chancellor’s inauguration ceremony on September 14 in New York City. Presiding Officer Anne Balant carried our campus flag in a procession of SUNY faculty governance leaders and our Student Association President N’Della Seque attended. Provost Arnold was in the audience, and I represented SUNY New Paltz in the academic processional. Here is a link to the Chancellor’s inaugural address, which will give you insights into her values, her vision for SUNY, and her specific priorities. Several of these align with priorities that Provost Arnold and I have outlined for SUNY New Paltz.

Distinguished Speaker Series (Thursday, Oct. 11, at 7:30 p.m. in LC 100). This fall’s Distinguished Speaker is Dr. Neyooxet Greymorning, a political anthropologist, 1973 SUNY New Paltz alumnus (Anthropology), and professor in the departments of Anthropology and Native American Studies at the University of Montana. His talk is titled “Wading into the Waters of Language, Culture and Reality.” He will speak about his research on language acquisition in dolphins, an interest that grew out of his work to rejuvenate and stabilize indigenous languages against an ever-increasing rate of language loss among native people in North America and globally. He is the author of “A Will to Survive; Indigenous Essays on the Politics of Language, Culture and Identity” (McGraw-Hill, 2004) and numerous articles. His most recent publications are Beyond IHS: Indigenous Knowledge and Traditional Approaches to Health and Healing, a chapter in American Indian Health and Nursing; The Anglocentric Supremacy of the Marshall Court, published in the Albany Government Law Review; and a 2018 book, Being Indigenous, Perspectives on Activism, Culture, Language and Identity. Dr. Greymorning was recognized with the Alumni Professional Achievement Award at last year’s Alumni Reunion.

Alumni Reunion
. The 2018 Alumni Reunion is October 12-14. We are expecting strong attendance similar to the last several years. You may view the schedule of events at Faculty and staff are encouraged to participate in events throughout the weekend but advanced registration is required for most events. A Welcome Reception will be held Friday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the MPR Pre-Function space; all are welcome. An all-Class Heritage Lunch on Saturday will feature an alumni and student showcase. The class of 1968 is particularly active this year for their 50th anniversary and will be celebrated at the All-Class Heritage Dinner and Lantern Ceremony. This year’s honorees are:

  • Patricia (Gisin) King ’60 and Rosemarie (Mainberger) McBride ’60 ’68, Distinguished Alumni Service Award
  • Marc Warren ’68 and Dennis Rinsler ’68, Alumni Professional Achievement Award
  • Everton Henriques ’78 ’83g and Jeannie Irvine ’78, Heritage Award
  • Bruce Orenstein ’68 and Sandra (Schwartz) Orenstein ’67, Heritage Award
  • Gail Gallerie, Heritage Award
  • Dr. Giancarlo Traverso, Heritage Award

A Saturday afternoon reception will celebrate 50 years of Study Abroad with retired faculty members Dr. Louis Saraceno and Dr. Robert Piluso and the Office of International Programs. The annual Mohonk Preserve hike on Sunday will be led by Glenn Geher (Psychology) and Jeff Miller (Political Science and International Relations).

Fall Open House. Our fall Open House for prospective undergraduate students and parents will be Saturday, Oct. 27. I am grateful to the many faculty and staff who participate in this event as well as to all who prepare the campus, our programs, and our facilities for the day. Through your combined efforts and those of our many student volunteers, I look forward to another very successful event. I know that the conversations prospective students and parents have with faculty, staff, and current students are so meaningful in helping them learn about the diverse and high-quality offerings at New Paltz as well as discovering first-hand the warm and welcoming community we are.

We met this fall’s enrollment targets for first-year and transfer students, recruiting an impressively diverse and academically well-prepared class, one of the largest in our institution’s history. As one step in increasing revenues to address our budget challenge, we are setting higher enrollment targets for next year, heightening the attention we need to focus on student recruitment. Like so many other elements of our work, this is best seen as a community endeavor. I routinely hear the stories of how your outreach and engagement – both at open houses and during other visits throughout the year – make a difference in leading so many students to choose New Paltz over other colleges and universities. Thank you!

We also are working to grow our graduate enrollments. As I’ve reported, this fall’s graduate student numbers are more than 20% higher than last year, reversing a multi-year decline. We must continue this trend because graduate students pay higher tuition rates, hence our past losses in graduate enrollments have impacted our revenues negatively and growing graduate enrollments will help close our budget gap. And, growing our graduate enrollment is not constrained by residence hall capacity in the same way that undergraduate enrollment is.

Puerto Rico Initiatives. I want to praise the New Paltz faculty and students who remain actively involved in post-hurricane recovery in Puerto Rico and broader social and political issues in the archipelago. Starting September 20, the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria, faculty and students mounted a one-week multi-media installation on the Excelsior Concourse to raise awareness of conditions and grassroots development initiatives in Puerto Rico. This informative and moving activity was organized by the Latin American & Caribbean Studies Program along with the Spanish Club, the Latin American Student Union, and the departments of Sociology, Languages, Literatures and Cultures, and Geography.

Also on that day, Governor Cuomo announced the expanding role of our Institute for Disaster Mental Health (IDMH) in Puerto Rico recovery and rebuilding efforts along with SUNY, CUNY, and UNICEF USA. This effort will include a major focus on disaster mental health services, to be led by Dr. Amy Nitza, director of IDMH. This project will include work with local non-profit partners to provide train-the-trainer services on evidence-based practices to help provide coping skills for those still suffering from the trauma of the disaster and extended recovery. This work is precisely within the wheelhouse of IDMH expertise, and we’re excited both about this opportunity for students and the leadership role IDMH will play.

Smoke-Free/Tobacco-Free Campus. We are initiating a process to evaluate possibilities of becoming a smoke-free/tobacco-free campus, and the pathways for doing so. Other SUNY campuses have successfully taken this action, and we are able to learn from their approaches. Such work has typically involved a multi-year process, beginning with the formation of a broad-based committee to develop a draft policy and gather input from the community. Vice Presidents Stephanie Blaisdell and Michele Halstead will be leading this effort; they will soon share more background, outline the process we will follow, and describe the formation of the steering committee.

Shango/College Hall, Mural Preservation, and the “Shango” Name. This multi-wing building houses residence halls, the Honors Program, the Department of Music, Scholar’s Mentorship Program, and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Educational Center. It was built as the College’s first residence hall and College Union in 1951. This building is approaching the end of its functional lifespan and is not well suited to 21st century needs. We are engaged in assessing this building and alternatives for its future, in collaboration with DASNY (the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York) and SUCF (the State University Construction Fund). No firm plans have been made; no authority has been given; no funding is in place to pursue any next steps, and there are no plans to relocate any current functions and activities in this building. But given the long time-lags in planning and executing major capital projects, it is prudent to consider alternatives now.

One viable option is to renovate and convert this space to critically needed academic space (likely in stages). The cost is significant, and would require an infusion of major capital funding through the SUCF. This location is far better suited for academic and academic-support purposes than for student housing. One assessment is clear: because of the design/construction of this building and constraints in our residence hall bonding capacity, this building cannot be renovated as modern student housing (as, for example, we have been doing with Hasbrouck Complex residence halls).

Accordingly, to continue meeting student demand for on-campus housing and to set the stage (likely for a future administration) for the flexibility to decommission this building as a residence hall when that becomes necessary, we are adding additional beds in the two remaining Hasbrouck Complex halls slated for renovation in the next few years. An additional floor, each with about 80 additional residence hall beds, will be added to Deyo and DuBois halls. The first of these renovations (Deyo Hall) is scheduled to begin in summer 2019 and be completed for fall 2020; the second (Dubois Hall) is scheduled to begin in summer 2021 and be finished for fall 2022. We have also undertaken minor renovations in other existing residence halls to gain additional housing capacity to fully offset the future loss of Shango/College as a residence hall and during the Deyo renovation.

The painted murals in Shango/College are historical and of great meaning for generations of alumni as well as current students. They are painted directly on the walls, and in large part because of the nature of the wall material, it is not possible to preserve them physically. For that reason, we are photographing them and preserving them digitally for future restoration in another residence hall or appropriate academic space, in consultation with students, alumni, and other members of the community.

The name “Shango” – in honor of the Yoruban god of thunder, a symbol of strength and perseverance – was assigned to part of that building in the late 1960s to symbolize a more welcoming living and learning environment for students of color, especially African-American students. That name holds deep meaning for generations of students who lived in that space. If the current space is decommissioned as a residence hall, it will be appropriate to consider possible assignment of the Shango name to a different building. Such action would continue our anti-racist efforts and recognize the diversity of our student body. As I’ve noted before, the New Paltz College Council, not the College President, has the authority to name buildings and grounds on campus, subject to the approval of the SUNY-wide Board of Trustees.

Hasbrouck Building Names. I understand that the Faculty Senate is considering a resolution in support of the Diversity and Inclusion Council’s and my recommendation to the College Council to remove and replace the names on Hasbrouck Complex buildings. As you know, my recommendation was based on the analysis and recommendation of the Diversity and Inclusion Council, and on my own experience with last year’s thoughtful review process. The College Council began its consideration of the possible name change at its Sept. 6 meeting, and will continue discussion at its next meeting on Thursday, Nov. 1, at 3 p.m. in SUB 62/63. Presiding Officer Anne Balant is a non-voting member of the College Council and takes part in these discussions. Student Association President N’della Seque is a voting member of the Council.

I appreciate the willingness of the Faculty Senate to consider such a resolution. I will be present at the October 3 Faculty Senate meeting and will be prepared to respond to questions senators may have about my views on this topic.

Donald P. Christian