President’s Report to the Academic and Professional Faculty
December 4, 2018 (in advance of December 5 Faculty Senate Meeting)
As we near the end of the fall semester, I offer updates about several external activities, including our advocacy efforts, a recent SUNY presidents meeting where we learned about SUNY System happenings, and an outreach event to our county’s business leaders.
Table of Contents:
Advocacy – We have reached out to elected officials to build strong relationships, and note significant change in the New York State Senate.
SUNY Presidents Meeting – Featured Chancellor Johnson’s priorities and goals; national perspective – and valuable advocacy items – from leadership of American Council on Education; my presentation on Hasbrouck Complex building names that was well received.
Hasbrouck Complex Building Names – A study group has been formed to solicit input and recommend replacement names for the College Council’s possible consideration, as determined at the November 1 College Council meeting. Stay tuned for a forthcoming survey.
Chamber of Commerce Networking Event – We hosted this event on November 28 to showcase our campus and achievements for members of the regional business community.
Holiday Greetings – Best wishes for a happy, safe, and rejuvenating holiday season!
Advocacy. I have reached out to congratulate elected officials (local, state, and federal), and to thank outgoing officials for their service. I have invited our elected officials to visit campus to learn about our mission and contributions, our many successes and assets as well as our challenges and needs. Our goal is to build constructive working relationships with these individuals. We also remind incumbents and alert newcomers to the vast expertise and knowledge of our faculty to assist legislators with research on key issues they address in their roles.
Last week’s SUNY Presidents meeting included a session on “the New Albany,” outlining the significant turnover in the New York State Senate, where the Democratic party now holds a majority. New Senators were described as young, diverse, inexperienced, progressive, and empowered. SUNY Board of Trustees Chair H. Carl McCall shared that diversity will be a big issue for the reconstituted Senate. My colleagues and I intend to get to know our new (and continuing) legislators better by bringing them to campus to help them understand the value of SUNY to our communities, our regions and the state. While there is good reason to be optimistic about new support for higher education, new legislators and leadership in the State Senate will need time to acclimate to their new roles. Despite uncertainties in the projected New York State budget, we will do our best to advocate for increased operating and capital funds to maintain and enhance our excellence.
SUNY Presidents Meeting. At last week’s session, Chancellor Kristina Johnson shared her goals for the year, which include conducting 11 presidential searches, finalizing the composition of her leadership team, advocating with the Governor and Legislature for additional financial resources, and advancing some of her strategic priorities. Those include individualized education, innovation and entrepreneurship, sustainability, and partnerships. Financial and enrollment challenges were a dominant theme at our meeting and weigh heavily on SUNY leadership and campus presidents.
Dr. Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education (ACE), provided a national perspective on higher education. ACE is developing a higher education advocacy campaign with the Ad Council. Dr. Mitchell reminded us that higher education enjoys the fourth-highest level of public confidence of any organization or enterprise in the U.S. (behind the military, small business, and police); nonetheless, confidence in higher education is declining. As I have shared before, white working class families show the least support for the value of higher education, while Black, Latinx, and immigrant families recognize that a college degree is the best bet for a brighter future. Some of the declining confidence in higher education is based on misinformation or misunderstanding – hence our advocacy must counter these perceptions. For example, ACE focus group participants estimated typical student loan debt at four to five times real numbers, and estimated unemployment of college graduates at double the real figures. Dr. Mitchell pointed out that distrust of higher education as an overall enterprise does not translate to the local level. Many critics of the enterprise retain great faith in their local or regional colleges and universities – especially community colleges and regional public universities. These are important reasons for us to continue our outreach and engagement with regional leaders.
Chancellor Johnson asked me to present about our Hasbrouck Complex building naming process at the meeting with SUNY presidents and System leadership, as a “case study” for how to address a complex and potentially contentious campus issue. I spoke about my pride in the ability of our campus to take on a complex, controversial issue and reach a well-supported conclusion about the right direction for our campus, advancing education and awareness of the legacy of slavery in our community. I shared some of the keys to that process: the right framing that drew on a national context; establishing clear guidelines for open, respectful dialogue; a focus on evidence-based arguments; and a process and communication plan that included the right combination of grassroots leadership by our Diversity and Inclusion Council, collaboration with student and faculty leadership, administrative support, and meaningful community involvement.
I shared that I will continue to advocate for this change with our College Council members, who have the authority to name buildings and grounds. My presentation was well received, and both our process and the direction of removing and replacing these building names were strongly endorsed by my presidential colleagues and SUNY System leadership.
Hasbrouck Complex Building Names. The College Council decided on Nov. 1 to form a campus working group to solicit input on replacement names for the College Council’s consideration in the event that the Council votes at an upcoming meeting to replace the Hasbrouck Complex names. Interim College Council Chairman Eli Basch and I have charged a study group, led by College Council member and alumnus Vincent Cozzolino, with gathering campus community feedback and ideas about potential replacement names for the Hasbrouck Complex buildings. At the next College Council meeting, members will consider the postponed resolution to change the names. If that motion is approved, the next step will be to consider replacement names. The next College Council meeting is scheduled for February 21, 2019 and the study group will have completed its work by that date.
The study group is putting together an electronic survey about ideas for possible replacement names, and developing a list of potential names for the President’s Cabinet to consider and recommend to the College Council. The survey will be available next week, and will be open until January 31, 2019. I encourage you to provide input on these recommendations. We have been clear that we will not consider honorific names for these buildings because current SUNY policy requires a significant financial gift to name buildings after individuals.
The study group includes two students (N’della Seque, Student Association president and voting member of the College Council, and Michele Tejada, president of the Latin American Student Union), two other voting members of the Council (Ron Law and Vincent Cozzolino, both alumni), Presiding Officer of the Faculty Anne Balant and Dean of Students Robin Cohen LaValle (non-voting Council members representing, respectively, faculty and alumni), Assistant Professor of History Reynolds Scott-Childress (co-chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Council), Veronica Claypool Butler (New Paltz resident and member of the Board of Trustees of Historic Huguenot Street), and Shelly Wright, Vice President for Communication and Chief of Staff. Lucy Walker, AVP for Institutional Research, is contributing to survey design and administration.
Chamber of Commerce Networking Event. Last week, the College hosted the Ulster County Regional Chamber of Commerce membership for a networking event. We recognized an opportunity to showcase the campus and our achievements to members of the regional business community. We heard from some participants that they had not been on the campus for many years, and were impressed with what they learned about our programs and offerings. Others have been tracking our progress and were excited to get a “first-hand” sense of what we are doing. I am grateful to the many offices that “tabled” at this event – Undergraduate and Graduate Admissions, Fine & Performing Arts, the Hudson Valley Advanced Manufacturing Center, the Office of Veteran & Military Services, the Career Resource Center, and the Office of Alumni Relations – and to the staff who represented us so well. Thanks also to Campus Auxiliary Services (CAS) and Sodexo for their excellent support in hosting these guests on our campus.
Holiday Wishes. I look forward to the opportunity to meet with academic and professional faculty and management confidential employees (and spouses or partners!) at this Saturday’s (December 8) holiday reception at the President’s residence. Sandy and I both enjoy the opportunity to connect with so many people from our community, and I always hear how much people enjoy getting to know others from across the campus. Such interactions certainly support the spirit of community that is central to our mission, vision, and values.
And, I look forward to visiting with classified staff at our annual holiday appreciation luncheon on Friday, December 14.
I wish everyone a successful wrap-up of a busy semester, and a safe, happy, and rejuvenating holiday season. I hope that we all take time to celebrate the blessings of the season and the accomplishments of the calendar year despite its many challenges and difficulties, and to enjoy the company of friends, family, and colleagues. I will look forward to seeing you at the start of spring semester.
Until then, I anticipate I will see many of you at this week’s Faculty Senate meeting, where I will be available to respond briefly to your questions.
Donald P. Christian