President’s Report to the Academic and Professional Faculty

March 2, 2020 (in advance of March 4 Faculty Senate Meeting)

I hope that everyone has been able to get back into the rhythm of the semester after the recent disruption stemming from the water situation in the Village of New Paltz. I appreciate the cooperation of faculty, department chairs, and deans in developing alternatives to make up missed class time stemming from that disruption. And I wish everyone a welcome respite during our spring break in two weeks.

You should know that campus leadership and our emergency management team, in coordination with SUNY and New York State, are actively planning for the potential of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) reaching our campus.  A separate message about this planning and guidance for campus community members will be sent out later today or tomorrow. We thank you in advance for your patience as we navigate this dynamic situation. Please know that we are closely monitoring this evolving matter throughout the day and are in contact with relevant agencies and partners.

Below, I share recent news and updates including upcoming events and activities.

Table of Contents:

Vice President Search Updates – Campus interviews of four finalists for the Provost position were completed last week; search committee is finalizing its recommendations for my consideration. Campus interviews for Vice President for Enrollment Management begin this week, and I encourage your involvement (see below for primary roles and responsibilities of this position).

Academic Affairs Structure and Staffing – We are considering establishing a new position of Vice Provost or Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs to directly manage and oversee some units previously reporting to the Provost, to create more support and opportunity for the chief academic officer to provide “big picture” academic and campus leadership

Contemplative Space Update – We are making excellent progress in designing this informational and reflective space, an outcome of the Hasbrouck/Peregrine Complex renaming effort, to be placed on the west side of the Gunk near the Peregrine Complex. Completion is expected in spring 2021.

Budget Update and Legislative Advocacy – Below is a brief summary of the current status of our annual budget; statistics on how we use financial resources to support students compared with other campuses; and an update on our advocacy with our area State legislators.

Economic Impact Analysis – Our most recent analysis, conducted every three years, shows SUNY New Paltz remaining as the largest employer in Ulster County, and responsible for $380.5 million in economic activity in the Hudson Valley and $447 million in all of New York State through direct spending, student and visitor spending and employment.

Accepted Students Open House, March 28 and April 4 – Thanks in advance for your participation in events these two days, critical to our success in helping accepted applicants decide to enroll at SUNY New Paltz.

Upcoming Events – Details of three upcoming presentations and events below.

Vice President Search Updates. Provost Vice President for Academic Affairs. We completed interviews with four finalists for the position of Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs last week. I expect to receive the search committee’s recommendations on finalists in the next day or so. I am eager to review their findings along with survey results and reference information, conduct my own due diligence, and reach a decision about next steps as soon as possible. I would hope to be able to announce an outcome shortly after spring break. I very much appreciate the way that our faculty, staff, and students engaged with the candidates. Attendance at the open forums for all candidates was impressive. I heard from candidates that their experiences and perceptions during the campus interview only enhanced the extremely positive impressions they had of our campus and its trajectory before their campus visits. Thank you.

Vice President for Enrollment Management. I enjoyed dinner last night with the first of four finalists for this position; we will conclude those interviews on Monday, March 9. The search committee plans to complete its work and submit recommendations to me before spring break. I will be working through all of this information during spring break and hope to be able to announce the outcome of this search before the end of March.

I encourage your full involvement and input on the search for this important position, which carries significant responsibility for leadership of multiple units whose work bears directly on student recruitment and retention (important to our financial well-being) and on student success. The Vice President for Enrollment Management sits on the President’s Cabinet; oversees Undergraduate Admissions, Center for Student Success (including Academic Advising), Financial Aid, Records & Registration, Student Accounts, the Scholar’s Mentorship Program and Veteran & Military Services. The new VP will provide strategic and innovative leadership for future directions in recruitment, retention and completion; and will provide leadership in promoting an inclusive campus environment.

Academic Affairs Structure and Staffing. We are all aware of the tremendous workload that the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs has carried, including support and supervision of the many deans and other academic and campus leaders who have reported directly to this position. The number of reports (previously 15-16, currently 11) has been well in excess of guidelines for effective management (7-8). Earlier this year, I enacted several changes in reporting structure to better support the work of the Interim Provost, including reassigning the Scholars Mentorship Program and the Center for Student Success from Academic Affairs to the Enrollment Management Division. Our assessment after several months is that the new configuration is working well, and I intend to keep those units reporting to Enrollment Management. At the same time, I have determined that the reconfigured Benjamin Center, with plans to strengthen faculty involvement in its research initiatives, is better positioned to fulfill its mission and purpose by reporting within Academic Affairs rather than to the President. Similarly, the Institute for Disaster Mental Health, previously reporting to the Benjamin Center Director, will now report to Academic Affairs.

Associate Provost Laurel M. Garrick Duhaney is charged with leadership of Strategic Planning and Assessment as well as the Middle States reaccreditation process; changes in Middle States procedures are requiring more ongoing effort between major reaccreditation reviews. Dr. Garrick Duhaney also supervises the Faculty Development Center. The work undertaken in her portfolio is essential to our ongoing planning goals and leaves insufficient bandwidth to support broader and more day-to-day administrative needs of Academic Affairs.

After careful consideration and discussion with Cabinet and academic leaders, I have determined that enhancing the leadership structure in Academic Affairs through the creation of a Vice Provost or Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs is essential to position the next Provost for success in providing “big picture” academic and campus leadership. This is not an atypical structure for a College of our size and complexity; such a position would bring many benefits to our academic progress and support of our faculty by creating more opportunity for the Provost to lead the development and guide the implementation of an academic master plan; support departments and deans in the development of new and revised academic programs and modes of delivery; provide more focused leadership for recruiting and retaining a diverse faculty and academic staff; engage in philanthropy and fund-raising to support our academic mission; and other priorities.

We are evaluating responsibilities and reporting structures of similar positions at comparable institutions, and considering different options for the roles and responsibilities of this academic leader at New Paltz, including direct reporting units. In addition, we believe that the Vice Provost/Associate VP should serve as a primary liaison, on behalf of the Provost, to Human Resources, Diversity & Inclusion for faculty personnel matters. It is typical for such academic administrative positions to support the Provost in time-sensitive endeavors such as RTP, sabbatical, and salary increase reviews so that the Provost can sustain momentum on priority initiatives at those times.

I hope to have this position defined in the coming weeks, and undertake an internal process for an interim appointment to begin this summer. The next Provost, after working with the interim for several months, will be able to review responsibilities and reporting structures, refine them as warranted, and undertake a search for a longer-term appointment. In addition to supporting our academic endeavors, this position will provide expanded professional development opportunities for New Paltz academic employees who have broader administrative aspirations.

Contemplative Space Update: I reported in April 2019 that a working group of faculty, staff and students had provided me with their written recommendations about possible locations and configurations for a contemplative space on campus. This was one of the recommendations of the Hasbrouck Building Complex Renaming Dialogue Report (dated May 1, 2018) that emerged from community conversations about our desire to tell the full history of our campus and region to current and future generations of students, alumni and employees.

The purpose of the contemplative space is to develop a site for reflection that acknowledges the contributions of indigenous peoples, enslaved Africans, and European immigrants, including Huguenots and their descendants, who inhabited the land on which the college stands and helped shape the community and the College as we know it today.

The campus working group’s recommendations were shared last summer with the President’s Cabinet. Facilities Management engaged a landscape architect to work on a design for the space. The Cabinet considered the working group’s recommendations regarding location and settled on the west side of The Gunk overlooking the Peregrine Complex as the most appropriate location. Three Cabinet members, Tanhena Pacheco Dunn, Erica Marks and Shelly Wright, have participated in ongoing discussions and planning with the landscape architect and campus project manager, Jeff Lewis. The proposal for the design of this space is coming into sharper focus, and when we have something in the near-final stages, we will share it with the campus community. We believe timing will allow us to introduce the completed space during a ceremonial ribbon-cutting in spring 2021.

Budget Update and Legislative Advocacy. Here is a snapshot of our current budget status. A conservative, worst-case outcome would require us to spend about $2.6 million of campus reserves, slightly less than projected at the start of the academic year. Our enrollments are up over last year, but not as high as we wanted, resulting in tuition revenue that is about $2.6 million short of our budget projection. That gap stems in part from reduced international, especially graduate, enrollment. In addition, some estimates for adjustments to our gross tuition revenue came in higher than anticipated, reducing net revenue below projections. Our expenditures are down, including reduced temporary services expenses and heightened vacancy savings. The procedures we have put in place to reach decisions about replacing employee vacancies are paying off. We have also benefited (knock on wood!) from a kind Mother Nature, with utility costs under budget and less overtime for plowing and shoveling snow than in some years. If the State again (as last year) advances funding from next fiscal year to help cover the retroactive component of the collective bargaining agreements (this year’s cost = $1.5 million), we would have to spend only about $1 million in reserve funds.

We use our instructional and administrative/support resources in ways generally similar to other SUNY comprehensives. For example, we generate 17.1 student FTE per faculty FTE; this is a figure that reflects factors like campus enrollments, teaching load, and course/section size. This is slightly below the comprehensive sector average of 17.3 (compared with an average of 17.6 for the university centers). We generate 11.9 student FTE per non-faculty FTE, compared with the comprehensive sector average of 11.8 and the university center average of 11.5, indicating slightly below-average investment in administrative and support functions relative to instruction.

These figures suggest that the current budget challenges we face at New Paltz do not stem from any atypical pattern of resource allocation relative to other SUNY campuses. All SUNY campuses face similar financial challenges and will continue to do so in the future, especially if direct taxpayer support remains flat. But it is instructive that of eight SUNY campuses that showed operating deficits in all of the three prior years, six generate fewer student FTE per faculty FTE and seven generate fewer student FTE per non-faculty FTE than SUNY New Paltz. Of course, growing enrollment at these and other SUNY campuses is one path to address budget challenges, and is a top priority for New Paltz, through both recruiting and retaining our students.

Last week, New York State Assemblymember Kevin Cahill ’77 visited campus and I spoke separately with New York State Senator Jen Metzger. I shared several campus updates with our state legislators – our response to last month’s water issues, recent enrollment trends, new rankings, our first-ever fundraising campaign, among others. As the state works toward the 2020-2021 enacted fiscal year budget by April 1, I expressed our continued advocacy for increased direct taxpayer support for SUNY and public higher education in New York. Our capital needs also played a prominent role in the conversation, as we ask the state to continue its fully funded five-year capital plan for SUNY that supports critical maintenance and capital building projects. We stand ready to provide more information about our work and its challenges to these and other elected officials and staff, as needed. Both legislators indicated that this will be a challenging budget year, given the statewide budget deficit due to rising Medicaid costs.

Economic Impact Analysis. We measure our regional and statewide economic impact every three years, and share these results widely. Whenever I speak about our economic impact, I make clear that our primary mission is education, and that positive economic impacts are an immense side benefit for the local community, the county and the region. We, of course, want everyone to support public higher education for our educational role, but the message that we are an economic asset, not a drain on the State budget, catches the attention of many citizens and policy makers. Our economic impact underscores the College’s centrality to the well-being of the Hudson Valley, and our key role in creating and retaining jobs today while educating the workforce and citizenry of tomorrow.

SUNY New Paltz employed 1,623 people, retaining its status as the No. 1 employer in Ulster County. The College generated $380.5 million in economic activity in the Hudson Valley through direct spending, student and visitor spending and employment. This represents a nearly $22 million increase since the previous study of 2014-15, and equates to an estimated 3,495 jobs created in the region, including Ulster, Dutchess, Orange, Sullivan, Putnam, Rockland, and Westchester Counties.

Additional key takeaways from SUNY New Paltz’s Economic Impact Study of the 2017-18 academic year include:

  • The economic activity generated in all of New York State amounted to $447 million and 4,128 jobs created.
  • The College’s revenue and expenditures totaled $187 million.
  • Non-wages expenditures were $53.9 million, a decrease of more than $2 million from expenditures in 2014-15, as the College sought to decrease expenses and continue to manage its budget carefully.
  • The total salary expenditure was $79.6 million, 92% of which was paid in the Hudson Valley.
  • Student spending amounted to $128.9 million.
  • Visitors to campus spent an estimated $6.1 million on lodging, meals, recreation, transportation and shopping in New Paltz and the surrounding areas.
  • There are approximately 55,600 SUNY New Paltz alumni of working age (defined as 65 and younger), 42% of whom reside in the Hudson Valley. Those alumni generate $520.2 million in value-added annual earnings (above what they would earn with only a high school degree) in the Hudson Valley. An estimated 79% of New Paltz alumni reside in New York State.
  • SUNY New Paltz employees provide thousands of hours of community service to the Hudson Valley, as volunteers at social welfare organizations, arts collectives, civic and advocacy groups, professional associations and sports leagues. Employees volunteered about 158,000 hours and generated more than $4.3 million in economic impact in 2014-2015; the report of employee volunteerism for 2017-18 will be published later this year.

As we are all ambassadors for SUNY New Paltz and for public higher education, I share this information so that you can also make your neighbors, friends and community members aware of this financial impact.

Accepted Students Open House, March 28 and April 4. These two days are key to our success in helping accepted applicants decide to enroll at SUNY New Paltz. Especially with declining numbers of applicants (down this year by about 4% from last year), convincing the best and brightest to choose New Paltz is more critical than ever. We know from feedback in previous years that faculty and staff presence and engagement at these key events is critical for helping prospective students and their parents understand the distinctive educational opportunities and programs and the very special community that SUNY New Paltz provides. Some accepted applicants have not visited the campus, and this is an opportunity for us to create a positive first impression. Others may have visited the campus before (some multiple times!), and this visit is an opportunity to learn more as they wrestle with multiple attractive choices, or sometimes to affirm that New Paltz is where they want to be. I am grateful for your participation in these events and thank you in advance for your contributions this year.

Upcoming Events. I call your attention to several upcoming campus presentations and events:

  • March 4 (snow date March 11), “Truth, Trust and the Future of Journalism,” an evening with Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr. ’06 HON, Chairman, The New York Times Company, in conversation with James H. Ottaway Jr. ’18 HON, former Chair of Ottaway Newspapers and Senior Vice President of Down Jones and Company. Distinguished Speaker Series, 7:30 p.m., LC 100.
  • March 12 “Gaining Voice: Black Seat Share and Policy Representation in States,” by Christopher J. Clark, associate professor of political science, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Gary A King Lecture Series in Applied Social Science, The Benjamin Center, 6-7:30 p.m., Student Union Building Multi-Purpose Room.
  • April 1 “6th Women’s Leadership Summit.” We’ve invited more than 20 successful alumnae and women thought leaders in different professions to offer candid career advice to help students achieve their professional goals. This year’s theme is “Simple tools to maximize the value of your New Paltz degree and accelerate your career,” offered through small group interactive conversations. All students in all majors are encouraged to attend, and we hope that you will alert them to this opportunity. You will be receiving further information and registration details shortly.

I look forward to seeing you at this week’s Faculty Senate meeting and will respond to your questions and comments.


Donald P. Christian