President Christian delivers 12th and final State of the College Address

SUNY New Paltz President Donald P. Christian delivered his 12th and final State of the College Address on Aug. 20, ready to resume the College’s work with students and colleagues and to tackle both new and familiar challenges.

Following his announcement that he will retire in 2022, President Christian reflected on conditions at New Paltz when he became interim president in 2010, and present-day circumstances in our community. He noted many parallels between the two eras, including the pending leadership transition, but also noted ways in which New Paltz has progressed and grown during the decade-plus of his tenure.

“Today, I look back on the past decade, not to navel-gaze about my presidency, but to remind us of our collective progress and the many strengths that position us for a successful future and for attracting a top-notch next president,” he said.

President Christian concluded his speech with a brief list of his own goals for the year ahead.

“I will continue to lead the campus, navigating COVID-19 impacts and making decisions that should not be left to my successor,” he said. “I am already working to maintain relationships and build new ones that will be important for the College’s continuing success. I will support the transition in ways consistent with best practices. I will continue my long commitment to communicate openly and fully. At a personal level, I will be letting go and saying goodbye throughout the year. I admit it will be a bittersweet task. I am fully confident we have the resilience, capability, and commitment to press ahead in my remaining months and beyond.”

Additional excerpts from President Christian’s address are transcribed below. The full text and recorded presentation can be accessed here.

On the ongoing pandemic:

“COVID-19 is still with us. The Delta variant is more contagious than the original and certainly changes how we are approaching the fall semester […] In the spirit of looking back and looking forward, I hope we recognize that although social distancing guidelines and masking were in place last year, we had no evidence of classroom transmission – even before vaccines were readily available. Nor did we have the explosive outbreaks of the virus that other campuses experienced. It is very encouraging that this year’s summer Orientations and residence hall assistant training – held in person, indoors and with masks – have produced no transmission. Both the realities and perceptions about health and safety will create anxiety for many. Know that we as a campus leadership team remain vigilant about the virus and will adjust as warranted. Be patient and supportive and practice empathy for each other and our students as we enter this new phase of the pandemic.”

On the search for the next president of SUNY New Paltz:

“The presidential search will be a major theme this year. I hope you will consider putting your name forward to serve on the search committee to ensure that the chair can assemble a diverse and broad-based committee. I also hope you participate in a campus-wide survey in September to inform the search, join virtual listening sessions with the search firm, and, of course, take part in on-campus finalist interviews in the spring. Broad, informed input will help the search committee make the best-informed recommendations to the Chancellor.”

On institutional diversity and inclusion efforts:

“Paralleling broader struggles in American society, we have a long journey to become the equitable and inclusive organization we want to be. We continue to move forward. We have established and refined a Diversity & Inclusion Council, and more recently expanded those efforts to include working groups in each of the schools […] I will charge the Diversity & Inclusion Council during the fall semester with conducting an audit of our five-year-old Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Plan, not to re-write it but to assess topics to consider in a next plan. What priorities have we advanced? Which have we not? What has changed in higher education and in the broader world that provides a different context for the plan than when it was developed in 2016? That endeavor should include an inventory of the many ongoing initiatives, including work in the schools, which may inform a next plan.”