Our last meeting together was April 19, 5 months ago. Many things have happened since then, and I’ve selected a few for this report. The College continues to do very well in national rankings, rising from #10 to #9 in the US News and World Report ranking of public master’s universities in the North and 45th overall among privates and publics. I was particularly proud to see that US News listed us as the #3 school in the North for special focus on teaching. We continue to attract top students, and this year our freshman class is better than ever, with a 91.1 HS average and combined SAT of 1134. We continue to raise private funds, had the top alumni giving rate of all SUNY colleges and were able to award over $2m in scholarships for our students. I thank you for all of the ways you make this happen – your teaching, your excellent service to our students, and your financial contributions.
You undoubtedly know that the state budget was quite late and that SUNY received a sizeable cut. The amount cut from our campus was $1.7 m. Vice President Hartmark will give a report on the budget later in the meeting, but I want to reiterate what I said at this semester’s opening breakfast last month: we do not anticipate any layoffs or retrenchments.
The state gave us one tool to cope with the budget shortfall and that is the Early Retirement Incentive. Associate Vice President Wenck will give us details on that program later in the meeting. The state will provide an enhanced retirement benefit but the college is obligated to save 50% of the salaries of all who leave under the plan. We plan to accumulate those savings through a combination of strategies: holding some positions vacant, filling others at lower salary levels, and reorganizing to accomplish work in different ways. For example, in my office, Vice President Blazina retired in February and my Assistant for Communication Glenn Mayer is retiring in November. Changing the Vice President’s job to a Senior Assistant and reorganizing the Communications position allowed me to hire two talented people with less seniority to do the same functions at a savings of 40%. We’ll be looking for similar creative opportunities in all areas of the college. Please know that the academic mission of the college is uppermost and that maintaining the integrity of the academic program is our highest priority.
As you know Provost Larkin is stepping down next summer. I asked Dr. Gretchen Sorin to chair the search and in accordance with the Faculty Bylaws, reserved a seat on the search committee for a member of the Committee on Administrative Review, which selected Dr. Jerry Blechman. The remainder of the search committee is composed almost entirely of faculty, both teaching faculty and professionals, and the Student Association will select two students to serve. We chose not to hire a search consultant because that fee would be the equivalent of two assistant professor salaries, so I will ask your help in doing some of the work that a consultant would have done. First, please use your professional networks to spread the word of our opening and encourage people to apply. We want to build a large and diverse pool for this position, beyond people who read the Chronicle every week. Also, I will ask the search committee to facilitate the development of a detailed statement of the challenges and opportunities for the new provost. I anticipate that they will hold open meetings similar to those that took place during the presidential search. Please participate in this process by attending the campus meetings, inviting the search committee to a Senate meeting, sending your ideas through Dr. Blechman, and using the search’s electronic mailbox to offer input.
Our next Middle States visit is coming right up in the fall of 2013. I have asked Dr. Patty Francis and Dr. Anuradhaa Shastri to serve as the campus representatives to MSA and to begin thinking about how we will prepare for the self-study and visit. As I promised last year, we have created two new committees, a Strategic Planning Council and a Budget Advisory Committee. These committees are vehicles for campus constituencies to give input on how the strategic plan is being implemented and priorities for the annual operating budget. Each has a link to the other and to the Senate. The Presiding Officer of the Faculty has a position or a designee on each committee. The committees are charged with gathering information from the campus constituencies including the College Senate, Council of Department Chairs, Student Association, and other mechanisms they devise. The purpose is to make sure that decision-making around planning and budgeting is transparent to the campus and to get feedback from the campus for mid-course corrections. These two committees will help the campus participate more broadly in planning and budgeting, which in turn will help us prepare for the Middle States visit.
The campus continues with renovation of buildings and infrastructure. Over the summer, improvements were made to the IRC, Chase gym, and the Milne Plaza. The addition to Fine Arts is nearing completion, Wilber Hall is back on line, and Golding is undergoing renovation. Because of scheduling delays in Albany we have deferred the Fitzelle project for one year; its timetable is now 2012-2014. These capital investments provide us with better space for teaching and learning as well as a more functional, attractive, and modern campus. I’ve been asked why we are continuing construction if money is tight. The answer is very simple: by state law, capital funds cannot be used for payroll, utilities, S & E, or other operating expenses. If we do not use our share of the capital money it reverts to the SUNY Construction Fund for projects on other campuses.
Let me conclude by saying that the pace of change is accelerating and inevitably will cause some disruption and anxiety. But change also brings new opportunities. During our conversations about the strategic plan last year, the campus enunciated 6 principles on which to build for the future: high-quality teaching, learning and scholarship; student engagement; global connectedness; diversity; community partnerships, and sustainability. We are fortunate to have that consensus-based direction in place as we move forward with budget and staffing challenges. Throughout the coming year and into the future, we will stay focused on maintaining the level of commitment to teaching and learning that makes SUNY Oneonta distinctive. Without laying off or retrenching any staff we will use our creativity to maintain our commitment to quality in all we do. This is a challenge for the entire campus that we can meet as a community. We can do it and you can help.
September 20, 2010