Good morning! I’m pleased to welcome you to the 2010-11 academic year. We start this year on a solemn note, having lost several cherished members of our community-- faculty members, administrators, staff, and retirees – over the past several months. Please join me in a moment of silence to remember these departed members of our community.
Now in the spirit of renewal, I am pleased to announce that we have hired many new employees during the past year. Will all new faculty and staff members (anyone who is attending the opening day breakfast for the first time) stand for a moment so we can recognize and welcome you? We extend to each of you a warm welcome to our campus community.
We have a great deal to be excited about this year, as we have continued the college’s strong forward momentum. Let me give just a few examples. The college continues to attract superb students. We received a record number of applicants -- over 12,800 -- and the mean high school average of the incoming class is 91.1 with a combined SAT score averaging 1134. The college continues to be affordable. According to figures just released by the College Board, 2/3 of all students attending public 4-year institutions pay more tuition than SUNY students do. We also continue to benefit from the generosity of our alumni, faculty, staff, and friends of the college. This summer we surpassed the goal of $4 million in fundraising for the Fund for Science and Technology as well as offering more than $2 million in scholarship awards for the first time. Our college is doing well.
In the past few years, we have frequently been recognized by national groups for our outstanding quality. This year we have garnered even more recognitions in national rankings. These recognitions reflect our most important points of pride. For example, in the US News and World Report new ranking of institutions with a focus on teaching, a ranking based on a survey of college presidents, provosts, and admissions directors, we are #3 of all public master’s –level institutions in the north. In US News’s overall rankings we moved up to #9 of all public master’s –level institutions in the north. For affordability, we are included in the Kiplinger Magazine’s top 100 best values in colleges. For community service, we are on the President’s Higher Education Honor Roll. And for sustainability we are listed in the Princeton Review’s new Guide to Green Colleges. Outstanding teaching, overall high quality, affordability, community service, sustainability – this is what we promise and this is what we deliver. I am so proud of the work that you do to help the college fulfill our promises.
But the rankings are about what we have done up to now. What about the future? This year we begin implementing the college’s Strategic Plan 2010-2015, which many of you helped craft. A new Strategic Planning Council chaired by Professor Cynthia Lassonde will help guide the implementation and assess how we are progressing. I have also appointed a new Budget Advisory Committee chaired by Professor Deborah Farro-Lynd. The BAC is charged with opening up the operating budget to the campus and gathering input from all constituencies on priorities for the operating budget. This year we will also continue to improve the campus infrastructure: pipes, heating and cooling, roofs, information technology, and building renovations.
Recently I was asked why we are doing construction if there is a shortage of money, and there is a simple answer to that. New York State gives us two kinds of money: operating funds and capital funds. Operating funds pay for ongoing expenses such as payroll, utilities, and supplies, and they come from current year tax revenues. For the past two years, NY State tax revenues have been down due to the recession, and the state has cut its contribution to operating funds SUNY-wide. The other kind of money we get, capital funds, can be used only for construction and renovation. This money comes from bonds that the state issues – borrowed money that is paid back over 20 to 30 years, like a mortgage. The state of NY is still issuing bonds, so SUNY’s construction fund continues to get money for the colleges’ construction projects. SUNY Oneonta continues to renovate and renew the physical plant because the beauty and functionality of our campus is important to the quality of life of our students, faculty, and staff – and the money cannot be used for salaries, supplies, or any other purpose.
Finally, I want to thank you in advance for your patience and cooperation in dealing with an extraordinary amount of change in the coming year. As you know, we will be conducting a search for a new Provost and we have two newly-appointed Interim Deans in office. The State’s Early Retirement Incentive will give many of our colleagues a chance to retire with enhanced benefits, and although this is good for them, we will lose many dedicated and experienced personnel. The college is required to save a portion of the salaries of the people who retire, so we will be looking for savings in several ways: delaying the refilling of positions, backfilling at lower salaries, combining functions, even possibly eliminating some services. The good news is that we do not anticipate any layoffs and we expect that there will be some promotional opportunities as the year goes on.
n closing, please know that YOU are the reason for SUNY Oneonta’s wonderful reputation. Thank you again for your work. Thanks also to Sodexo Education Division for this great breakfast, and to the folks at Creative Media Services, Academic IT, and WUOW for contributing to the video you are about to watch. Have a good year!
August 27, 2010