With the spring semester well underway, things are moving at a fever pitch on campus, and I am looking forward to what the rest of the academic year holds for SUNY Potsdam.
February is Black History Month. Let us all remember the words of Martin Luther King Jr. as we join together this month. “The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically,” Dr. King said. “Intelligence plus character—that is the true goal of education.”
Our campus is taking that to heart this month, as we celebrate diversity by “lengthening” Black History Month into March. The SUNY Potsdam Black History Leap Year series will stretch from Monday, February 27 to Monday, March 5, and we are proud to invite the campus to take part in a variety of events. The series begins with a visit by renowned fiction writer, essayist, journalist, and television commentator Touré, whose latest book, "Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness?: What It Means to Be Black Now," was named a New York Times notable book for 2011. Spike Lee expert Luvena Kopp will also visit campus, and there will be two different roundtable discussions. Dr. Lonel Woods of The Crane School of Music and A’Keitha Carey of the Department of Theatre and Dance will present very special performances as well. For a full schedule of events, visit www.potsdam.edu/newsandevents.
I want to thank the Diversity in Action Coalition for helping to organize these events. The Coalition serves as a clearing house for issues dealing with diversity on campus to assure that we have an integrated and coordinated approach to making our campus reflect the diversity of the world in which we live.
The emphasis on critical thinking and character building is at the heart of the Potsdam promise. We monitor how we’re doing through many measures, including the National Survey on Student Engagement, which surveys both first-year and senior SUNY Potsdam students and compares the results with peer institutions across the region and the country. We are proud to say that SUNY Potsdam is head and shoulders above similar institutions in some very important categories in the recently-released 2011 report—with high percentages of freshmen reporting that they were highly engaged in classroom discussions, discussed ideas with others outside of class, and had serious conversations with students of other religious and/or political backgrounds. In addition, 84 percent of those students positively rated their relationships with faculty members (compared to 71 percent average for mid-East public institutions) and 71 percent positively rated their relationships with administrative personnel and offices (compared to the 55 percent average). Many thanks to our hard-working faculty and staff. These numbers just reinforce what we already know—you make the difference in the lives of our students.
From March 25 to March 28, the team from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education will visit campus as part of our 10-year reaccreditation process. First of all, I want to thank co-chair Jim German for his phenomenal effort at writing the narrative summary of our self-study findings. It was a job very well done. In addition, I also want to thank everyone who has worked so hard on the self study and all the details behind the campus visit, especially co-chair and Dean of Students Chip Morris. Please remember to keep March 26 and 27 clear for meetings with the visiting team. The members of the team will include Dr. William Ruud, President of Shippensburg University, PA (chair), Philip E. Ginnetti (Edinboro University), Jan E. Holly (Frederick Community College), John V. Moore, III (Temple University), Paul Mathews (Johns Hopkins University), Lisa R. Shibley (Millersville University), Raquel G. Vargas (University of Puerto Rico – Arecibo) and Linda Wagner (Gannon University).
Governor Andrew Cuomo recently presented his budget request. Due to last year’s historic NYSUNY 2020 legislation, the budget “holds the line” on outright budget cuts for SUNY. We are waiting to hear more details on his proposal to open up a competition for three $20 million challenge grants to the other 60 SUNY campuses, beyond the university centers. SUNY has established several legislative goals. The one of greatest interest to Potsdam is a restoration of 10 percent of the 2009 tuition increase, which the state absorbed to cover the deficit. There was an agreement that SUNY would recover half of the money, but so far, only 40 percent has been restored. If this is righted, SUNY Potsdam would stand to receive about $350,000. There are also requests concerning the state contribution to community colleges and for the benefits packages provided by the SUNY hospitals. Taken as a whole, our preliminary projection of the 2012-2013 budget shows stability and very slow growth, thanks largely to the increase in tuition approved by the Legislature last year. I will work closely with the members of the President’s Council as we refine our spending plan for next year. We anticipate that next year’s budget will not differ in any significant way from this year’s. The Vice Presidents will have a small amount of increased funding with which to address critical issues in their areas, while we also work to undo some of the temporary fixes we have used to get through the crisis.
In her State of the University Address, SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher called for the 64 campuses to embrace “systemness.” The shared services initiative with SUNY Canton has entered a new phase of concrete actions. We are at the point of selecting a new joint veterans advisor to be shared by the campuses. The search for a single CFO has entered the on-campus interview phase, with arrangements being made to invite three candidates to visit our two campuses over the next few weeks. Our Payroll and Purchasing offices have begun conversations, which have also included representatives from SUNY Plattsburgh, about the creation of a regional office to serve all three campuses in these areas. Provost Madden, CTS Director Andy Harradine and I have analyzed the recommendations made by the IT consultants from SUNY, and will begin conversations with the IT folks at SUNY Canton about how we might work together along the lines suggested in the report.
Through a generous fund established by Kathryn Kofoed ’54 and Donald Lougheed, The Lougheed-Kofoed Festival of the Arts will serve as an “umbrella” for the full range of the arts and provide financial support for an annual campus spring festival, to include theatre, dance, visual arts and creative writing. It will encompass all forms of artistic expression, with an emphasis on cross-disciplinary artistic experiences, and will offer lectures, programs, exhibits and performances that are free and open to the public. The 2012 festival will be held April 20 - 29 and will culminate with the annual Crane Chorus and Crane Symphony Orchestra performance.
The Associated Press reported this weekend that in 2006, the New York Police Department conducted web surveillance of Muslim Student Associations at universities across the Northeast, including the Potsdam group, which includes SUNY Potsdam and Clarkson University students.
SUNY Potsdam was not aware of this monitoring. Our University Police department was never consulted and the institution did not condone or assist with the NYPD investigation in any way.
We support appropriate steps to ensure public safety. However, unless more information comes to the public's knowledge, monitoring individuals or groups merely because of their religious beliefs or affiliation does not fall into our definition of appropriate steps to ensure public safety.
SUNY Potsdam respects and honors our students' rights to Constitutional freedoms. Our commitment to diversity and mutual trust is at the core of the College's academic mission. As the Potsdam Pledge says, we are an open community uncompromisingly protecting freedom of thought, belief and expression.