I want to take this opportunity to welcome everyone back to campus. I hope that the break was relaxing and refreshing, and that the semester has begun well for all of you. Now in the depths of winter we have much work to do in anticipation of a glorious spring and a challenging next academic year. Thank you all for your hard work in making SUNY Potsdam wonderful on so many different levels.
As I have noted throughout this academic year, the College is facing tremendous financial challenges and because of those challenges, difficult decisions must be made. As some of you may have heard, I have made the decision to suspend our Employment Relations program. This action was taken following consultation with Dean Pletcher, Provost Madden and the Administrative Cabinet. Effective immediately, no new students, either majors or minors, will be admitted into the program. We will continue to offer the courses needed to complete the program for the approximately 15 students who will remain after May 2009. I am deeply committed to the strength and integrity of our academic programs and will continue to do all that I can to maintain the stability of the core functions of the College. I will continue to communicate the College’s response to our financial challenges as frequently as possible.
On other budget fronts, I have spoken with every member of our legislative delegation, Senators Aubertine and Griffo, Assemblywomen Scozzafava and Russell, as well as Senator David Valesky. Senator Valesky is an alumnus of the College who is now the vice president pro tempore of the New York State Senate. I described to them the devastating effect that additional cuts would have on the quality of the educational experience that we provide to our students. Specifically, I have requested that they allow the SUNY colleges and university centers to spend the additional tuition that we have collected and prevent any further reductions in our base state support. I encourage each of you to contact your legislators with your own message. For further information about SUNY’s position on these and other issues see the following Web site: http://www.sunyadvocates.org/
This year, our Master’s Commencement speaker will be Dr. Michael D. Tebbano, superintendent of the Bethlehem Central School District in Delmar, NY. A 1975 Crane graduate, Dr. Tebbano has established a very successful career in public education. He is a native of Schenectady, and was very active in the Student Government Association during his years at Potsdam. He received his Master of Music Education degree from Potsdam in 1979 and his doctorate in education from Seton Hall University. After many years in the classroom, working in Rotterdam, Niskayuna, Voorheesville and Bethlehem, he became a school administrator, first supervising music education, then as a school principal, and now as superintendent.
Chuck Lorre, well-known television producer and writer, will be speaking at the Bachelor’s Commencement this year. Mr. Lorre attended SUNY Potsdam in the early 1970s, as Charles M. Levine, but left Potsdam to pursue a career as a musician in Los Angeles. After many years in music, he became a writer for Saturday morning cartoon shows and eventually a member of the production staff for various comedy television series. His breakthrough occurred when he was chosen as the executive producer of the Roseanne show. He has created, produced or written for other hit shows, including Grace Under Fire, Cybil, Dharma and Greg and most recently Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory. The State University of New York Board of Trustees has also approved the granting of a Doctorate of Humane Letters, honoris causa, to Mr. Lorre in recognition of his contributions to popular culture and entertainment.
On a final budget note, although our construction projects have been delayed by the state, requiring us to comply with even more levels of scrutiny than normal, we are proceeding in the planning phase of the Performing Arts Building. The steering committee has held its first meeting and received its charge. The planning process will begin in earnest with the approval of an architectural firm for the project. We are also pursuing several construction projects for the summer, using the funds specifically granted for critical maintenance of the campus infrastructure. We must remember that while we are having a difficult time due to reductions to our operating budget, the funds allocated for the construction projects can only be used for those projects. We cannot use them for the normal operations of the College.
I appreciate the feedback and suggestions I have received from so many of you about these and other issues and opportunities across the campus. I do sincerely hope that each of you has a successful and productive spring semester.