UUP Petition

UUP Petition

December 16, 2011

Members of the Campus Community:

Many students, faculty, and staff signed the “Petition for Educational Quality, Fairness & Equity at SUNY New Paltz” advocating for increased compensation for adjunct faculty and related matters.   Others are aware of this petition through media reports and communications from the New Paltz UUP Chapter.  I appreciate and value when members of the College make their thoughts about this and other matters known to me.  However, I believe petitions oversimplify institutional decisions, choices, and possible courses of action, and they typically provide little or no background and context.  The issues as presented in the petition do not fully explain the facts and figures around which such important institutional decisions are made.  I will attempt to provide that information here.

I respect the views and motivations of those who signed this petition.  I also value and respect the excellent contributions that adjunct faculty make to New Paltz and to our students, including those who bring special knowledge and experience of their employment or practice into the classroom.  Adjunct faculty teach about 30% of our courses. While this is a sizeable part of our course offerings, it is substantially less than national averages and will decrease even further when our budget-reduction plan is fully realized.  Nonetheless, courses taught by adjunct instructors will always be an important part of our offerings.

I will share some of my current thinking about this topic in the context of institutional needs and priorities, and will clarify several points of context missing from the petition as well as serious inaccuracies in the media coverage of this matter.  Although some may hold the view that the presentation of a petition necessitates immediate response and action, as I have stated and written elsewhere, I am taking this time early in my presidency to learn more about the College and to assess our most significant needs and directions, including those that will warrant investment of financial resources.  I have made and will continue making decisions and pursuing actions that have immediate impact on the College, while learning as much as I can to inform other decisions and actions that have long-term institutional consequences.   The subject of adjunct compensation fits into the latter category.
A December 5, 2011 regional newspaper article about adjunct faculty at New Paltz stated “The last time adjuncts got a raise was six years ago.”  That statement is patently false.  It has had the unfortunate consequence of misleading members of the broader community about New Paltz policies and practices for adjunct compensation.  I have been spending time this past week correcting those misimpressions.   We have also submitted a letter to the editor to correct these inaccuracies.

The administration has increased adjunct salaries at the same level as negotiated salary increases in the UUP collective bargaining agreement.  Such increases are voluntary local agreements, and are not mandated as part of the statewide-negotiated UUP contract.  These included increases of 3% in 2006-07, 3% in 2008-09, 3% in 2009-10, and 4% in 2010-11.  In other years (including the current year), adjunct salaries did not increase because UUP contract negotiations were ongoing.  Once the contract was ratified in 2008, adjuncts received the 3% increase for 2007-08 (delayed), along with the 3% increase for 2008-09 and a prorated per course increase that resulted in an effective increase of more than 10%..  As a result, the per credit base rate for adjuncts has increased from $822 in 2005-06 to $1,000.44 in 2010-11, an increase of more than 21% during this time period.  The College intends to continue past practice of granting adjuncts the same increases afforded to full-time faculty in their negotiated contract, even though the College is not required to do so. In addition, adjunct faculty are eligible for discretionary salary increases, based on documented quality of teaching and related contributions.  At least in the past three years, virtually every adjunct faculty member whose request for a discretionary salary increase was supported by their department chair and dean has been awarded such an increase by the provost and president.  These salary increases are carried over into the per-credit compensation rate applied in the following year(s) for adjuncts who are rehired.  As a result, some New Paltz adjuncts earn per credit rates as high as $1,068, the equivalent of over $3,200 per 3-credit course.   To the degree that funding for discretionary salary increases is available, we are committed to recognizing and rewarding high-quality contributions by adjunct faculty.

Some will argue that even with these increases the compensation for adjuncts is too low.  The same newspaper article cited above stated that SUNY New Paltz adjuncts “work for peanuts.”  That statement implies that adjunct compensation at New Paltz is unsystematically low, but a few comparisons provide little basis in reality for that view.   A December 1 Chronicle of Higher Education article quoted AAUP statistics that adjuncts nationwide earn $2,700 per course, compared to $3,000 (or higher) at New Paltz.   One nearby private college, with tuition rates an order of magnitude higher than at New Paltz, has a base compensation rate for adjuncts of $2,500 per course.  Adjuncts teaching at all nearby community colleges are compensated at lower rates than at New Paltz, although adjuncts with 7 or more semesters of teaching experience at one community college are compensated at a rate only slightly less than the current starting rate at New Paltz. New Paltz compensates adjuncts teaching science laboratory courses at rates 40-50% higher than at the community colleges.

The above-cited Chronicle of Higher Education article noted also that typical adjunct faculty nationwide work “without benefits.”  In addition to being compensated at higher rates than most national and regional standards, adjunct faculty at New Paltz who teach two or more courses qualify for health insurance benefits, during their first and subsequent semesters teaching at that level.  The state pays 90% of the costs of the premium for employee coverage and 75% of the premium for dependent coverage.  During the current year, state contributions are about $245 for the individual plan and just over $500 for the family plan per biweekly payroll – a large investment of state funding in the compensation package of New Paltz adjunct faculty.

By comparison, adjunct faculty at one nearby private college qualify for health insurance benefits only if employed half time or more; at another, no benefits are available.  Adjuncts at two regional community colleges become eligible for health insurance benefits after one year (at one) or four consecutive semesters (at the other), but the employee pays the full cost of the benefits with no institutional or state subsidy.   At another community college, benefits are not available to adjuncts working less than full time.

Given the costs of health care and of health insurance coverage if purchased independently, the more ready availability of health insurance coverage for adjuncts at New Paltz and the employer subsidy of that coverage must be regarded as a significant part of adjunct compensation.

Thus, considering both salary rates and the availability and employer subsidy of health insurance coverage, employment as an adjunct faculty member at New Paltz offers distinctive compensation advantage over similar opportunities at most other higher educational institutions in the region (exceptions are nearby private colleges where tuition rates are easily 8-10 times higher than at New Paltz).  There is no basis in fact for media and other suggestions that compensation for adjuncts at New Paltz is comparatively low – indeed, there is considerable evidence pointing to precisely the opposite conclusion.

My administrative colleagues and I inform our decision making and planning by routinely using baseline and comparative data of all sorts.  The compensation adjuncts receive at other institutions is highly relevant to our decision making.  We would be irresponsible in our use of tuition and taxpayer support if we were to ignore national and regional comparisons and contexts, especially in this difficult and uncertain budgetary climate.

If there is an argument that adjunct compensation is inadequate, its target should be regional, statewide, and national and not specific to New Paltz.  The faculty union’s advocacy for adjunct faculty salaries should be channeled through its statewide contract negotiations, which are conducted through the Governor’s office and not by individual campuses.

As the College continues to move ahead in enhancing academic quality and opportunity for students, it is essential that we invest resources in those initiatives and programs that most clearly advance our goals and our vision points.  Such decisions must be based on careful planning and evaluation of evidence, and consideration of the multiple consequences of each decision.  A decision to increase compensation for adjuncts would necessarily result in direct or indirect consequences of decreased funding for some other program or function, as well as affecting opportunity to increase support for other programs or functions (including our ability to hire more full-time tenure-track faculty and lecturers). Thus, such a decision cannot be made in isolation of other considerations.  Trade-offs are the coin of the realm in the decisions that institutional leaders make, especially in a constrained and uncertain budgetary climate.  Such complexities are virtually never captured in petition language.  The evidence I have presented here does not provide an immediate and compelling basis for increasing adjunct compensation at New Paltz, relative to other ways that we might direct our financial resources.

The administration is committed to continuing our participation in regular part-time labor management meetings, where we discuss with union leaders various concerns of adjunct and other contingent faculty, and consider and adopt approaches to address those concerns where that is feasible and consistent with sustaining and enhancing our core educational mission.

Sincerely,
Donald P. Christian
President

New Paltz notified of its reaccreditation!

New Paltz notified of its reaccreditation!

July 1, 2011

Dear Members of the New Paltz Campus Community:

I want to share the GREAT news that SUNY New Paltz has been reaccredited!  This action was taken formally by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education at its meeting on June 23.   Congratulations to everyone who worked so hard on the self-study and site-visit process, and – more fundamentally – to every member of the College for your work and accomplishments that resulted in such a positive assessment of our institution and its quality.

The formal language of the Commission’s resolution approved on June 23 is “To reaffirm accreditation and to commend the institution for the quality of its self-study process.”  Several weeks ago, the Commission’s “Committee on Evaluation Reports” met to review our self-study, the evaluation team report, and the evaluation team chair’s confidential brief to the Commission.  Shippensburg University President William Ruud, chair of our site-visit team, informed me after that meeting that the Committee’s recommendation to the full Commission would be that we have met each of the 14 standards and should be reaccredited.  Dr. Ruud also told me that, of the several institutions whose reports were reviewed at the committee meeting, New Paltz “stood out” in all respects.

Now that the Commission has acted, we are able to make public the final action of the Commission as well as the report of the evaluation team; both are posted here.  The evaluation team report is worth reading in detail, both because it highlights many of our strengths and contributions and also because the suggestions of the reviewers provide a “road map” for many key directions on which to focus our  energy and attention in the coming years.  Indeed, the Commission strongly encourages that the evaluation team report be used “to stimulate further thought within the institution.”

As we shared earlier this spring, the evaluation team report included what should be regarded as an unprecedented five “commendations” – significant accomplishments worth highlighting for special attention.  We can now share the language of these more fully. These read: “The Evaluation Team commends…”

“the institution and its senior leadership for an honest and transparent communication about the current budget challenges.”

“the institution for the culture of assessment that it has cultivated to date among faculty and staff who, in large part, value the role of assessment to support evidence-based decision-making and improve programs and services.”

“the institution for progressively higher retention and graduation rates that places the institution at higher-than-national-average levels, both overall and for students from underrepresented groups.  The Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) has a significant positive impact on retention and graduation rates of economically disadvantaged students, and we commend the program for its evidence of structural changes and expansion based on assessment results.”

“the institution for its outstanding commitment to student success by faculty and staff and evidence of structural changes and expansion of student support services based on assessment results.”

“the leadership and staff of the Dorsky Museum for its sound planning and evaluative practices, resourcefulness, and outreach to the campus and regional community to make art relevant in many forms and for many purposes.”

The Commission affirmed the one recommendation of the evaluation team.  A “recommendation” is a finding that “institutional action is needed for the institution to continue to meet the Commission’s standards in Characteristics of Excellence in Higher Education.”  Dr.  Ruud informed me that the new practice of the Commission is to require a progress report on every recommendation.  Consequently, we must provide a progress report by April 1, 2013 documenting:

(1)    Further implementation of a comprehensive, organized and sustained process for the assessment of institutional effectiveness, including evidence that assessment has been implemented in all administrative units (Standard 7), and

(2)    Further implementation of a comprehensive, organized and sustained process for the assessment of student learning outcomes, including evidence that all course syllabi include identified student learning outcomes, that assessment has been implemented in all academic units, and that assessment results are used to improve teaching and learning (Standards 11 and 14).

Thus, although we were commended for having built a “culture of assessment,” we have more work to do, and will need to document progress in these areas.  The evaluation team report and our self-study provide more insight and detail on some of the changes that we need to undertake.  This will be a significant part of our work during the next year and a half and will inform the progress report.  We subsequently will need to produce the regular “Periodic Review Report” due on June 1, 2016 (half-way to our next full accreditation review in 2021!).

We will take up action on this and the many suggestions raised both in our self-study and in the evaluation team report at the start of the coming year.  But for the present we have much cause for celebration about our reaccreditation and the overwhelmingly positive assessment that the accreditation review process has given us.

Sincerely,

Donald P. Christian
President

A message from President Donald P. Christian

A message from President Donald P. Christian

June 15, 2011

Dear Colleagues:

By now you have likely read or heard the news that yesterday I was appointed the eighth President of SUNY New Paltz, starting today.  It was 50 weeks ago that I was confirmed as interim president, a role that I took on with every intention of supporting the presidential search this past year and of returning to the Provost position when a new president joined us.  I never would have imagined at the time that the new president would be me, or that I could be so excited about this opportunity to lead such a special institution.  I recognize and respect the legacies of previous Presidents who have set us on such a positive course, and am honored to follow them.  I appreciate and am humbled by the confidence placed in me by so many people on and off the New Paltz campus, and am grateful for the many messages of support I have received since yesterday’s announcement.  I look forward to continuing to work with all of you to advance our institution and the many exceptional contributions that we make to our students and to New York.

There is much to be done in the coming weeks. In addition to the regular work of the President’s office (no sign yet of a summer slack!), we are working hard to identify an interim provost to serve during the current year after Laurel Garrick Duhaney returns at the end of June to her previous position.  My goal is for the interim provost to join us as early as possible in July.   Many of you are aware that Sandy Hess, long-time secretary to several presidents, is retiring and we are in the process of identifying and hiring a successor.  I will ask your patience in advance with these transitions in Academic Affairs and in the President’s office, especially since these offices work together so closely on many matters.

At a personal level, this summer my wife Sandy and I will move into the President’s house, a requirement of the position.  Also during July, I will attend the AASCU “Summer Council of Presidents” in Seattle, an important networking and professional development conference, and we may schedule an event while there to meet with some of our many alumni in the Northwest.  We will try to couple a short vacation with that trip.  After a few days back in the office, I will travel to the Midwest to take part in the AASCU “New President’s Academy,” a 5-day intensive professional development program that many sitting presidents and others have strongly urged me to attend as an important foundation for beginning a presidency.  Key topics include essential skills for new presidents, organization/team building, facilities and financial management, communication, development and fund-raising, and external relations.  These efforts will occupy much of July.

I have received the sage advice to regard the coming year as the first year of my presidency, and not the second year because of my service as interim president.  My year as interim gives me a good head start on knowing the campus and the duties of President, and, as summarized in my letter of application for the presidency, I have many thoughts about an institutional vision and future direction.  But it is important that I take time, as any new president would, to continue getting to know the campus and your collective concerns and aspirations that need to be considered in charting our course. While I am eager to see us continue advancing as an institution, such “stock-taking” is an essential precursor of action.

The recent Middle States self-study report included many suggestions and areas of possible improvement and innovation identified by the community during the self-study process.  These and suggestions made by the reviewers in their report provide a rich “road map” that needs to be core to our thinking about the future.  Our budget decisions this past spring necessitate early discussion and action on issues such as faculty workload, performance evaluation standards, and curricular organization. The above ideas provide a starting point for some parts of our agenda for the coming year.

Several other agenda items warrant specific comment.  I believe it goes without saying that a top priority for the coming year will be a successful national search for a new Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs.  Another unquestionable agenda item is to continue our work on a first-ever comprehensive fund-raising campaign focused on our greatest strategic needs.  This effort has been in the planning stages, and will take perhaps two more years of “quiet” work before a visible campaign is launched.  Today’s meeting of the Foundation Board in NYC will include an update on the progress we have been making on the campaign case statement.  As I have written before, it is perhaps unavoidable that I focus more effort internally during the coming year in support of an Interim Provost than any of us might wish, but I am committed to simultaneously advancing our external goals, of which fund-raising and development are central.

The Middle States self-study process, the reviewers’ report, and my letter of application discuss the need and desirability for us to undertake a careful planning process that will guide and prioritize future directions and our day-to-day work.  As I have written, rather than beginning with a blank slate, such a process needs to build on our vision points, refining our understanding of them and “operationalizing” them in every unit; we must also consider articulation of campus goals with those of The Power of SUNY system plan.  While such planning will be consultative and collaborative, a good strategic plan cannot be a consensus plan.  I will be giving thought to the right time to undertake such planning, the right structure and process, and the merits of working with an outside consultant on this process.

We will take up conversations about these and other topics at the start of the fall semester.

Again, I am honored and excited to lead such a great institution, and look forward to your support, engagement, and contributions as we work together to continue building SUNY New Paltz as the best public, liberal-arts-based comprehensive college in the Northeast.  We have much exciting and fun work to do, and many great opportunities that will require our collective focus, attention, creativity, and energy.

Sincerely,

Donald P. Christian
President

Presidential search committee solicits additional applicants

Presidential search committee solicits additional applicants

» For more information visit the Presidential Search Web site

To Campus Community:

The search committee is continuing the search and is seeking new applications for a short period of time to attract additional candidates. We will meet in a few weeks to review and consider applications received and to determine our subsequent course of action.

Kenneth J. Abt
Chairperson, New Paltz Presidential Search Committee
Chairperson, New Paltz College Council

Invitation to Hear Preliminary Report of Middle States Team

Invitation to Hear Preliminary Report of Middle States Team

Date: April 13
Time: 9:30 a.m. SHARP – 10:15 p.m.
Location: LC 100

Dear Colleagues and Students:

Dr. William Ruud, chairperson of the Middle States site team, which has been on campus since Sunday evening to conduct our Middle States 10-year reaccreditation review, will wrap up its work tomorrow and would like to invite all members of the campus community to a closed meeting for faculty, staff, and students where the team will share its preliminary report.

We encourage you to attend this important meeting for our campus community. The meeting will begin promptly at 9:30 a.m. and conclude at 10:15 a.m. in Lecture Center 100. We ask that if you plan to participate, that you be seated by 9:30 a.m. This meeting is NOT open to members of the wider New Paltz community or external press, at Dr. Ruud’s request.

We hope to see you there.

Dr. Linda Greenow and Dr. Laurel M. Garrick Duhaney
Co-Chairs of the Middle States Reaccreditation Steering Committee

Upcoming Middlestates Review

Upcoming Middlestates Review

April 1, 2011

Colleagues and Students:

In preparation for our upcoming Middle States review, which begins Sunday, April 10, and continues through Wednesday, April 13, our home page has been featuring our Mission & eight Vision Points. We want to remind everyone that the Middle States site team is coming to the New Paltz campus to review our self-study and meet with colleagues from across the campus. To help with the team’s visit, the Office of Communication & Marketing is re-launching some of the recent home page features that are directly addressed in our self-study. These home page features also serve as a reminder to our campus community about some of New Paltz’s highlights from the past year. Please use these features as a tool to help inform your discussion and understanding of New Paltz’s success with the Middle States site team.

Sincerely,
Suzanne Grady
Director of the Office of Communication & Marketing

Hinchey to speak out against proposed cuts to Pell Grants for over 2,000 SUNY New Paltz students

Hinchey to speak out against proposed cuts to Pell Grants for over 2,000 SUNY New Paltz students

Tuesday, March 29, 2011
11:00 a.m.
Entrance of SUB Multi-Purpose Room (MPR)

On Tuesday March 29, 2011, Congressman Maurice Hinchey will speak out against a House Republican plan to cut the Pell Grant federal college aid program that would affect over 2,000 SUNY New Paltz students. The press conference will occur at 11:00 a.m. in front of the Multi-Purpose Room in the Student Union Building.

“The proposed Congressional cuts to the Pell Grant Program would be devasting to lower and middle income families. About 600  of our neediest students would see their awards cut by $845. Another 300 students would be dis-enfranchised totally from the program. Over-all, New Paltz students  would lose about 1.5 million dollars in basic grant assistance that would surely force some to re-consider their higher education plans or forgo them altogether.  Pell has been the basic Federal Grant  providing access to higher education since about 1973,” stated Daniel Sistarenik, Director of Financial Aid Department.

 

Budget Update

Budget Update

March 18, 2011

» Budget Criteria 2010-11 *
» Budget Process 2010-11 *
» Ground Rules & Constraints 2010-11 *

Colleagues:

In the spirit of previous communications, we write to provide an update on the latest news from Albany and implications for our budget shortfall, including insights gained during a SUNY Presidents’ conference call with the Chancellor earlier this week. The NYS Senate and Assembly passed their separate budget resolutions; these now go to conference as the next step towards a state budget. Both bills restore a portion of the SUNY teaching hospital subsidies (a source of deep concern for the overall SUNY budget) and about one-half of the governor’s proposed cut to community colleges. Neither bill restores any funding for our state-operated campuses (such as New Paltz) or includes a tuition increase (the Senate bill would allow the Trustees to increase out-of-state tuition, but this has minimal implications for our revenue). Both bills include (with different terms) support for procurement relief, and there is some legislative support for actions that would avoid tuition “sweeps” in the future. But it is unclear whether any or all of these provisions will end up in the final budget, which must be approved by both the Legislative and Executive branches of state government.

We will continue our advocacy for a rational tuition policy and other gains for SUNY system, at the same time we recognize some of the political realities and the harsh economic context for this year’s budget process. For example, some of the strongest legislative supporters for tuition relief have signaled “no increase this year,” consistent with the Governor’s proposal. Some legislative officials have reacted more to our messages about budgetary impacts on employment and the regional economy than those about educational impacts. Alumni responses to our calls for advocacy and support have been more muted than in 2009; some who have lost jobs or experienced other consequences of a down economy have responded unsympathetically that SUNY should expect to do its part to cut back in a difficult economic environment.

The bottom line is that, although the final state budget may be weeks away and the outcome uncertain, the legislative resolutions and the state’s fiscal and political realities are not encouraging and it is doubtful we will see significant (if any) budgetary relief. Our commitment to the fiscal health of the College means that we must continue planning to reduce the College’s base budget by $6.3 million, and begin implementing this plan on July 1 of this year. This reduction follows on the heels of a $6 million reduction beginning in 2008-09, and it is almost certain that our fiscal challenge will continue into the foreseeable future.

Cabinet and the Wonk group, including deans, continue to develop a budget-reduction plan drawing on ideas put forward by the College community. Some elements of the plan are solidified (savings from early retirements and other vacancies, reduced allocation for energy, many efficiencies gained from consolidating and reorganizing services), while others are still under exploration and development. The ideas being considered are complex and diverse, and avoid simplistic one-size-fits-all solutions.

Throughout this difficult time, we admire your hard work and unwavering commitment to the College and our students; the positive spirit that we see every day will be essential as we adjust to managing with a severely reduced budget. Two additional key points need to be recognized: cumulative cuts of the magnitude we face demand that we make significant changes in the ways we conduct our collective work; and, sustaining our quality and continuing to enhance our reputation are in significant ways under our collective control, despite budgetary constraints.

Our challenge as a community is to continue serious efforts to “re-think New Paltz” and the paradigms under which we work. We must engage in the conversations to define and develop these paradigms. And we must identify the essential support and approaches to assist faculty and staff in adapting to new ways of doing our work. These changes will result in our being a different institution, and doing things differently than we have. We cannot thrive in this economic climate otherwise.

We know that these are anxious and uncertain times for the entire New Paltz community, and we will continue our efforts to inform you of budget developments at state, SUNY, and campus levels. We appreciate your patience with this process. The need remains critical for us to work together as a community to finalize and implement a reduced spending plan while maintaining the highest-quality educational experience possible for our students.

Sincerely,

Donald P. Christian, Interim President
Jacqueline DiStefano, Vice President for Administration and Finance