Stenger addresses full facultyTweet
Excitement about the changes to Commencement was on President Harvey Stenger’s mind at his semi-annual address to the full faculty Tuesday.
“I found out that over 260 faculty are coming to Commencement ceremonies in May and over 2,000 students have signed up,” he said. “The ceremonies will be completely different and very school-based and dean-directed. Thank you for signing up to attend on that day.”
Stenger mentioned the many activities and the support that is being coordinated by the divisions of administration and student affairs to help relieve student stress during the last few weeks of the semester — things like free comfort food in lots of locations, snacks, coffee and fresh fruit, therapy dogs and many other activities.
He also referenced the success of the second annual Binghamton Research Days, which was well attended by students who were recognized for their research successes and participated in the poster sessions. “It’s a great tradition we’re starting,” he said.
Stenger noted that the University’s incoming freshman class is on target to meet our goal to increase graduate students by 100 and undergraduate students by 400, and that we are adding faculty at a faster percentage rate. The transition of bringing on new hires as student enrollment grows may be hard, he said, “but if you can think yourselves three years down the road, the student-to-faculty ratio will actually decrease.
“One outcome of faculty growth is the increase in faculty time to do research and the expansion of research programs across campus, but also that we will have 150 new minds, people and perspectives on campus and will see that reflected in smaller class sizes, and in the diversity and number of courses that will be offered.”
Turning to funding, Stenger told the faculty what’s happening in Albany concerning budget issues. A new allocation model that would have increased Binghamton University’s funding based on an increase in student credit hours will not be implemented due to pressure from campuses that would have seen a decrease in funding.
“We never counted on it or assumed it was going to happen,” Stenger said. “We’re disappointed but we’re OK and the chancellor is taking it back to committee to come up with an allocation model that supports funds going to where they should.”
Stenger added that if every campus is required to cover a portion of the $120 million annual loss the SUNY Downstate Medical Center is experiencing due to its hospital, Binghamton’s portion would be $4 million of the $44 million it receives from the state. Those cuts would likely be seen in the 2015-16 year, he said, “so over the next two years, we will have to work very diligently to help them get out of that deficit situation.”
Stenger also updated faculty on the Road Map strategic plan. “The process is just as important as the outcome,” he said. “We built the process collaboratively and the outcome is a positive sense that we’re all included.”
He highlighted three initiatives that are moving forward:
• The enhanced Center for Learning and Teaching, with Distinguished Teaching Professor James Pitarresi appointed to lead it. “We put him in the Continuing Education and Outreach offices and will add staff because underneath this will be managing not just how we teach but some of the strategies we use for teaching and summer/winter sessions.”
• Strengthening the University’s PhD programs. “They must be the best possible and we’ve allocated significant resources there, some from normal operating funds. We’re also expecting that our graduate student population will be generating new income that will be utilized to expand, as well as the provost’s Doctoral Research Fellowship program,” Stenger said. “It’s a shared responsibility. We want the departments to recruit great students and provide a great experience and we want to find them great placements after graduation. This isn’t just measured on research dollars and papers, but where do they go will be an important metric in the future.”
• Establishment of a Global Center. With 2,500 international students on campus, “we have a closet for ISSS now,” Stenger said. “We will have a physical location and hire more staff to manage that population. In basic terms, we will be finishing O’Connor and Johnson halls for geography and ITS, and the Computing Center will be reallocated and the Global Center will be located there.” The move should be complete in about 18 months, Stenger said.
The Road Map has to be looked at in two pieces, Stenger said. Operational excellence and academic excellence must run in parallel, and the parallel part of this is the faculty that will be hired over the next four years. The transdisciplinary areas of excellence will be the focal point of the majority of the hiring, Stenger said, but not the sole focus and the University will continue to make replacement hires. Almost every discipline can see some part of the five TAEs. Each TAE will have a steering committee to oversee hiring and focus. The committees have been formed and have started to meet. “We will have in three years the next level of this conversation and we should prepare for it,” Stenger said. “And that’s how do we become interdisciplinary within the TAEs? That’s exciting.”
Stenger concluded his remarks with his thoughts about the possible reorganization of divisions on campus. The recent announcement that Vice President for External Affairs Marcia Craner is stepping down opens up possibilities, he said. “We’re not going to start a search now. I have to think about how we’re organized first and analyze how we’re organized division wise. It’s an evolution and we’ll investigate the possibilities of reorganizing the divisions of the University for the first couple months of the summer. We’ll make sure we have the right people in the right places and will meet with lots of people to talk about it.”
Following the president’s remarks, the Faculty Senate met for the first time this semester. No actions were taken, but several reports were given.
Peter Knuepfer, associate professor of geological sciences and environmental studies, reported on the University Faculty Senate discussions about transfer requirements and distance education, and noted that the University Faculty Senate approved a Chancellor’s Award for Adjunct Teaching.
Randall McGuire, distinguished professor of anthropology and chair of the ad hoc Scholarly Best Practices Committee, reported on the committee’s work. The committee was charged last fall with looking at the use of digital media and how to evaluate its use for promotion and tenure guidelines and reported to the Faculty Senate Executive Committee in November. “Our report basically asks departments to develop guidelines about digital media and for candidates to communicate to departments what their research is and what their use of digital media is,” said McGuire. The committee has submitted its report to the provost for consideration and will work with the All University Personnel Committee to modify guidelines as necessary. The complete report will be made available to all faculty within the next two weeks.
Dov Berkman, the student representative to Binghamton University Council, spoke about efforts to organize a student-veterans’ group on campus. He asked for faculty to become involved in academic and non-academic activities in support of student veterans as the newly formed student-veterans group moves forward.