FROM THE POUCH
Volume 1, Issue 12 – January 29, 2015
Were Your Holidays Good?
I hope everyone had a great holiday break. I mostly stayed around Canton and did family stuff. I also tried to make a dent in all the boxes that we moved up in November from my house in Georgia. Unfortunately, in doing so, I managed to harm the rotator cuff on my right shoulder. At first, the doctor thought I’d torn it, but it now looks like it was only tendonitis. After a few steroid pills and some rest, it’s now as good as new. When it was hurting, though, I could hardly lift my right hand at all. It’s funny how you take things for granted until they’re gone—you really don’t think about how important the shoulder is, but when you can’t use it, you find out! Shaving, getting dressed, and almost everything depend on it.
Now that we’re back in session, I want to remind you that the faculty will be filling in an early engagement report on all students at the end of the third week of classes. They will be evaluating if you’ve been coming to class, if you’ve been participating, and if you’ve been doing well on any assignments so far (homework, quizzes, etc.). Remember, a good start leads to a strong finish, so you’ll want to make sure you’re attending your classes and doing everything you’re supposed to. If you’re having any trouble, be sure to see your professor, an advisor, or a tutor right away—don’t wait until the problem becomes a big one. You can even come by my office (6th floor on the FOB) if you want to talk.
If You Get Financial Aid, You’ll Want to Read This
Perkins Student Loans have been an important part of student financial aid for 57 years. Unless Congress acts quickly, the student loan program will expire, and it will be much harder for students to finance their educations. Perkins loans are really useful to students because they don’t have to be paid back until 9 months after leaving school. You don’t need a credit history to qualify for them, and the loans can be forgiven under certain circumstances. About 500,000 students benefit from Perkins loans every year. At SUNY Canton, 450 students get Perkins loans, to the tune of $450,000 each year. Please watch the video below, and if you agree with it, sign the “Save Perkins Now” petition at www.change.org. Share the video with your friends—this is something we want to go viral.
I’ve been on the road a lot lately, representing the College at various conferences and events. Two weeks ago, I was in Washington DC for the NCAA national meeting. As many of you may be aware, SUNY Canton is in its final probationary year with respect to joining the NCAA’s Division 3. The NCAA is, of course, the largest of the university athletic organizations. Normally, the probationary period lasts four years, but our athletic director, staff, and program are so strong, the NCAA waived one of the years.
I drove down to Watertown and took USAir from there down to Philadelphia, and after a short layover, took the short connecting flight down to Reagan International Airport in DC. The conference was held at the Gaylord National Harbor Resort, so that’s where I stayed. The resort is quite nice—huge meeting rooms that can easily handle a convention of 5,000 people, big restaurants, and good-sized rooms.
The conference started the next morning and I was at various sessions (some of them designed for new presidents) all day. About 3500 people were in attendance from all over the country.
As I was walking to my first session, I promptly ran into Courtney Bish and Liz Erickson from SUNY Canton, who were going to their areas’ meetings. I walked in to hear the keynote address and one of the first people I ran into was one of the delegates from Saint Lawrence University—small world! I thought I knew almost no one at the conference (other than our own folks), but a little later in the day, one of the afternoon sessions was moderated by Lori Runksmeier, the Athletic Director of New England College, where I was Vice President for Academic Affairs from 1999 to 2005. It was nice to see her again and to catch up on some old friends. After all the meetings, there was a reception at 6:00 PM where I caught up with our own Randy Sieminski and John Vandevere.
Friday, breakfast was served in the foyers between 7:00 and 8:00 AM, and the sessions began immediately after. There was a lunch for Division 3 presidents, more meetings, and then a reception for presidents, where I ran into a big bunch of people I knew who had worked in Georgia while I was there. After the reception, I attended the Honors Dinner, where 10 athletes from this year and 10 athletes from 25 years ago were honored. Their stories were all quite remarkable in terms of challenges overcome, as well as their academic and athletic achievements.
Saturday began with breakfast between 7:00 and 8:00 AM, followed by the main business session for Division 3, where fifteen different proposals were considered and debated. The most controversial was one to allow D3 colleges to play football in the spring, which narrowly was defeated. After voting on all the proposals was finished, a motion to reconsider the spring football decision was introduced, and went down to an even narrower defeat. There was a small closing reception after the business session, and the conference was over.
I wasn’t flying back until Sunday morning, so I spent the afternoon walking around the National Harbor area. Until 1984, the area had been Salubria Plantation, built in 1827. The plantation house burned down in 1981, and the area has been redeveloped into apartments, upscale restaurants, and a wharf area that includes the Capital Wheel, a metal sculpture (called “The Awakening”) of a giant, half buried underground, and a store that sells nothing but Peeps (the marshmallow candy).
I left DC at 8:30 on Sunday morning, in a light rain. When the plane landed in Philadelphia, the rain was heavier and I heard later that there had been a multi-car pileup that morning due to ice on the highways. The flight to Watertown was a little late taking off due to the weather and quite bumpy, but the weather was good when we landed. Strangely enough, it was warmer in Canton than it was in Washington—the temperature got into the 40’s and much of the snow had melted.
Something that a lot of people don’t know is that student athletes, on average, have higher grade point averages and higher graduation rates than non-athletes. While this surprises some folks, it makes a lot of sense, since the work ethic and time management skills needed to be a successful athlete are also skills that are quite applicable to being successful academically. We have a great group of athletes and coaches at SUNY Canton, and the NCAA will be enriched by our joining.
I spent most of last week in Albany, NY, because we’re now in the middle of budget time for both the State and the State University of New York. I left Canton at 5:00 AM last Wednesday to drive to Albany. The temperature was -7 when I left and as I drove through the Adirondacks it only got colder, reaching a low of -18 along the way. After Long Lake, the temperature started up again as the sun came up, and by the time I reached I-87, it had gone into positive territory.
I got to Albany at about 9:00 AM, drove downtown to Empire Plaza, and started looking for a parking spot, since I had an appointment to meet one of our legislative colleagues, Assemblymember Deborah Glick (Chair of the Higher Education Committee) at 10:15 AM. Normally, it’s not too tough to find a parking spot there, but later that day, Governor Andrew Cuomo was giving his budget address, titled “New York State of Opportunity”. Thus, there were a lot more people there than normal including a lot of press and the parking was scarce. I circled the area a few times and finally found a spot a few blocks away at a meter. The meter only took quarters and dollar coins, but fortunately, I had a dollar coin and a few quarters, which bought me about an hour and a half. I got to my meeting at 9:30 and Assemblymember Glick was able to see me early. She had visited SUNY Canton in the past and was very familiar with our programs. After a very pleasant and informative meeting, I got back to the car just before the meter ran out.
I checked into the hotel and walked back to Empire Plaza (about a 15 minute walk) to go to the Governor’s speech. The speech was at 1:30 PM, but I had to check in and get my credentials and then go through security, and I wasn’t sure how long that would take. I went into the underground corridor that goes into the Convention Center and joined the line of other people waiting to have their credentials checked. After about 15 minutes, the line started moving and we were let in. Things went pretty quickly, because they had a large room to get the credentials, with different lines for last names beginning with A-C, D-F, and so on. They quickly found my name, I got my “green” tag (which allowed me a special seat—not general admission), and went into another room (staffed by about a dozen people) to check my coat.
After that, I had to go through security. I took off my coat, emptied my pockets, put them in a bin, and went through the metal detector, which was quiet, but buzzed about five seconds later. They sent me back and I walked through again, and exactly the same thing happened. It turned out that the guy scanning the bins was causing the buzz—he had noticed a London policeman’s whistle on my keychain (which I picked up way back in 1991, when I first went to London, and has been on my keychain ever since). He told me he had to confiscate it. When I asked why, he said “because you could use it to create a nuisance”. He apologized, but said he had to take it and I wouldn’t be able to get it back.
I went into the main arena and asked the ushers where I should sit, pointing out I had a “green” tag. They took me to the general admission seats on the far right side. I thought that was wrong, but then spotted Dr. William Murabito, SUNY Morrisville’s President, and sat next to him. After about 15 minutes, we were told we were in the wrong section and directed to one a little closer to the center. I knew that was the right place, because the seats had the names of the person who should be sitting there taped to them, and I promptly found my name (right next to Dr. Murabito’s seat!).
People slowly filled in, and everything but the center section of the arena was filled by 1:25 PM. During the wait, I had a chance to talk to President Kristine Duffy (SUNY Adirondack) about some areas our two colleges might work together on.
The Governor’s speech itself lasted about 90 minutes and noted many successes over the past year, which put New York in its best shape in 20 years. It had both serious and funny moments, laying out the Governor’s main priorities and how they would be realized.
You can read or listen to the entire speech (and see the PowerPoint he presented) by clicking here.
Some of the major points in the speech were:
- The State will maintain its fiscal discipline (spending increases of less than 2%).
- Small business taxes will be cut from 6.5% to 2%, and property taxes by $1.7 billion for middle-class homeowners. Tax relief would also be extended to renters.
- Steps are being taken to make SUNY and CUNY colleges engines for job growth. Additional funding ($50M) will be provided for SUNY 2020 and CUNY 2020. A venture fund of $100M will be created to help entrepreneurs in New York.
- Reforms need to be made in the Community Colleges to make them “training centers” and linking them to employers in the various regions of the State.
- Upstate New York economic development was emphasized. $65M will be invested in railway and port hubs (including Ogdensburg). $50M will be invested to modernize the State Fair. More land will be bought for Fort Drum, and Rte. 26 will be improved. Tourism will continue to be emphasized.
- The minimum wage should be raised to $10.50 ($11.50 in New York City). The procurement goal for minority-owned businesses and women-owned businesses will be raised to 30%.
- The State’s P-12 education system needs dramatic reform. The Governor proposed that tenure will only be granted after five years of effective performance. Highly effective teachers will get a $20,000 bonus. Ineffective teachers will be helped to improve, but school districts will be able to remove teachers after two “ineffective” ratings.
- If a school fails for three years (there are 178 failing schools in NY), it will be taken over by another school district, a not-for-profit, or a turn-around expert. 100 more charter schools will be added to the state cap. $365M will be added for Pre-K funding, and $25M to fund a pilot to extend it to three year olds.
- The current state formula has P-12 funding going up 1.7% ($377 million). If the education reforms are adopted, funding will be increased 4.8% ($1.1 billion).
- 16- and 17-year olds will no longer be sent to adult prisons—a separate set of facilities will be developed for them.
- The criminal justice system needs to be more color-blind. A statewide reconciliation committee will be set up between police and community. More minorities will be recruited onto police. Race and ethnic data will be collected on police actions. Replacement vests and body cameras will be provided to keep police safer. An independent monitor will be created for any case when a civilian dies in a police action and no true bill is issued by a grand jury. The monitor can recommend a special prosecutor.
- Implement “Yes Means Yes” sexual violence policy like SUNY’s in private colleges.
- Increase the homeless budget by $403M.
- Since P-12 education would be getting considerably more (assuming the reforms the Governor recommended are implemented) and since the State’s share for Medicaid would rise by 3.6%, all other areas are essentially flat funded.
After the speech, I walked over to Lark Street, where my favorite Indian restaurant (the Jewel of India) is located, and had my first meal of the day—I hadn’t had a chance to eat earlier.
On Thursday, SUNY Canton’s Executive Director for University Relations (Lenore VanderZee) and I met with several members of the State Senate, both to introduce ourselves, and to ask for their support with several of SUNY Canton’s budget and program priorities. The meeting included Senator Patty Ritchie (Chair of the Agriculture Committee. She represents Canton and Watertown), Senator Joseph Griffo (Chair of Energy and Telecommunications, Chair of State-Native American Relations. He represents Potsdam, Rome, and Utica), Senator Kenneth LaValle (Chair of the Higher Education Committee. He represents eastern Long Island), and Senator Betty Little (Chair of the Cultural Affairs and Tourism Committee. She represents Plattsburgh and the north-east of the state). The senators were all very interested in what we were doing, and gave us some excellent advice on how best to move forward. The meetings lasted all morning, with one in the afternoon. We then worked on a funding proposal for some of our proposed academic programs.
Friday began with a breakfast in honor of the Chancellor Nancy Zimpher at the Egg (Albany’s Center for the Performing Arts). This was followed by the Chancellor’s State of the University Address, held in a full theater in another location in the Egg.
The following are the major goals for the SUNY system:
- Increasing the number of graduates with a post-secondary credential to 150,000 by 2020. Currently, the number of graduates is about 93,000.
- Putting a SUNY college counselor in every high school in the state.
- Investing in a success equation: ACCESS + COMPLETION = SUCCESS, where allowing for greater student access to higher education (also targeting adults without a degree), and taking the steps necessary for them to complete their education will lead to success for the students, colleges, and the state.
- Increasing the focus on graduating students in four years, citing Buffalo’s “Finish in Four” program as a best practice.
- Implementing SUNY Excels, a set of metrics by which SUNY will measure how we are doing and if we are improving. She called on all of us to be able to prove that our state funding is being used effectively.
Chancellor Zimpher thanked the Governor for his support, especially focusing in on the increase in funding for SUNY 2020, a set of challenge grants to elevate SUNY as the catalyst for economic development in the state.
After the address, the SUNY Presidents met for lunch with various people from SUNY Central to discuss the State and SUNY budget more in detail, and to lay out some strategies for achieving our goals. This was followed by a meeting for new Presidents, where various funding opportunities were discussed. We finished up around 3:30 PM, after which I was dropped back at the hotel, got my car, and drove back to Canton. I got home about 7:20, just in time to take my son Mark to get a pizza at Sylvia’s.
Over the course of the semester, we’re going to be discussing a lot of the above: defining some metrics to measure ourselves against, reviewing and improving our strategies for retention and graduation, implementing our own “Finish in Four” program, putting some teams together to work on grants, and completing work on our first round of new program proposals. I’ll be going to Albany and Washington frequently to talk to our legislative colleagues about the great things that are going on at Canton, about some new directions we’re pursuing, and to try to secure additional funding for our efforts. At the same time, I’m going on several alumni visits in Florida and later, in Arizona. It’s going to be a busy time!
Last Week’s Trivia Contest
Since most students had already left for the holiday break when the last “From the Pouch” came out, no one entered the trivia contest! So, I’ll repeat it again, since I’m sure some of you know all the answers!
This Week’s Trivia Challenge
This Trivia Challenge has every answer containing the word last. The first reply with the most answers right takes the prize. No looking up the answers now! SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO firstname.lastname@example.org since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them!
- If you wait until then to book it, you probably won’t get the flight you want.
- You write it so that people know what to do when you pass away.
- Madonna, Bono, Ludacris, and Cher don’t have one, but you probably do.
- This song by ZZ Ward’s chorus begins with: No more white picket fences, No more lace veils or vows, No more “You’re the only one” ‘cause that’s all done with now.