Spring 2010

April 6, 2010

Stated Meeting of the Faculty Address by President Karen L. Gould

A Very Good Year

Since our formal meeting last fall, Brooklyn College has had many reasons to be recognized and to celebrate. Faculty, student, program, and institutional accomplishments have been numerous members of our college community have been newsworthy for their diverse achievements across a broad range of academic, co-curricular, and service activities.

Indeed, this has been a year of sustained excellence in many areas and a year of important firsts as well. Our reputation for outstanding faculty research and scholarly production has once again been confirmed. Prestigious faculty awards and fellowships have proliferated this year, including the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer's Award to Helen Phillips; a Fulbright Visiting Scholar Fellowship to Carolina Bank Muñoz; Ursula Oppens' nomination for a Grammy Award; a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship for Vanessa Pérez Rosario; a summer NEH Fellowship to Danielle Kellogg; and the honoring of Barbara Winslow by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz with the Lucy Burns Activist Award.

Major grants from NIH in chemistry, biology, and physics have been awarded to Gregory Boutis, Maria Contel, Brian Gibney and Dan Eshel; Juergen Polle and Roberto Sanchez Delgado have received more than 900,000 from the Department of Energy, and mathematics professors Sandra Kingan, Anthony Clement and Jun Hu received a project award of $38,000 from CUNY. Last Friday, Tony Cucchiara received word from NEH that our library will receive over $350,000 to help process and preserve the unique Hank Kaplan Boxing Collection in the library.

Numerous Brooklyn College authors and editors will be celebrated at our annual Library Book Party later this spring. This year's list of faculty publications is wide-ranging and includes, among many titles: Ray Gavin's Cytoskeleton Methods and Protocols (Humana); George Rodman's third edition of Mass Media in a Changing World (McGraw-Hill); Paul Moses' highly praised The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday); David Troyansky's co-edited Transnational Spaces and Identities in the Francophone World (Nebraska); Sharon Flatto's The Kabbalistic Culture of Eighteenth-Century Prague (Oxford); Frederick Gardiner's co-edited collection on Geometry of Riemann Surfaces (Cambridge); Bernd Renner's La Satire dans tous ses Etats (Droz); Angelica Nuzzo's Hegel and the Analytic Tradition (Continuum); Immanuel Ness, Amy Offner and Chris Sturr's Real World Labor (Economic Affairs Bureau); Barbara Winslow, Carol Berkin and Margaret Crocco's Clio in the Classroom: A Guide to Teaching U.S. Women's History (Oxford); Paul McCabe and Steven Shaw's Pediatric Disorders: Current Topics and Interventions for Educators (Corwin); Gunja SenGupta's From Slavery to Poverty: The Racial Origins of Welfare in New York; and a book that has attracted considerable media coverage in recent months, Sharon Zukin's Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places (Oxford).

Other achievements of note this year include the recent selection of Brooklyn College for President Obama's Honor Roll for Community Service. We are the only CUNY campus to receive this recognition, and in the company in New York State with NYU, Binghamton University, Union College and several others. Our service endeavors and many forms of community engagement extend in myriad directions, but I want to applaud in particular the contributions of our students, faculty and staff to the recovery efforts in Haiti through various community, regional and national organizations and recognize as well their efforts to assist families in our own Haitian neighborhoods. I have also joined an AASCU Task Force of college presidents who have agreed to lend our collective institutional support to Haitian students already in the U.S. who seek to complete their undergraduate and graduate studies here. I know that Brooklyn College faculty, students and staff are also working with the city and the borough on preparations for the 2010 Census activities. And, I am very pleased to note that, in partnership with assemblywoman and Brooklyn College alumna Rhoda Jacobs, we are once again holding an annual food drive for our neighborhood food pantries.

The list of student accomplishments, special awards and prestigious graduate school acceptances is long and diverse as well. We will have more to say about them in the weeks ahead, as we prepare for our year-end celebrations and our master's and baccalaureate commencement ceremonies.

The arrival of new faculty is always a celebratory moment. We are especially proud of the new teacher-scholars, researchers and artists who have joined our faculty ranks over the past several years and whose strong contributions are already beginning to attract attention and move us in new directions. In 2008–09, 42 new full-time faculty members joined our academic community. This year, we have hired 30 new full-time faculty members. Next fall, we hope to welcome 17 new faculty members, who will bring additional vitality to our departments, programs and the scholarly life of our community. Many of you have been involved in these searches, and we are all grateful for the time and reflection you have given to this crucial form of institutional renewal.

Among our most recent administrative hires, I am very pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Stephen Joyner as the new Vice President for Enrollment Management. Currently serving as the AVP for enrollment management at Southern Connecticut State University, Dr. Joyner will assume his post at Brooklyn College in June and will bring broad knowledge and experience to our enrollment management areas, with special attention to enrollment planning, recruitment and recruitment yield activities, high school and two-year institution communications, financial aid, student retention and a user-friendly degree audit system. We look forward to Dr. Joyner's leadership in this crucial administrative area.

Enrollment Planning

Our enrollment picture for 2009–10 as compared to 2008–09 indicates a modest rise in our graduate student enrollment, a small decline in our degree-seeking undergraduate population, and a modest increase in our overall student population.

Although it is still too early in the application-to acceptance-to yield process to predict Fall 2010 enrollment outcomes, current application trends are very strong across CUNY and at Brooklyn College in particular. As of the end of January, fall full-time freshmen applications to Brooklyn College as a first choice within CUNY are up 40% over last year's first choice application pool. Transfer applications within and from outside CUNY are up even more significantly for Fall 2010. In an era of tight family finances, the affordability and the reputation of Brooklyn College and of CUNY will, in all likelihood, continue to drive applications and yield rate upwards.

a) Undergraduate: (graph '08-'09); b) Graduate: (graph '08-'09)

The Budget Climate

Shifting from our points of pride to the realities of the state's budget climate, I want to share a few observations about where we are today and where we are likely to be headed. On the positive side, we can say that relative to many other states, including Arizona, Florida, Michigan, California and Nevada, we in CUNY have had a fairly good year, all things considered. We have been spared deep cuts to our operating budgets, and we have continued to hire new faculty and some critically important staff. However, the budget climate at the state level is ominous, given the rising state budget deficit and the many competing interests for state support.

On March 12, Chancellor Goldstein hosted a daylong retreat for the 23 CUNY presidents, with Lt. Governor Richard Ravitch serving as keynote speaker. As you would imagine, the overarching theme of the retreat was budget planning in an era of heightened fiscal and political uncertainty, with predictions of deeper budget reductions on the horizon. Our discussions throughout the day focused on the need for careful enrollment planning in light of student needs and budgetary constraints, the need to deploy our resources with maximum efficiency and impact, the importance of identifying new sources of revenue for short-term and long-term flexibility, the need to increase college development efforts and the need to advance academic innovation despite the fiscal challenges we will face.

Even with the current budget challenges in Albany, there may yet be a capital budget for CUNY construction projects in 2010, once the budget is passed, due to the serious need for job-creation in New York State and the equally compelling need to support future economic development by ensuring college graduation success for more New York State residents. With the chancellor's full support, we are therefore lobbying forcefully for $16.5 million to make whole the $90 million performing arts center project and begin construction on an innovative and highly functional replacement for Gershwin Theater. Support for the Leonard and Claire Tow Performing Arts Center has been garnered from both public and private resources, with a major gift from Leonard and Claire Tow and substantial gifts from a number of generous donors as well.

The design produced by the architects of Pfeiffer & Associates for the new performing arts center is now complete, and we are ready to put shovels in the ground. This project will create over 540 jobs in construction and materials design over a two-year period. It is not too late to let your elected state officials know how important these jobs will be for the state and for the local economy. The impact of the new Tow Performing Arts Center will be equally significant on our surrounding community, fostering heightened community presence at our college productions, increased opportunities for community arts partnerships and the promotion of a neighborhood-friendly performing arts venue in the Flatbush/Nostrand Avenue area. (rendering 1, rendering 2, rendering 3).

Our second major capital construction request this year, which is also well positioned on CUNY's capital construction list, is for the first phase of a new Roosevelt Science Center. With funding for design already secured, we began meeting earlier this month with CUNY planners and with the selected architects from Mitchell Giurgula to establish a framework and timeline for the design process. We also had the opportunity to review this firm's exceptional portfolio in academic and research science building design and construction. The architectural team from Mitchell Giurgula will launch a series of planning discussions and focus group sessions with the chairpersons, faculty and staff in our science departments later this month, and they will continue seeking input throughout the months of April and May.

Facilities Master Planning

The most notable outcomes of the last College Facilities Master Plan include our handsomely renovated library, which has become a vibrant hub of academic life at the college, and the new, student-friendly West Quad Center, with its much improved athletic facilities and consolidated student services.

As you know, the college is once again formally involved in the important process of assessing the conditions of our facilities and grounds in light of current and future needs. Out of this assessment and analysis, we will create a new master plan for the further development of our physical plant over the next decade. If you have not yet been interviewed by the architects and planners who are gathering data and campus input for our consideration, many of you will be interviewed soon. You may also provide electronic input on issues related to college facilities and grounds via the home page link, and I encourage you to do so. The comments provided in individual and group discussions, focus group conversations, at town hall meetings in late April and May, and electronically will be reviewed by the Facilities Master Plan Working Committee, which will submit its recommendations to the campus leadership for consideration before a final plan is submitted to the CUNY board of trustees for approval. The Brooklyn College Facilities Master Plan that will result from this process will be a visionary blueprint for our physical plant for the next decade. While it must remain responsive to evolving circumstances and unforeseen funding opportunities, the new Facilities Master Plan will guide us as we organize and seek support for new college construction, facilities renovations to meet 21st-century standards, improvements in our space utilization and the continuing enhancement of campus environment.

The new residence hall on the corner of Farragut and Kenilworth, which is approaching completion, will have an important impact on student recruitment and retention. It will also have a direct impact on student life at Brooklyn College. Special amenities in the residence hall include meeting and study rooms, an exercise room, a courtyard, student lounges, an outdoor terrace, laundry facilities, kitchenettes and Wi-Fi throughout the building. Although we do not own this facility, our intention is to work closely with the developer, provide ongoing security and ensure that the student residence population addresses both undergraduate and graduate student needs. (slide)

Organizing for Institutional Effectiveness: The Case for School Configurations and Decanal Leadership

As you know, the provost and I have been meeting with different departments, primarily in divisional arrangement, in order to discuss the advantages of school configurations at Brooklyn College and to outline our serious need for mid-level administrative leadership. As I have indicated on many occasions throughout the year, we are the only CUNY senior college that does not have schools with decanal leadership. Beyond the world of CUNY, we are likely to be the only public institution with 17,000 students that does not have schools with deans. We are at a comparative disadvantage in many ways. In fact, we are a complex and maturing liberal arts institution with strong and diverse programs across the fine and performing arts, the liberal arts and sciences, education and business as well as a respected Core Curriculum. The richness of our curricular options (over 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs) and the diverse accomplishments of our faculty are leading institutional strengths.

Understandably, there will be some who will question the need for schools with deans and who believe that our flat administrative structure has served us well. I will respect their views, though I do not share them. There is no doubt that Brooklyn College has accomplished much over the years without the changes we are about to undertake. And yet, it is also true that the college has grown in size and complexity without adequate administrative structures to support its growth and complexity and without an acceptable number of mid-level leaders to help our faculty and students attain new goals and objectives. Given the tremendous changes in the world around us, in our state, within CUNY and on our campus, we cannot afford to remain passive. We must engage the realities and challenges we face with an administrative structure that is more robust and more supportive of our major activities, initiatives and most compelling goals. As we contemplate the decade ahead, we must also develop a renewed sense of mission with an aligned administrative structure that is better suited and more responsive to our changing environment.

Let me be clear: organizing our departments and programs into schools is not an end in itself; it does not guarantee greater success across the full range of activities that constitute our academic enterprise. Rather, the necessary bolstering of our academic structures is intended to serve as a new platform for collaboration and responsive leadership that will better serve our myriad needs: the need to increase visibility for our department and program accomplishments; to advance private fundraising, foundation support and externally funded research; to foster internal and external collaborations in teaching, research and service; to provide more effective advising for our students; to ensure that faculty members receive the mentoring they deserve and that faculty development opportunities increase; and the need to encourage academic planning that is thoughtful, intentional and forward-looking. Organizing into schools must not inhibit opportunities to work across the college on issues of common interest, and it will not impact our Core Curriculum, which will remain the purview of the faculty and the senior administration. The new school structure will provide greater opportunities for interdepartmental and interdisciplinary support and for the development of innovative centers that can bridge the departmental divide by ensuring that decanal leadership encourages these kinds of transdisciplinary endeavors.

To date, the provost and I have hosted divisional conversations about potential school structures with faculty in the humanities, social sciences, natural and behavioral sciences, and business as well as with CAP. We have already had a number of conversations with members of the School of Education, but their contemplated changes, which they have discussed over many years, will be departmental in nature because they are already configured as a School of Education. I know that many conversations have occurred as well at the departmental and program levels. This week the provost and I will meet with faculty members from the fine and performing arts, and we will also host a staff meeting in early April to discuss the implications and opportunities of school configurations.

At this point in our administrative planning, we anticipate the creation of a School of Business and, in all likelihood, a School of Sciences. Whether or not the remaining departments are organized into one or more schools remains a subject for faculty discussion and input and for administrative evaluation. Resources for the contemplated administrative structures have been identified from vacant administrative positions, reallocated resources, and likely donor interest.

Like other public colleges and universities of our size across the nation, we are a complex institution with a broad array of undergraduate and graduate degree programs, diverse aspirations and many moving parts. We deserve to have responsive leadership at all levels, increased visibility for our accomplishments, enhanced organizational support for our students and faculty, and thoughtful planning in our departments and programs, at the school level, at the vice presidential level and collegewide.

The Brooklyn College Foundation and Development Highlights

Headed by a remarkably capable board of trustees and a strong leadership team, the Brooklyn College Foundation has been able to manage the economic crisis of 2008 and 2009 better than most college foundations around the country. As a result, our endowment has suffered less significant losses than many other institutions, and endowment funds are once again rising. In addition, due to a number of factors—including the improving economy—prospects for new and continuing private funding for the college have improved substantially this year.

One manifestation of this improved development climate is the dramatic recovery of our endowment since its low point in 2009 (Figure 1). We are in fact optimistic that many of our endowment accounts will emerge from being "underwater" with the March-end quarterly results. In this regard, we need to acknowledge the wisdom and professionalism of our foundation trustees who have served as careful stewards of these funds through very troubled waters and have brought us to this encouraging point in our endowment portfolio. You will note the endowment high of $60.6 million in the first quarter of fiscal year '08, the low point of $45.5 million in the third quarter of fiscal '09, and the high of $58.7 million in this current third quarter.

Another manifestation of our improving development picture is that we are raising more money, as indicated in the second comparative slide (Table 1).

Two important gifts in this year's development numbers deserve special mention here. First, we have received $1.6 million from alumnus Herbert Kurz (Class of 1941) to create the Herbert Kurz Chair in Constitutional Rights. Housed in our Political Science Department, the Herb Kurz Chair will enable us to make an exciting faculty hire who will teach courses and conduct research in the areas of constitutional law, legal rights and the organization of law in the United States.

Second, we have received a remarkable commitment of $5 million from our foundation chairperson, Barry Feirstein, to help launch a major fundraising effort to establish new graduate programs in cinema arts at Steiner Studios. Barry Feirstein's exciting gift doubtless encourages other donors to become involved as well in this unique and transformational project. An alumna bequest has also been identified for the graduate facility in cinema arts.

We are now sufficiently encouraged by these and other fundraising developments to go forward with planning for the second phase of the Brooklyn College Campaign. We will move into the public phase of our capital campaign at the May Foundation Gala at Steiner Studios.

Looking Forward

In anticipation of the need to launch campuswide discussions on the development of a new College Strategic Plan next fall, several of the potential thematic pillars for our planning discussions are already being explored through the work of current task forces and faculty interest groups. Some key areas include:

  • The central importance of increasing student retention and graduation success. Among its initial findings, the Presidential Task Force on Retention and Graduation Success has noted the critical need for “cohesive advising,” especially as our students move into the major. They will also be recommending that advisement communication become more transparent at all levels, with clearly defined policies and procedures.
  • With respect to recruitment and retention success, we know that the quality of student life on campus is an essential component, that student interest in expanded support for cocurricular activities is growing and that in addition to the extended library hours, the new and very successful student laptop loan program and our partnership with the new student residence hall, there is more that we can do to strengthen the quality of student life on our campus.
  • On the environmental front, our two Sustainability Task Forces and the student dialogue under way in Policy Council will compel us to think green and help us plan for a more sustainable future. At the operational and service levels, this will doubtless mean that we will continue to convert campus vehicles to hybrid, deploy more biodiesel fuels, actively promote our recycling programs, construct our first LEED-certified building with the new performing arts center and use the LEED planning experience as a student learning laboratory, foster a healthy campus community by creating smoke-free entrances to our buildings, and expand the healthy foods available on our campus. We will want to use more recycled and sustainable materials, print less and widen the usage of electronic media for our communications. Interest in sustainability-related research and curricula will surely be an ongoing subject of exploration and planning across the disciplines.
  • In a related vein, the energizing discussions that are currently taking place around the concept of urban studies and the contributions of engaged place-based learning will undoubtedly have an important place in our strategic planning discussions as well.
  • Our environment is urban, but it is also globally situated. As we consider future areas of strategic impact and investment, I will be encouraging us to think globally as well as locally, to identify ways to become an even more fully internationalized institution and to ensure that all of our students, regardless of major, are globally competent and globally competitive. In order to provide sufficient administrative support for international education and study abroad, we will open an Office of International Education and Global Engagement next fall and will soon launch a national search for its director; the search committee will include three faculty members with study-abroad experience.

As we look toward 2015, the most significant tasks ahead will be to support academic excellence across our curriculum and to foster the kind of strategic planning that will move us forward as an institution despite the challenges we will need to navigate. Creating a renewed sense of momentum will ensure for all of our students a distinctive, forward-looking educational experience of high quality and intentional vision.

Thank you for coming today and for your continuing contributions to Brooklyn College.