Fall 2011

October 6, 2011

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

Introduction

I am delighted to join you this afternoon to mark the beginning of the new academic year at Brooklyn College. I hope the first few weeks of the semester have been productive and rewarding.

Today, I am joined on stage by Namulundah Florence, the secretary of the faculty and chair of our new Department of Secondary Education, and by Provost Tramontano and Deans Conelli, Hopkins, Phillips, Psarris, and Shanley.

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Enrollment

Our enrollment this fall is essentially flat compared to last year, with a total enrollment of 16,822, which is a half percent decline over last fall. However, degree seeking students actually increased by 130 from 15, 245 last year to 15,375 this year. Most notably, our undergraduate enrollment increased by 2.3% from last year, while our graduate enrollment decreased by over 9% compared to fall 2010. In terms of our projected target to CUNY, we were right on target.

We are fortunate this fall to have very strong cohorts of incoming students: 3,862 new undergraduate and graduate students have joined our campus community—exceeding last fall’s new student enrollment by more than 100 students. New undergraduates and graduate students come from as far away as Turkey, Malaysia, St. Lucia, and Japan; from Alaska to Hawaii to Alabama; and, of course, from right here in Brooklyn and across our city and state.

Our new freshmen are also well prepared to succeed. The average SAT score of this year’s freshman class is 1134, an impressive increase of 36 points in just two years. Moreover, because of heightened demand for Brooklyn College among high-achieving high school seniors, our Macaulay Honors entering class has doubled in size to 80 new freshmen this fall.

Due to the shared commitment of our faculty and staff to student success, more and more of our students are progressing to graduation, which remains our most important goal.

This fall, our freshman-to-sophomore retention rate has climbed to 82%, 5 percentage points higher than four years ago, and our six-year graduation rate has risen more than four points to 48% for the entering class of 2005. We expect this positive trend to continue.

Diversity

Last spring, we had the largest graduating class since 1977, conferring 3,715 bachelor’s and master’s degrees. As we celebrated at commencement, we also took great pride in the diversity of our graduates. This aspect of our college community is one that I know we all cherish.

Recently, Diverse Magazine published information about the diversity of our student body compared to other colleges and universities nationwide; our overall ranking in this report is a point of tremendous pride for our campus.

Brooklyn College ranks among the 75 most diverse colleges in the country. We graduate more African American students annually than any other public institution in this state. We rank fourth nationally for the number of African American graduates in philosophy, seventh for African Americans graduating in accounting, and eighth nationwide for minority graduates with master's degrees in the social sciences and history. In total, Brooklyn College is among the top 50 campuses in the United States in 45 categories of diverse graduation success!

As we contemplate our hiring priorities over the next several years, we must reaffirm our commitment to increase diversity in our faculty and staff as well. To that end, I have asked Natalie Mason-Kinsey, director of Diversity and Equity Programs, to convene a diversity task force to review and propose strategies to achieve this goal. I look forward to the recommendations of this group on how we can continue to make real progress.

Recent Hiring

Although the past two years of budget constraints have created a challenging environment for hiring, we have been able to welcome nearly 50 new faculty and staff since last spring. They include 10 new permanent members of the faculty, 25 visiting faculty and sub-line faculty, and 12 new staff members. The provost will introduce our new faculty members during his remarks.

At this time, I would like to recognize two new senior staff members, each of whom brings valuable skills and expertise to our leadership team. Steven Schechter joined us just this week as our new executive director of government and external affairs. Steven has served in a similar role at the Brooklyn Public Library for the past decade, and we look forward to working with him. Reporting to Associate Provost Donna Wilson, Gail Bier arrived on campus in July as the new senior director of international programs and global engagement. Gail brings many years of experience in the development of study abroad programs, faculty exchanges, and international partnerships. Please join me in welcoming Steven and Gail to the college.

The hiring process has begun for a number of positions for next year, including some of those vacated as a result of the university’s ERI program. Out of $4.6 million in gross savings from the ERI program, we have allocated to date $2.1 million for position replacements. We will replace 13 of the 25 ERI faculty vacancies for fall 2012. All told, we will be conducting 30 faculty searches and 24 staff searches this year.

Budget Climate

As you know, over the summer Governor Cuomo and the state legislature reached a final agreement with CUNY and SUNY that will finally provide financial stability from the state for our public universities over the next five years.

In the past two years, the base budget for Brooklyn College has been reduced by over $7.9 million, and funding from the state has decreased by nearly one third. We have managed these mandatory cuts with reductions to base budgets across the college, with savings from the early retirement incentive program, and with some additional tuition revenue.

The legislation passed and signed by the Governor this summer, which is unique nationally, ensures that New York State funding for higher education will remain at present levels for the next five years, short of a disastrous decline in the state’s budget outlook. The state's five-year compact with CUNY and SUNY is intended to prevent the continuation of reductions to our state allocation over the five-year period. In these challenging economic times, some budgetary stability from the state is a welcome change.

As you know, this compact agreement also allows CUNY and SUNY to raise tuition rates by up to $300 each year for five years, beginning with the increase already in effect this fall. There is no doubt that the current and potential subsequent increases are unfortunate for our students and their families, which is why we must do all we can to advise our students well, ensure that they are progressing in a timely fashion to degree completion, and make sure we are offering the courses they need to graduate. We will also be making serious efforts this year and in the future to expand the range of paid internship opportunities for our students.

It is important to note that this compact legislation protects our neediest students from the rise in tuition costs. Students who qualify for full TAP funding will not be responsible for any tuition costs above $5,000 annually—which is the current cap for TAP awards. Brooklyn College will cover the difference beyond $5,000 for full TAP eligible students.

Budget reductions and tuition increases cause real frustration and anxiety for our students, faculty, and staff, and I share their concerns. At the same time, the steady decline in state funding for public higher education in New York and around the country has had sobering consequences. Over the past decade, tuition at most of the nation’s public colleges and universities has increased annually by 6% or more, with the result that tuition at CUNY’s senior colleges remains lower than 80% of all public 4-year institutions in the U.S.

For the current fiscal year, our total tax-levy budget is approximately $115.3 million, down 3.5% from two years ago.
 
Over two-thirds of our tax-levy budget is used to fund our core academic mission. An additional 20% supports the daily operations of our campus, including fiscal management, maintenance, technology, security, and human resources. The remaining portion of this budget is used to fund enrollment management operations, student affairs and co-curricular activities for our students, and other institutional priorities.

As of this year, tuition revenue now comprises 77% of our total tax-levy budget, up from 66% only two years ago. This multi-year decline in state support has further increased our reliance on tuition revenue and a positive enrollment outlook.

Fundraising and Sponsored Programs

In order to sustain and enhance excellence at Brooklyn College, and especially given our tax-levy constraints, we must continue to increase external funding streams—through sponsored research and programs, through non-profit foundation support, through the generous donations from our alumni and friends, and through state, city, and borough appropriations for important capital projects and strategic initiatives.

The good news is that our faculty members are attracting external funding with considerable success, receiving grants from NSF, NIH, NEH, the NEA, the Department of Education, NSA, and the National Park Service, among others. Over the next several years, improvements to the research infrastructure in Ingersoll and Ingersoll Extension will further assist our science faculty in their research activities and their competitiveness.

Last year—FY 11, our faculty generated $12.8 million in external funding to support their research and scholarship.

On the fundraising side, I am pleased to report that the exponential growth in private contributions from our alumni and friends is very encouraging. Three years ago, voluntary support for Brooklyn College totaled $7.1 million. The following year donations nearly doubled, for a total of $14.3 million. I am pleased to report that last year we received $26 million in voluntary contributions and donor pledges. These contributions will be used to support undergraduate and graduate student scholarships, student and faculty travel, faculty research excellence, guest lectures, endowed chairs, academic programs, the library, and other college priorities that will enhance the educational experience of our students.

These results indicate that an increasing number of our alumni and their families are recognizing the tremendous value of their Brooklyn College degree and are choosing to support our future through their donations.

From Planning to Implementation

Since my arrival in August 2009, much of our collective effort has been focused on planning for the future. We have developed a new five-year strategic plan that will guide us on a number of critical academic and institutional fronts. Under the leadership of Provost Tramontano and Vice President Little and with the engagement and contributions of many chairs, faculty, and staff, we have prepared a new facilities master plan, which was approved by the CUNY Board of Trustees last week, and which will guide our facilities renovations, capital investments, and grounds planning for the next decade and more. And, we have initiated our transition to a five-school academic structure, with five decanal leaders who are already bringing new energy and heightened attention to the College.

This year, we are turning our attention from planning to implementation. We have charted an ambitious course, and it will require the fine work and engagement of the entire campus community to meet our planning goals.

In an effort to promote health and wellness across our entire campus community, we have begun implementation of the CUNY-wide tobacco-free initiative, which will be in full effect next fall. In the meantime, we have established a smoke-free policy on our campus except for four designated smoking areas, the locations of which are available on the website and in our smoke-free communications materials.

A number of implementation projects have already begun with respect to our facilities and grounds. Over the summer, CUNY informed us that we have been allocated $15 million in capital funding for the first phase of research renovations in Ingersoll Hall and Ingersoll Extension. Additional funding from CUNY will also enable us to complete renovations to the entrance of Ingersoll Extension near the lily pond. In his comments, the provost will share more details about these renovations and about the design progress for the new Roosevelt Science Teaching Commons.

Preparations for the new Leonard & Claire Tow Center for the Performing Arts are under way. Asbestos abatement is nearing completion and the demolition of Gershwin Hall is expected to begin in November. We are still on schedule to open the Leonard and Claire Tow performing arts center in 2014.

Construction will soon begin on the facades of both Roosevelt and James halls. The completion of these projects will result in new entrances on the West Quad that will re-energize that side of our campus. You may also have noticed significant construction activity behind the West Quad, on the west end of campus. The athletic field, which is more than 30 years old, is being replaced with a new field that will accommodate NCAA regulation softball and men’s and women’s soccer. Throughout this project, we will be ensuring the safety of what some view as our most cherished campus residents, our famous monk parakeets.

As I mentioned last spring, in February the Brooklyn College Foundation acquired the last remaining parcel of land adjacent to the campus, on Nostrand Avenue, which currently houses a meat and a produce market. Initial conversations and site analysis are underway to determine how the property will eventually be developed. Items under consideration include a home for our new School of Business, a new residence hall, and retail opportunities, including the possibility of a food facility and the relocation of our campus bookstore.

Other renovation projects will occur over the course of the year and next summer, including an acceleration in the number of new smart classrooms and the extension of our wifi connectivity around the campus.

Finally, as we consider the future of our campus environment, there is another significant element that will require our attention. After Hurricane Irene hit the East Coast last month, we asked an arborist to assess the health of the stately elms that border our central quad. As a result of this inspection, one tree in front of Boylan Hall was subsequently removed due to safety concerns. The remaining trees on our historic quad, which were planted when the campus first opened in 1937, have been deemed to be in "fair" or "poor" condition.

We have reached out to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden to request their assistance in developing a tree replacement plan. With expert guidance, we will begin to identify the most effective strategy for the planting of new trees that will line the quad for generations to come. I am confident that there are many alumni and with fond memories of our beautiful campus and perhaps many current and former members of our college community who will want to contribute to this important project.

Conclusion

This is a dynamic time in the history of Brooklyn College, and I am honored to work alongside our talented faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends of the college, as we turn our ambitious plans into action and continue to move the college forward. We owe them all an enormous debt of gratitude. I want to thank the board of trustees of the Brooklyn College Foundation, Vice President Sillen, and the entire staff in Institutional Advancement for their inspiring work last year in support of the many worthy needs of our students, faculty, and the college.