Fall 2012

October 23, 2012

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

Introduction and Fall 2012 Highlights

Good afternoon. Each fall, there is a tremendous surge of activity on our campus as students and faculty return for the new academic year. This fall, in particular, I am delighted to have been a part of many events and activities that have showcased the best of Brooklyn College.

On September 5, several members of our faculty and staff gathered with alumni, elected officials, student athletes and others to celebrate the opening of our new athletic field. Replacing the original field that was constructed in 1937 and last renovated in 1975, our new field helps us continue the great tradition of athletics at Brooklyn College.

Our new athletic field meets NCAA regulations for soccer and softball, which means that our men's soccer and women's softball teams can now practice and compete on their home turf; and our brand-new women's soccer team is already showing great promise. These and other athletic events are an important part of our students' cocurricular experience and a point of pride for our entire college community.

On September 9, we welcomed more than 150 alumni to campus for our annual post-50th reunion. Graduates from before 1962 returned to share fond memories of their years on our campus and to be recognized for their personal and professional successes, which were made possible by the education they received at Brooklyn College.

At this alumni event I had the special pleasure of meeting Ethel Lagarrene Hagquist and Gandolfa Aiosa DeFronzo, both alumnae and good friends from the college's very first graduating class in 1932. These two women, aged 101 and 99, spoke of Brooklyn College with great affection and gratitude. The fact that they chose to return to campus more than 80 years after receiving their degrees speaks volumes. Ethel and Gandolfa remind us of our rich institutional history, and they are remarkable role models for our students, alumni and community.

At this same alumni recognition event, another wonderful role model made a significant difference in the life of one of our students who is here today. Murray Koppelman, Class of 1957, who has been so generous to the college over many years, received the Alumni Association's Milton Fisher Second Harvest Award. With this special award, the honoree is granted $5,000 — not to keep, but to donate to the cause of his or her choice at Brooklyn College. Murray Koppleman decided to give his $5,000 alumni award directly to a deserving student — Selena Coppa, a veteran of the Iraq war, a single mother and a junior majoring in political science. But Murray told me he wasn't satisfied with the amount of the alumni prize for Selena, so he decided — on the spot — to double it with his own matching gift of an additional $5,000. Murray Koppelman's $10,000 gift will now enable Selena to continue pursuing her degree full time. Selena, would you please stand so that we can recognize you as a most deserving recipient of this wonderful award. And let us applaud Murray Koppelman at this time as well for his continued generosity and his heartfelt desire to help worthy students like Selena.

This fall, I have also had a number of opportunities to meet with students and student leaders in small groups to discuss their questions, concerns and suggestions regarding student life at Brooklyn College. In addition, along with other members of the senior administration and our student government presidents, we recently hosted a town hall open to all students. These meetings and fall forum have been informative and useful in helping us set priorities on behalf of our students. Some of the recurring themes from these meetings include the perceived need for more advising assistance, new methods of facilitating communication to and among students, new curricular offerings, and enhanced access to campus facilities for use by student groups. Over the next several months, we will be reviewing these and other topics raised by our students in order to determine how we can continue to enhance student life at Brooklyn College.

In order to give students additional avenues for sharing their ideas and feedback, I have invited our three student government presidents to serve as members of my Senior Council, an advisory group made up of the senior administrative leadership, the deans, and more recently, the chair of Faculty Council. Senior Council members meet with me on a monthly basis to discuss topics of critical importance to our campus. Adding our student body presidents to this monthly discussion is already proving to be a helpful next step.

Several weeks ago, Provost Tramontano, Senior Vice President Giovannelli and I met with a group of faculty who are engaged in interesting and important work on our campus. The organization known as GLARE, which stands for GLBTQ Advocacy in Research and Education, was founded by faculty in the School of Education to support research, teaching and advocacy work on GLBTQ issues. I was pleased to learn that some GLARE faculty will be featured speakers at the 17th Annual Shepard Symposium for Social Justice at the University of Wyoming in Laramie.

According to a survey conducted by our Office of Diversity and Equity Programs in 2010, nearly 40 percent of GLBTQ students report feeling unsafe or unwelcome on our campus. Members of GLARE are interested in collaborating with other faculty and staff to ensure that our campus becomes more inclusive and affirming of GLBTQ students, faculty and staff. To that end, and in celebration of October as national "Coming Out Month," representatives of GLARE have asked me to recognize them today and to support their goal to make Brooklyn College an "Out and Proud" campus by 2015. Will you please stand.

Enrollment Update

Now, some observations about our enrollment. This fall’s incoming class of first-time freshmen, which is larger than last year, is well prepared to succeed. They have strong SAT scores, high GPAs, and diverse academic and personal experiences that have prepared them for the rigorous education we provide. Yet, even as the average SAT score of entering freshmen has been trending upward for the past three years, we have not raised our admission standards; in fact, they have remained unchanged since 2009. What appears to be occurring, according to our admission experts, is that more students with strong academic records are considering Brooklyn College among their top choice institutions.

At the same time, we are experiencing a somewhat similar trend among new transfer students, who compose 60 percent of new undergraduates this fall. The mean GPA of incoming transfer students has risen from 2.70 in fall 2009 to 3.10 in fall 2012. As our reputation for teaching and research excellence continues to widen, I want to thank you for the high-quality instruction, research opportunities and individualized support you continue to provide our students.

While our fall 2012 undergraduate enrollment is solid — with 13,100 undergraduates on our campus —  there are enrollment trends that require attention. Overall, we have seen a decrease in total enrollment (headcount) as compared to last fall. This is primarily due to the decrease in graduate program enrollment, which is down 8.5 percent from last fall and down 17 percent over the past two years. And as you know, decreases in overall enrollment can have budget implications.

Given national and New York State trends in graduate education since the recession in 2008, and especially given the declining enrollment trends in schools of education around the country, we did anticipate this decrease in graduate enrollment, and our target estimates to CUNY for this year have been accurate. There is no doubt that changes in market demand, certification requirements and other external factors, including a struggling economy, have contributed to the decline that we and many other institutions are experiencing in graduate enrollment. That said, in order to maintain robust graduate programs, we must evaluate the degrees we offer and, where necessary, shift our focus to align with the changing needs of our society and our economy. In preparation for our required periodic review for the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, which is due in 2014, we will be conducting a comprehensive assessment of all graduate programs, among other areas important to our core mission. This assessment will serve as a foundation for future planning.

Student Financial Assistance

Because tuition will be increasing incrementally for each of the next three years, according to the plan enacted by the state legislature and implemented by CUNY as well as SUNY, we are committed, more than ever before, to providing increased financial assistance to students in need so that a Brooklyn College education remains affordable.

During the 2011–12 academic year, we distributed $53 million in financial assistance from federal, state and private sources, not including student loans. This included nearly 1,000 scholarships totaling more than $1.3 million, all raised through private donations. The remainder is from federal and state sources, such as Pell grants and TAP awards.

This fall, given that the annual cost of tuition now exceeds the maximum TAP award by $430, the college is covering the gap for all students who receive full TAP funding. This is a stop-gap solution until the legislature determines if it will raise the ceiling on TAP awards for the neediest students in order to keep pace with tuition increases at CUNY and at SUNY. We will be lobbying our elected officials very hard in Albany this year to make raising the ceiling on TAP a top priority for their support.

The financial aid we have distributed this fall includes many $400 academic grants for students in need who are not TAP eligible. These grants, like all of our scholarships, were made possible through the support of the Brooklyn College Foundation. Over the past two years, the BCF has worked closely with the administration to help us more than double the amount of funds designated specifically for students in need.

Currently, with Pell grants, TAP funding and available tax credits, nearly 60 percent of our students are not required to pay any out-of-pocket tuition; for those who do, tuition at Brooklyn College remains lower than 80 percent of all universities in the country.

Nonetheless, student loan debt remains an issue of critical concern across the country, and our students and alumni are not immune. Since 2007, the average student debt at graduation in New York State has increased at least 3 percent a year. According to the independent Institute for College Access & Success, the average student debt for the Class of 2011 nationwide is $26,600; in New York State, average student indebtedness for the same graduating class is over $25,000. At Brooklyn College, for the Class of 2011, 48 percent of our students graduated with outstanding loans, with an average debt of $16,500. While our student indebtedness at graduation is on average lower than national and New York State averages, this does not mean that the issue is any less pressing for our students and their families. Recognizing its importance to our students, political science major Jonathan Meyer wrote an intelligent op-ed on the topic in the latest Kingsman.

In addition to our continuing efforts to raise funds aggressively to support students in need, we are taking other important steps to help minimize student debt upon graduation. We are, for example, providing additional information and training to advisers in key areas so that they may offer well-informed guidance about student loans to both students and family members. We continue as well to work on a number of progress-to-degree initiatives.

Progress on the Graduate School of Cinema

Eighteen months ago, Faculty Council approved a letter of intent to establish graduate degree programs in cinema in collaboration with Steiner Studios at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. With an initial gift of $5.5 million from Barry Feirstein, a 1974 graduate and the current chair of our Brooklyn College Foundation, we have pursued additional start-up funds in order to provide a solid foundation for this ambitious project.

Today, I am delighted to announce that we have exceeded our fundraising goal. To date, we have raised more than $18.7 million to support the establishment of new graduate programs at Steiner Studios. In addition to Barry Feirstein's generous gift, the contributions of a number of other alumni and friends, and support from CUNY, the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment has recently pledged $6.7 million to support programs in digital media and visual effects.

With the city's support now behind us, Mayor Bloomberg, Deputy Mayor Steel, and Media and Entertainment Commissioner Katherine Oliver have recognized that our new graduate degrees in cinema will help prepare the workforce needed to fuel the region's growing entertainment industry. According to a recent report from the Boston Consulting Group, New York City's film industry is now the strongest in its history. In 2011, it generated $7.1 billion in direct economic activity, an increase of more than $2 billion since 2002. Film production now employs 130,000 people in New York City, with an increase of 30,000 jobs since 2004. The growth in this economic sector provides an exceptional opportunity for current and future students interested in cinema-related fields to build strong careers right here in New York City.

Our plans for the Barry R. Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema include several elements that will make it extremely competitive. First, with a home at Steiner Studios, ours will be the nation's only graduate school of cinema that is fully housed on a working film lot. Students and faculty will be immersed in an active environment of film, television and commercial production, and we anticipate many internship opportunities for our students with production companies working at Steiner Studios.

Second, we will offer master's degrees with several concentrations, including interdisciplinary components. In addition to the Department of Film, faculty from Television and Radio, Music, Theater and other departments will participate in programs such as film scoring, set design and screenwriting.

Finally, and most important, these new graduate programs will provide affordable access to world-class graduate degrees in cinema at a cost far less than other graduate cinema programs around the country. A national search is now under way for a director to lead the new graduate school of cinema, which will be housed in the School of Visual, Media and Performing Arts. If all goes according to plan, we should be welcoming our first cohort of graduate students in fall 2014.

Academic Construction and Planning

In addition to continued progress on the graduate programs in cinema, there are several capital projects on our campus at various stages of planning and construction. Most notably, demolition of Gershwin Hall has now been completed, and construction on the Leonard & Claire Tow Center for the Performing Arts is beginning to take shape. We have also completed the design development phase for the new Roosevelt Science Teaching Commons, which includes a beautiful new landscaping plan for the West Quad.

On the technology front, I have appointed Senior VP Giovannelli to chair a task force to assess our current technology operations — both academic and administrative — and to submit recommendations to me by May 1 on how we can improve the technology infrastructure on our campus. An external consultant will work with Joe and members of the task force to provide expert guidance for this process.

Finally, I want to extend a personal welcome to our new faculty and administrative staff, some of whom are here today. I also want to thank all of you who are currently involved in faculty and staff searches for next year's new hires. This is time-consuming work, but it is well worth the effort, and I very much appreciate it.