Spring 2012

April 19, 2012

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


I am pleased to be with you today to provide an update on the state of our college. It has been a year of considerable progress on many fronts, not without its challenges, but certainly with much to celebrate. Participation from our faculty, staff and students is essential to the discussion, planning and implementation of our institutional priorities, and I appreciate the thoughtful discussion and spirited debate in which many of you have engaged.

Budget Update

As you are well aware, over the past several years we have faced a series of reductions to our operating budget, which has challenged us in many ways. In the past two years alone, the base budget for Brooklyn College has been reduced by almost $8 million, and funding from the state has decreased by nearly one third.

However, due to our state's recent commitment to maintain funding for public higher education at current levels through 2016, we are now about to enter a period of relative stability, which is a rare situation for a public university in the current economic climate. Our elected officials have honored their pledge, and the state budget for fiscal year 2013 includes no cuts to CUNY or SUNY. A stable budget for the coming year means, among other things, that we will be able to begin reinstating services that have been reduced, replacing faculty and staff positions that have been vacant, and restoring some of the operating funds that were previously cut.

As a first step, beginning on July 1, we will restore funds for OTPS and temporary services to levels that existed prior to the 10% across-the-board reduction that was enacted this past year. I know that this renewed operational support will come as welcome news to our academic departments and administrative units. I appreciate the efforts many have made to find creative ways to maintain crucial services and support during the past several years of budget contractions. As we look to the coming academic year, these restored funds will help us enhance support for our academic programs, sustain cocurricular experiences, and provide essential services for our campus community.

By restoring these funds, our library will also be able to return to its regular hours of operation, beginning July 1, which is of utmost importance to our students and faculty. In addition, we will work with Stephanie Walker, our chief librarian, to examine the library's hours of operation in relation to the demand for services from our students and faculty, and we will make appropriate modifications. And, as always, the library's operating hours will be extended during final exams.

Although the anticipated return to a period of budgetary stability is welcome news, regrettably we do so at some expense to our students and their families. As you know, for the current year, CUNY enacted a $300 increase in tuition. Another $300 increase will be implemented for the 2012–13 academic year. It is unfortunate that the steady decline in public support for higher education over the past two decades has placed a greater burden of the cost of baccalaureate and graduate education for students nationwide. We are, however, taking a number of steps to ensure that a Brooklyn College education remains affordable.

First, I want to make clear that these tuition increases will not affect our neediest students. Students who receive the maximum amount available through the state's tuition assistance program will not see any increase in tuition costs. When tuition exceeds the maximum TAP award, Brooklyn College — not CUNY and not the state — will cover the difference. In essence, we are providing a tuition subsidy for our neediest students, and we will continue to do so.

In 2010–11, the most recent year for which all data are available, we awarded more than $45 million in federal and state tuition assistance to our students. These are grant funds, not student loans. Students and their families also were eligible for new federal tax credits covering a portion of their tuition costs. All told, nearly 60% of our undergraduate students paid no out-of-pocket tuition costs last year.

For those students who are not fully covered by federal Pell and state TAP programs, but who still have significant need, we have been raising funds aggressively to assist them. In the 2010–11 academic year, we distributed $1.2 million in scholarship funds to 1,229 students. We anticipate exceeding these figures in the current academic year.

Successful Fundraising Efforts

Since December 2010, we have nearly doubled the amount of private funds available for students in need. In partnership with the Brooklyn College Foundation, we have raised $3.3 million exclusively for this purpose. Together with pre-existing funds, our endowment now holds in excess of $6 million to be used specifically for students in need. The vice presidents and I are currently working with the staff of the Brooklyn College Foundation and the Office of Financial Aid to determine the most effective method of distributing these funds to current students and at the same time ensuring that we are able to support future students in need. While we do not yet have all of the details in place, beginning in fall 2012 we will offer academic grants of $400 annually to students who demonstrate need, and who are not fully covered by other forms of federal or state assistance. This new academic grants program will continue for the next five years, after which time we will evaluate its impact. Details about this new program will be communicated to all students and faculty in May.

While we are on the topic of fundraising, I would like to update you on two major developments. As you are aware, the college has been actively seeking funding to support new graduate programs in cinema. Due to our partnership with Steiner Studios, these will be the only graduate programs in the country that are fully housed on a working film lot. Furthermore, the total cost of our new graduate degrees will be one third that of comparable graduate programs in cinema around the country. Given the growing importance of the film and television industries in New York, these programs will provide our graduate students with many career opportunities and will support this important sector of the state economy.

Today, I am very pleased to report that we have now secured $12 million in funding for this project and anticipate surpassing $15 million by summer's end. This great progress has been made possible due to the remarkable generosity of Barry Feirstein, chair of the Brooklyn College Foundation, who got the ball rolling with his lead gift of $5.5 million, along with gifts from a number of our trustees and alumni as well as support from CUNY.  I also want to thank Vice President Sillen, Provost Tramontano, Dean Conelli and especially Professor Dan Gurskis and  his colleagues in the Department of Film, who have provided extraordinary vision and planning for this project.

Congratulations are also in order for Professor Gurskis for another reason. He has been appointed dean of the College of the Arts at Montclair State University, effective July 1. Dan, on behalf of everyone at Brooklyn College, we wish you all the best. You will be missed.

Administrative Hires

In anticipation of a stable budget for the next academic year, we are beginning to fill some of the vacancies produced by the early retirement incentive program and other faculty and staff departures. In a few minutes, the provost will provide an update on current and upcoming faculty searches. At this time, I would like to introduce three administrative hires of critical importance to our college. When I call your name, please stand and be recognized.

Maria Campanella joined the enrollment management staff in January as the new manager of transfer student services. Maria will lead the newly established Transfer Student Services Center and ensure that our transfer students receive the services and support necessary to facilitate an effective transition to Brooklyn College.

Earl Monk joined us earlier this month as our new director of Human Resource Services, replacing Steven Ward, who left the college in December. Earl has many years of experience in human resources and will provide strong oversight for our HR services, including the implementation of CUNYfirst.

Lastly, I am pleased to announce the appointment of Richard Feltman, who will be joining us next week as our new registrar. We all know that this position is crucial for our students and faculty, and Vice President Joyner and I are delighted to have Richard on board.

We are also moving forward with searches for two important positions in the senior administration. First, Provost Tramontano is chairing a national search for a new vice president for finance and administration. Second, the opening for a new assistant vice president for facilities planning and operations will be posted shortly. These two positions are critical to many initiatives. The new AVP for facilities will play a vital role in the maintenance, renovation and construction of our campus infrastructure. What has become clear to me is that we need to adjust our approach in the maintenance and renovation of our facilities to one that is more proactive, by focusing on preventive maintenance and operational planning. We will therefore initiate a series of repairs and renovations, as resources allow, and we will prioritize spaces that are essential to the success of our faculty and students.

Campus Construction Projects

With respect to the construction projects that are under way, I have a number of updates and a reminder that all of these projects are supported by public and private funds, not through tuition.

Construction of the new Leonard & Claire Tow Center for the Performing Arts is on schedule. Demolition of Gershwin Hall is occurring floor by floor and will be completed next month. CUNY is in the process of reviewing bids from contractors, after which construction should begin this summer, and repairs to the Whitman Theatre façade are nearing completion.

Renovations to Ingersoll Hall and Ingersoll Hall Extension are also under way. Shortly after commencement, construction will begin on the entrance to Ingersoll Hall Extension near the lily pond. Interior renovations of the Ingersoll complex will be ongoing, including the much-needed replacement of a number of exhaust hoods, which will enhance the research and teaching infrastructure in the sciences.

CUNY is in the process of selecting an architectural firm to renovate four lecture halls in Whitehead Hall, Ingersoll Hall and Ingersoll Hall Extension. Design will begin in mid-June. These new lecture halls will be state of the art and provide contemporary learning environments with appropriate technology across multiple disciplines. Also in Whitehead Hall, renovations to the Television Center will begin over the summer.

As you have no doubt noticed, many projects are under way as well on the west side of our campus. The new athletic field is nearly completed. We expect to begin using it early this summer.

The unsightly drainage remediation project on the West Quad is nearing completion. Happily, we expect the orange fences and ditches to be gone by the end of June. Interior and exterior repairs are also under way at the West Quad Center. These efforts will address many of the issues that have caused frustration for our staff, faculty and students in that building.

Upgrades to the façade of James Hall, which include the addition of an entrance to the building from the West Quad, are also scheduled to be completed by the summer. Recent damage to the wall along the Bedford Avenue exterior of James Hall is already being repaired.

We all look forward to the completion of these renovations and repairs on the West Quad. We can also look forward to some exciting plans that are unfolding for the Roosevelt Science Teaching Commons and the West Quad grounds.

The architects at Mitchell Guirgola have developed a stunning plan for the new science building and the surrounding landscape. The schematic phase of the firm's work is now complete. The next phase of design development, which should take approximately six months, has just begun. As you can see from these conceptual renderings, the new building will be an inviting space for students, faculty and staff alike. And, the West Quad will become an attractive outdoor green space for the college community. I want to thank everyone who has been involved in the planning process thus far, in particular Provost Tramontano, Dean Psarris, and members of the faculty from the School of Natural and Behavioral Sciences.

2012–13 Tow Professorships

Each year I have the honor and pleasure of selecting the recipients of the Tow Professorships. These awards recognize distinguished contributions in teaching, scholarship and the advancement of the college's mission. Through the continuing generosity of Leonard and Claire Tow and the Tow Family Foundation, we are awarding four Tow Professorships for the coming year. Each Tow Professor will receive a $25,000 stipend. This year, we received a number of very strong nominations. Narrowing the field to four candidates was extremely difficult, and I hope we receive many re-applications next year.

Without further ado, in alphabetical order, I invite the Tow Professors for 2012–13 to stand and be recognized. 

  • Arthur Bankoff, professor and chair of anthropology and archaeology. Considered by experts in the field as one of the leading Bronze Age archaeologists in the nation, Arthur has an impressive record of research and published scholarship, having conducted archaeological digs from Brooklyn to Israel to Serbia and having been recognized with Fulbright, National Geographic and National Science Foundation awards, among others. He has also provided remarkable leadership and service to his department and the college.  
  • Scott Dexter, professor of computer and information science. Internationally recognized, Scott has a strong record of collaborative research and scholarship, which is particularly notable for its interdisciplinarity. He has led multiple research projects with colleagues from across our college and across the country, aligning a range of disciplinary inquiry in mathematics, education, philosophy and applied ethics in addition to computer and information science. His co-authored book with Professor Samir Chopra, Decoding Liberation: The Promise of Free and Open Source Software, has received wide critical acclaim. Professor Dexter's campus service to our core curriculum has also been praiseworthy.
  • Angelica Nuzzo, professor of philosophy. Professor Nuzzo is an outstanding teacher with an excellent reputation among students, so much so that her department has been able to offer a specialized course in 19th-century philosophy every year due to high student demand. She is also a prolific scholar, with seven books and dozens of chapters and articles to her credit. The Review of Metaphysics, a leading journal in her field, applauds Professor Nuzzo's most recent book, Ideal Embodiment: Kant's Theory of Sensibility, for its "insightful" analyses and "deep understanding of Kant scholarship, contemporary debates, and the history of modern philosophy." 
  • And finally, David Troyansky, professor and chair of history. David has published extensively on French history and Francophone migrations, and is an internationally respected scholar of record in his field. His professional service to the field of French history is noteworthy as well, having served as president of the Western Society for French History and on two key committees for the American Historical Association. Described by his colleagues as "an unflappable administrator" and a gifted mentor to junior faculty, Professor Troyansky has provided exemplary service to the department and the college.

Please join me in a round of applause for these exceptionally fine teachers, scholars and academic leaders, and for our generous alumni, Leonard and Claire Tow.

Congratulations again to our new Tow Professors and to the many faculty who have accomplished so much this past year. Finally, I want to thank you all for your commitment to our college and our students. It is an honor to serve as your president.

Thank you for attending.