Announcement Regarding NCAA Division II Membership

I am excited to share the news that the NCAA Division II Membership Committee has accepted our application to join Division II, enabling us to join Queens College and eight other public and private institutions competing in the East Coast Conference. CSI and Queens are now the only NCAA Division II institutions in the five New York City boroughs, and the only public NCAA Division II institutions in New York State.

The move to NCAA Division II fits in perfectly with our Strategic Plan and will continue CSI’s standing as a scholar-athlete driven athletic program, with 50% of CSI’s student-athlete body holding a 3.00 cumulative GPA or better, and 38% holding a 3.2 or higher.  The move will facilitate scholarship-driven education and help us expand the College’s current regional footprint. In addition to making our program more attractive to local student-athletes looking to play DII, we will now be able to offer scholarships that will help increase our percentage of out-of-state and international student athletes. The costs of scholarships will be borne by revenue generated by Athletics and by philanthropy.

I want to thank Athletic Director Charles Gomes and his team, as well as everyone on campus, who has helped us throughout the application process. You can access more information on the move and our championship program online.

Once again, congratulations to our Athletic program and Go Dolphins!

7.5 Million Dollar Donation to Benefit the School of Business

Following the CUNY Board of Trustees’ approval earlier this evening, the College of Staten Island has received a $7.5M cash gift from Class of ’65 alumni Lucille and Jay Chazanoff to benefit the School of Business. The gift is the largest individual donation ever made to a nonprofit within the Borough of Staten Island and is, by far, the greatest gift ever received by the College. With the potential to dramatically transform the work of the School, the Fund will be used to support the Lucille and Jay Chazanoff School of Business, including accreditation pursuant to the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) – an international organization that is the preeminent accrediting body for business schools in the United States. There are 845 business institutions in 56 countries and territories that have earned AACSB accreditation.

The income generated by the Fund will support a wide range of objectives, including retaining faculty, many of whom have garnered national recognition as Fulbright Scholars, National Science Foundation grant recipients, and National Academy of Science expert panel members. CSI Business faculty hold positions on journal editorial boards, occupy leadership roles in professional organizations, and consult to federal, state, and local governmental agencies.

The College will also use this endowment to undertake a well-defined series of strategic program improvements that will significantly strengthen both CSI and the Lucille and Jay Chazanoff School’s national standing and improve student success.

I want to thank Lucille and Jay Chazanoff for this gift and for their history of supporting the College and the Staten Island community.  I also want to thank Susan L. Holak, Dean of the newly named School; Cheryl Adolph, Executive Director of Institutional Advancement and External Affairs; and all others who played a role in fostering this generous gift.

President’s Message – Health Update

I write to update you on my progress and to extend my heartfelt gratitude to the many members of the CSI and Staten Island communities who have reached out to me with their support, thoughts, prayers, and best wishes. I am humbled and can only say, thank you!

At this time, my surgeon assures me that I am right on track with my progress. I am feeling better every day and will soon start making short appearances on campus and am confident that I will be able to participate in our Commencement ceremonies. Thank you for your support and for your patience when I have had to reschedule meetings.

President’s Message Regarding Sri Lanka Bombings

I write to you today to condemn the appalling violence in Sri Lanka and the hatred that motivated these attacks. On behalf of the CSI community, I extend our heartfelt sympathies to the families, friends, and loved ones of the victims of these terrible acts.

As I have repeatedly noted, the College of Staten Island has always welcomed students and scholars from every religion, race, sexual orientation, or national origin to pursue their educational interests. We will always be an educational institution where one can engage in difficult conversations through respectful discourse and categorically reject anyone who seeks to promote hatred and bigotry – it has no place on our campus.

Please know that confidential counseling services are available for members of our community who need additional support during this time or any time in the future.

Students may contact the CSI Counseling Center: 718.982.2391 or walk-in at your convenience during business hours – Building 1A, Room 109. You can come in alone, with a friend, or in a group – just give them a call.  More information is available at www.csi.cuny.edu/students/counseling-center.

Employees may contact the Deer Oaks Employee Assistance Program to speak with a licensed mental health counselor: 855.492.3633 (24-hours/day) or email: eap@deeroaks.com. For more information visit: www.deeroakseap.com.

President’s Budget Message, April 2019

The University recently released the third-quarter forecast, which projects the College finishing with a slightly positive balance. I wanted to share this news with you and update you on the steps being taken to improve our financial position. First, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for your hard work and dedication to CSI. I am grateful to be part of a campus where faculty and staff understand the unique Mission of this institution and believe in the value we provide to our students and our community.

I know it has been a difficult year regarding some of the uncertainty presented while we worked with CUNY to close a midyear projected deficit, and appreciate your patience as we worked to avoid imposition of sweeping measures. We are projecting to close our deficit, by restricting hires to critical areas, implementing aggressive collection measures, increasing summer enrollment, and receiving support from non-tax levy resources. Regarding current-year spending in OTPS, AVP Carlos Serrano will be meeting with the Provost and Deans to process payments for travel reimbursements and Library database subscriptions. This year, we will be supporting $70,000 in travel, which is approximately $28,000 or 65% more than the PSC-CUNY contractual minimum. While we will be able to make these payments, it is important that we start to address some longstanding issues that I outline further below. The third-quarter forecast makes it clear that many of the senior colleges have endured a similar year, which reaffirms what I have previously stated, that we need to rely on ourselves to shape our destiny and make this a destination campus.

In that spirit, about two months ago, we convened a team made up of offices from Academic Affairs, Enrollment Services, and Finance, with the Provost overseeing the coordination of efforts to attain optimal results for improved enrollment for Summer and Fall 2019 and improved collections. This cross-divisional team of roughly 20 people has been meeting on a weekly basis to develop and implement strategies in order to help improve our fiscal and enrollment outlook for both the immediate future and long-term. As a result, they have undertaken efforts to speed the processing of freshmen and transfer applications, including lending support to CUNY Central for the processing of applications. They have also implemented a comprehensive conversion plan to turn admitted freshmen and transfer students into enrollees by focusing on student engagement. There are more opportunities for students and their families to visit the campus and ongoing calling campaigns including student-to-student, advisor-to-student, and faculty-to-student. These calls are designed to answer questions, reiterate the College’s value proposition, and make the students feel welcome as a part of the Dolphin family.  Recently, a small group, led by Michael Parrish, met with officials from CUNY Central to report that we are taking all possible actions to ameliorate the effects caused by some of the glitches in the new admissions module. They were pleased with our efforts and felt we were on the right track.

In addition to the above actions, the group focused its efforts on a summer enrollment plan, which includes targeting two populations: new external students (visiting) and current CSI students. Thousands of emails and postcards were sent to students announcing summer classes at CSI.  The targeted groups included students who previously applied to CSI but did not attend; students who applied to any CUNY school, live on Staten Island, but did not attend CUNY; and students who expressed an interest in summer classes via the Central CUNY Website. 

Current students are being encouraged to enroll in summer courses with correspondence from CAAS detailing the benefits of taking classes in summer sessions.  Additionally, affinity groups have been asked to encourage their students to take summer classes.  We have also developed a dynamic campaign to advertise summer courses utilizing digital resources, campus-wide poster displays, and emails. Finally, Financial Aid (FA) has been sending personalized communication to students that detail their specific eligibility for summer Pell and encourages them to consider taking summer courses.

The team model previously mentioned was also leveraged to improve our collections. Specifically, the Bursar is working with those in other units to help collect outstanding balances from our students. This approach has already shown that students are often more responsive to individuals with whom they have established relationships such as those in Athletics, SEEK, Verrazano, etc. While this team model for collections is relatively new, we started making changes in our collections process early in the academic year. During the Fall semester, we engaged an advisor and consulted with CUNY to review most effective methods. As a result of our internal reviews, we made a number of changes to our collections process. After significant outreach to students with balances, we started aggressively de-registering students who had sizeable outstanding balances. The Bursar also developed reports so we could do a better analysis of our collections’ shortfalls. This analysis provided the basis for creating teams to assist with collections.  We have also reduced the waiting period for sending delinquent accounts to a collection agency and have been using the agency that has proven to obtain the best results. In addition to the improvements in the Bursar’s Office, Financial Aid (FA) helped the College reduce its outstanding balances by maximizing federal and state funding and Direct Loans. They successfully petitioned CUNY Central for additional Federal Supplemental Educational Grant (SEOG) funds, receiving almost $200k more than last spring. SEOG funds are used to pay student balances so this has a direct impact on helping the College reach its collection target and enabling students to continue their education. Moreover, FA recently secured an additional $50,000, and is negotiating with CUNY to get even more. Besides maximizing grant opportunities, FA packaged students who are eligible for unsubsidized and subsidized Direct Loans in an effort to eliminate any outstanding balances. Notably, FA packaged 384 students for Spring 2019 and 563 students for Fall 2018, totaling 947 students. This represents a nearly 20% increase over the 810 students who were packaged last academic year. These collection measures are quickly bearing fruit. Prior-Year collections from collection agency actions are up $361K over last year at $2.8M. For Spring 2019, thanks to the ongoing contributions of these teams, we have experienced reductions in student balances. Specifically, we have reduced targeted student group balances by 19% or $834k from $4.376M on March 20 to $3.542M on April 2.

Because we have had some success, I do not want to give the impression that we can take the hand off the throttle. Changing the direction of the College is like sailing a battleship–we change course, but we don’t turn on a dime. The good news is that we started many of the necessary changes prior to this year. Our efforts to make this a destination campus and improve our enrollment will rely in part on improving our infrastructure. We had great success in improving our capital budget, doubling it this past year, and have put the money to good use–improving our roads, adding gutters to buildings, reconstructing the entry plazas to four of our academic buildings, refurbishing the pool, and adding nine new state-of-the-art classrooms, a computer lab, and adjunct faculty space to Building 2M. We are at various stages of work in additional projects such as replacing our existing sidewalks and electrical substation repairs.

Besides these infrastructure improvements, we have been very successful in generating support for the school and academic programs from external sources, like our elected officials and local companies.

In the past several years, we have secured more than $5.2M just for academic projects through the work of our government relations arm including:

  • $1.35M from the City Council for the development of a new high-tech engineering MakerSpace to support our students.
  • $45k for engineering equipment.
  • $1M plus from the City Council’s Technology Committee to support our CSI Tech Incubator.
  • $200k from Senator Lanza for the recently completed upgrade of our Nursing Simulator Lab.
  • $1.73M for the Media Culture Screening Room and TV Studio.
  • $41k for eye tracking equipment in Psychology.
  • $500k for renovation of the 6S Greenhouse, which is finally getting off the ground.
  • $125k from Con Ed for the naming of the Trading Room and which received an additional 175k of government support.
  • $250k from Richmond County Savings Foundation for the naming of the atrium of Building 2M.
  • $108k from National Grid for scholarship support.

In addition to this support, at the March College Council meeting, the Foundation President, Pat McDermott, noted how the CSI Foundation over the last eight-plus years turned a deficit of $360k in unrestricted funds into a modest 290k surplus and increased the total equity funds by nearly $5 million. This year, the Foundation was able to provide 175k in unrestricted funds to assist various Departments and the College as a whole. Over the last four years, they have provided $772k in college support and nearly 1.5M in scholarships.

Finally, concerning enrollment, I believe two moves will have a significant impact on the College. The addition of our new Assistant Vice President of Enrollment, Alexander Scott, will help in the development of a long-range, strategic enrollment plan. Next, if we are successful in our application, our move to Division II and the East Coast Conference will increase the College’s exposure as we compete in locations along the eastern seaboard. Enrollment across CUNY is soft so we need to grow our exposure outside of the metro area, and this is one way to do it.

The above activities–from infrastructure improvements to increased funding to student success and outreach efforts–will help us with our enrollment, and the best way to improve our budget is through increased enrollment. However, it is likely that Fall 2019 will look similar to Fall 2018. Therefore, we have to review our expenses. Willie Sutton, a notorious bank robber, when asked why he robbed banks, reportedly replied, “because that’s where the money is.”  Our resources are primarily dedicated to personnel costs so, until enrollment improves, we must look at our staffing numbers. Overall, total FT staffing for the College has increased from 2016 to 2018, from 913 to 953. During that period, staff per 1,000 FTE has increased from 82.2 to 85.6, which places the College fifth lowest among the 11 senior colleges, behind NYCCT (69), Queens (79.7), John Jay (80.8), and Baruch (85.5). City College has the highest ratio at 114.2 per 1,000 FTE. Generally, the College is in the middle of the pack among the 11 senior colleges, (excluding the specialty schools) when looking at staffing per 1,000 FTE. However, we are lightly staffed in comparison to other schools in Academic Support (third lowest at 2.5 per 1,000 FTE), General Institutions Staff (third lowest at 8.5 per 1,000 FTE), and General Administration (second lowest at 5.5 per 1,000 FTE). When it comes to Maintenance and Operations, CUNY compares headcount to Gross Square Footage (GSF) of the campus buildings. According to CUNY, we have 1.368 M of GSF, and one worker per 12,435 GSF. Using this formula, we have the third highest staffing number behind Medgar (7,789) and Baruch (11,558). NYCCT has the lowest at (22,432).  Unfortunately, this formula ignores CSI’s 204 acres, which equates to 8,886,240 exterior gross square feet. CSI has the responsibility of maintaining 26 separate buildings spread across the campus. The total of 26 buildings is the second largest total among the senior colleges. The 204 acres accounts for 44% of the total acreage of all senior colleges (463 acres). Based on this information, we are not adequately staffed and need additional funding to protect against deferred maintenance. I have presented this argument to Central and hope to have some success in changing the formula.

Regardless of any success on this front, it is important that we review future hires strategically in relation to enrollment and our overall resources. One factor guiding our hiring decisions will be cost of instruction. I have charged  the Provost, along with the IPC and the College Council Budget Committee, with undertaking this review so we can make better decisions pertaining to the hiring of full-time staff and adjuncts. This is necessary and one of the best ways to take hold of our future. In furtherance of the discussions we need to have, please review the chart that shows our headcount over the last ten years.

I believe the College’s future is bright and that by working together to analyze and address the challenges we face, we will be a stronger institution and continue our ascent. I want to stress again how important it is that we work together and I encourage you to feel free to provide suggestions on how we can increase revenue, improve efficiencies, and reduce expenditures. Please feel free to email any suggestions regarding enrollment and the budget to me at president@csi.cuny.edu. Thank you again for your time, your efforts to make this a destination campus, and your support.

College Council President’s Report – March 21, 2019

I’m going to keep my remarks brief based on the presentation given by Pat McDermott. I also want to start by acknowledging the work that he and the rest of the Board members do in support of the College. These are people who have had success in different areas of life who donate their time to work with our Advancement team, all in support of the College and the Borough. I am truly grateful for their service.

 

Budget

I know how frustrated everyone is with this year’s budget. I promise you that no one is more frustrated than I am. We submitted our budget request in September 2018, and we’re now hoping to finalize it sometime next week. Last year at this time, we faced a nearly $1M deficit. This year, we are in a similar situation as we again will be relying on NTL resources to cover the projected deficit. We will still be having a Commencement ceremony and proceeding with traditional events, though they may be scaled back somewhat. It is important, though, that we remain vigilant in trying to limit expenditures and I greatly appreciate the efforts of departments during this time of belt-tightening.

With regard to hiring, I have not terminated searches. However, hires for next fall will be determined by our overall attrition numbers. Part of our efforts to address next year’s budget will include an overall reduction in PS costs. It’s also important to repeat what I’ve mentioned before, namely, health and safety positions will be prioritized when making hiring decisions. For too many years, we cut back on some positions with the belief that we would be able to refill those positions once tuition increases were implemented. As we now know, the tuition increases have not led to an overall budget increase so we have to prioritize hiring in these areas in the coming year.

I mentioned at February’s College Council, that the last three years tell me that we cannot rely on the State or CUNY to improve our basic operating budget. Talking with the presidents of the other senior colleges over the last month about their own budget problems has only confirmed this viewpoint. As a result of the budget issues, we’ve been reviewing every aspect of how we are doing business, evaluating our projections and collections. Based on some of the work over the last several weeks, I am confident that we will be able to cover some additional travel costs and give a percentage of overhead costs to the Departments. I expect to provide those numbers in the next few weeks. Importantly, the work we are doing now will help us next year and going forward.

A team from the Advisement, Admissions, and Budget offices has been working together to improve our coordination with collections and improve our summer and fall enrollments. I believe this teamwork among the groups will really help students and the College.

 

Athletics

I wanted to briefly follow-up on our application to join Division II Athletics because the College Executive Committee raised some concerns at our last meeting in terms of the review process and ultimately what benchmarks will be used. We were presented with this opportunity late in the Fall semester and I acted quickly because I did not want to lose the opportunity to use this as a recruiting tool for this Fall. Now, because I acted quickly, I don’t want to give the impression I acted recklessly. I made this decision based on my experience as a Provost at a Division I Athletic program and seeing the benefits that an athletic program can have on a college in terms of recruitment and college spirit. My decision was also guided by the experience of our fellow CUNY institution, Queens College. I spoke extensively with the then President of Queens College, and now CUNY Chancellor, Felix Matos Rodriguez. Our Athletic Director, Charles Gomes, also had discussions with the Queens College AD.  Currently, Queens College, which also self-funds its program, has 30 international student athletes and 25 out-of-state student athletes. I expect to have similar, if not better results. Recruitment of 50 out-of-state/international students would generate more than $605,000 in additional tax-levy revenue for the campus. This counts ONLY the differential between in-state and out-of-state tuition and fees. Charles has advised me that we have already accepted three international students for our tennis team – one from Germany, one from Austria, and one from Spain, and are working with two additional German students.

Assuming that our application is approved this July, we will have a three-year probationary period when we will be making an assessment that will be based on measures such as: targets for out-of-state/international enrollment, percentage of students coming from new high schools, academic success of athletes, and increased fundraising targets. This will be an ongoing process and I will be updating and discussing our progress with the College Executive Committee and the College Council over the next three years.

 

The next item I want to address is the news on admissions fraud, a story that is capturing national attention. Because we are an access institution, it may be tempting to argue that scandals like the ones alleged at elite highly competitive institutions could never happen here. Adopting this view would be a mistake and we should use the national conversation to ensure that we have solid policies and practices in place so that such fraud is not tolerated here. We have an “Alleged Fraud, Abuse or Misconduct” button on our home page and I can assure you that our compliance team takes all reports seriously, whether or not they are anonymous, and investigates them to the greatest extent possible. Compliance and integrity are cornerstones of my administration and we will not tolerate fraud, abuse, or misconduct in any form.

This has been a good week for us. As an institution, 25% of our enrolled students are Hispanic, allowing us to be designated a Hispanic Serving Institution. With this designation, we will be eligible for grants, including HSI STEM grants.

Additionally, the Department of Social Work received official Commission on Accreditation (COA) Reaffirmation Decision letter from the February 2019 COA meeting for the Baccalaureate Social Work program at the College of Staten Island.

The School of Education was informed recently that their proposal for a Doctorate in Educational Leadership was approved by the NY State Board of Education, following previous approval by CUNY’s Board of Trustees. The program will now go to the state legislature for review. Congratulations to Dean Ken Gold and the team that crafted the program documents.

Lastly, I have forwarded a recommendation to the Board of Trustees that Jane Kurtin, the Staten Island Advance reporter who exposed the conditions at the Willowbrook State School and changed the face of mental health care in the United States, receive an honorary degree at this year’s Commencement.

Message from the President

I write to explain my anticipated absence from many campus events over the next six weeks. I normally do not share details of my personal health but feel it best to be candid at this point. I have recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer that is quite advanced. My doctors recommend immediate surgery as the best course of action. While the procedure gives the best chance for a complete recovery, it will require an extended time to recuperate. I still have a number of tests but will likely have the surgery in early to mid-April. I should be able to keep most of my regular appointments before then. After the surgery, I anticipate being able to work and oversee campus issues but may need to limit my calendared meetings and attendance at certain events. If all goes according to plan, I will have a regular schedule in early to mid-May and will be able to preside over commencement. During times that I am unavailable, Michael Parrish, as Senior Vice President, will serve as administrator in charge.

I also want to take this time to remind all men of the importance of regular PSA tests. Normally, prostate cancer is viewed as the “good cancer” because it is slow growing and “watchful waiting” is often the initial treatment option. However, this is not always the case. Cancer is the number 2 killer of men (behind cardiac problems) and prostate cancer is the number 2 cancer killer, behind lung cancer. I am on an advocacy mission to correct the terminology – there is nothing good about it! In my case, because of family history, I have had PSA tests for a long time. Recently my numbers rose quickly but were still in the “watchful waiting” range. It took an especially vigilant diagnostician to review my history and other indicators and to order a biopsy when “watchful waiting” was indicated by the PSA values alone. In my case, waiting could have had severe consequences.

Please, if you are not already doing so, discuss with your physician the best time to start monitoring and do not skip a test!

I apologize for being so detailed with my personal health but I felt it best to keep you informed and I hope that my story will stress the importance of yearly health checkups for everyone. I look forward to being back on campus fit and healthy before the end of the semester.

President Fritz’s Remarks Regarding the Recent Tragedy in New Zealand

I write to you today to condemn the hatred that motivated the mass shooting and human tragedy unfolding in New Zealand. On behalf of the CSI community, I extend our heartfelt sympathies to the families, friends, and loved ones of the victims of this unspeakable event. I also want to reassure the Muslim community at CSI and on Staten Island that the College of Staten Island does not tolerate hate speech.

The College of Staten Island has always welcomed students and scholars from every religion, race, sexual orientation, and national origin to pursue their educational interests. We believe an educational institution should be a place where one can engage in difficult conversations through respectful discourse. We categorically reject anyone seeking to promote hatred and bigotry – it has no place on our campus.

Please know that confidential counseling services are available for members of our community who need additional support during this time:

  • Students may contact the CSI Counseling Center: 718.982.2391 or walk-in at your convenience during business hours – Building 1A, Room 109. You can come in alone, with a friend, or in a group – just give them a call. More information is available online.
  • Employees may contact the Deer Oaks Employee Assistance Program to speak with a licensed mental health counselor: 855.492.3633 (24-hours/day) or email: eap@deeroaks.com. For more information visit the Deer Oaks Website  (member username and password is CSI).