I would like to take the opportunity to once again welcome everyone back for the 2017/2018 Academic Year.
Over the summer, the College made several new administrative appointments. After national searches, Marcus Tye has been appointed the Dean of the School of Health Sciences and Ken Iwama has been appointed Vice President for Economic Development, Continuing Studies, and Government Relations, and President of the Auxiliary Services Corporation. Notification of other appointments were previously set forth in campus announcements.
I want to express my sincere support for the people of Puerto Rico. On Staten Island, due to Superstorm Sandy, we fully understand the impact of natural disasters. The effects of the recent hurricane have devastated most of the island of Puerto Rico. With nearly four million residents inhabiting more than 100 miles of rough terrain, relief efforts have been extremely difficult. Personally, I still have not heard from many lifelong friends who reside in Puerto Rico. It is our responsibility to continue our serious conversations about resiliency, climate change, and sustainable infrastructure.
As many of you already know, the College is experiencing major construction. We have received acknowledgment that the formula used by CUNY to allocate capital dollars to the campuses should be readjusted for CSI and we are seeing the results of that acknowledgment. We have received more than $57M in ongoing capital construction funds from the State that have been invested to address our longstanding infrastructure needs, many of which date back to when Willowbrook State School and Halloran General Hospital occupied our campus. I understand that construction projects are a hardship to many, but these are short-term consequences of progress and improvement.
The College has received longstanding complaints about our roadways, sidewalks, and crumbling infrastructure.
- The Loop Road reconstruction, along with the addition of new curbs and storm sewer drainage, will ensure that the surfaces will last longer and that flooding will be better controlled.
- New gutter installations on the buildings will control rainwater runoff, which will direct water to new underground retention basins.
- The first phase of the Building 2M construction has been completed and once we receive the certificate of occupancy from the NYC Fire Department, we will be opening ten new classrooms for the College. The next phase of the project, demolition of the first floor, is currently underway.
- The Hardscape Project, which is in progress, will replace the courtyards of four academic buildings. Work on the remaining eight courtyards will take place at a later date yet to be determined.
- The substation repairs have been completed, and the transition back to two Con Ed feeds should be happening over the next two weeks.
- We have submitted a request to CUNY for sidewalk repairs and replacement on the inner walkways, which we hope to start in the spring, as well as a plan that addresses adding rear service pads for vehicle use to most of our buildings. We are waiting for notification of available funding for these projects.
Unfortunately, our operating budget has not realized the same momentum, and we are currently facing significant challenges. Over the past two years, our operating budget has been cut $5.5M; this in addition to the 1% plus deficit from last year’s budget for which we need to account this year. While we are experiencing record increases in graduation rates, first-time freshman and graduate enrollment, our undergraduate student retention rates continue to decline. Looking at our overall expenditures, we have determined that 90% of costs are derived from Personnel Services (which have focused on academic hiring), which have been further exacerbated by the recent settled labor agreements for faculty and staff.
Actions that we have already taken to address the situation include decreasing the adjunct budget, placing on hold 77 non-faculty positions valued at $4.6M, and reducing Other Than Personnel Services (OTPS), overtime, and temp services expenditures. I am working with the Budget committee to look at strategies for the future, and I will continue to work with CUNY to address our budget challenges. Moving forward, we will need to manage our budget more holistically and strategically to advance our mission.
Therefore, our new Strategic Plan is more critical than ever. We need to align realistic institutional goals with resources, which is a departure from our previous plan. The preliminary Strategic Priorities of the new plan reflect upon growing much of what we are already doing as opposed to moving in wholly new or different directions. Additionally our previous plan expired in 2016 and there is an expectation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education that a new plan will be completed by the end of 2017.
We have been working on the new Strategic Plan for two years pursuant to the following timetable:
- Utilized a consultant in the fall of 2015.
- Student, faculty, and staff focus groups met in the spring 2016.
- In spring 2017, the College’s Institutional Planning Committee, upon consultation with small constituent groups, released a draft of six Strategic Priorities: Student Success, Global Engagement, Borough Stewardship, Destination Campus, Scholarship-Driven Education, and Resource Management.
- The proposed Strategic Priorities were posted on Blackboard in May 2017 for the entire campus community to review and provide comment. There have been nearly 200 comments of which 90% were positive.
- A second Town Hall Meeting will be held on October 3 and will consist of table-top discussion for each strategic priority as well as the mission, visions, and values with each table reporting on its discussions.
- The revised draft will be distributed to the College Council in October and posted to Blackboard by mid-October for final comments by the College community.
In closing, I wish everyone great success this academic year.