A Letter from Interim President Christian

From 9 p.m. Dec. 10, 2010 to 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 11, text of another opinion piece that was not written by Interim President Donald Christian was posted on this page. The New Paltz Oracle regrets this technical difficulty and it should be known that the opinions suggested in the previous piece do not reflect the opinions of Interim President Donald Christian.

Recent editions of the Oracle have included considerable information about the College’s budget situation.  I write to clarify the College leadership perspective on the process and our role in it.

It is apparent and expected that views and values about addressing the budget shortfall vary.  I and other administrators are committed to continued consultation, encouraging the airing of diverse views, seeking as much common ground as possible, and avoiding divisive rhetoric.  We (Interim President, Vice Presidents) who have the responsibility to make decisions about the overall College budget will base those decisions on principles and values reflected in the ground rules, constraints, and criteria posted on the Budget Update website.  These are drawn largely from those that served the College well in addressing the 2008-09 budget shortfall and are consistent with best practices nationwide for fiscal management.

Among the most important of those principles are:  focusing on our core mission of educating students; maintaining the College’s forward momentum, quality, and reputation; keeping focus on the long-term health of the institution, even if that requires difficult change; maintaining appropriate levels of reserves.  Those principles make clear that simple, across-the-board cuts are not consistent with preserving quality.  We want to preserve jobs.  But we also have a responsibility to safeguard the long-term welfare of the College, and it may not be possible to achieve our required budget reduction without making hard decisions.

We have sought and evaluated suggestions and ideas from departments and units, and will continue to evaluate options for adjusting our economy during the next several months, to develop a final plan by late spring.   We will continue to consult appropriately with members of the College community who choose to participate, while recognizing that consultation need not result in consensus, or in decisions that are a hybrid, a blend of all of the input and ideas received.

SUNY New Paltz is in a strong position relative to some other colleges, in part because of difficult decisions to reduce the budget in response to the 2008-09 $6 million shortfall.  Our goal is to emerge from this budget situation as a strong and vital institution that continues to attract great students and serve them well.   The campus community needs to think differently about how we do our work, changing to focus on our highest priorities in the context of persistent state and national fiscal realities.   Other institutions have done and are doing these things, and I am confident that we can as well. Let’s remember that when this process is completed the New Paltz budget will still contain tens of millions of dollars to invest in educating students in the best way possible.

I certainly join the many other voices encouraging students, faculty and staff, alumni, parents, and citizens to advocate for state support to assure the essential financial resources that will allow New Paltz to fulfill its educational promise to students and New York.

Donald P. Christian

Interim President