The University at Albany is a vibrant, remarkable community with an important mission, and that is why so many of us share dismay and disappointment with the published results of the cursory, unscientific surveys conducted for the Princeton Review college guide. The guide’s rankings certainly do not reflect the vast majority of serious, hardworking students at UAlbany.
That said, we recognize the rankings are cause for concern because of the very misleading picture they offer – one that tarnishes the traditions and diminishes the very real achievements of the University, its students, and its faculty. As a result, we must all – students, faculty and staff, parents, alumni and friends of the University – speak up forcefully to dispel what may otherwise be a damaging and persistent image.
As our students and alumni well know, UAlbany offers high-quality, nationally ranked academic programs and a rich array of extracurricular activities, and we have a track record of preparing our graduates for success. In recent years, the academic profile of our students has risen steadily, as have the graduation rate, medical and law school acceptance rates, and other important measures of the seriousness of our students and the quality of their undergraduate experience at UAlbany. Our living alumni number more than 128,000 and are pursuing careers in a wide range of fields, including medicine, teaching, law, business and government. In fact, most who have contacted us about the Princeton Review guide (which, as you probably already know, has absolutely no connection with Princeton University) have noted the excellent experiences they had at UAlbany, a reality far different from that portrayed in the guide. To suggest that this is not a serious place is ludicrous.
At the same time, members of our University community have asked how we are addressing the issues raised. The answer is simply this: day in and day out, all of us work together to create a campus environment where students can thrive. Our students demand and expect a university environment that supports their intellectual and personal growth, and we are committed to providing that environment.
We work hard to address the many issues that challenge colleges across the nation, including the challenge to balance the social with the academic. We take very seriously the issues of alcohol and drug abuse by students, and through award-winning peer programs, community coalitions, and residence hall efforts, we encourage responsible behavior by students. Mirroring national data, our own research shows most UAlbany students consume alcohol moderately and responsibly, if they use it at all. But for some students, alcohol and drug abuse is a problem, and we will continue to move forward aggressively in this area.
Indeed, we have just been awarded a $600,000 grant from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to improve and expand existing education and prevention programs.
The heart of UAlbany life, of course, is our academic programs where our focus is to prepare students for the changing demands and challenges of our society. Our faculty take pride in the many innovative programs we have, and are developing, to support that goal.
UAlbany is fortunate to have an outstanding faculty, a group of nationally recognized scholars who are committed teachers and mentors. In fact, students regularly tell us that when they reach out to their professors, they get an abundance of guidance and assistance; many find that relationships with their faculty have been influential in their academic and career choices. But don’t just take our word for it. In the just-published 2005 Fiske Guide to Colleges, which USA Today calls “the best college guide you can buy,” UAlbany is ranked as a “best buy.” In the guide, an undergraduate student describes his peers as “intelligent, assertive, hardworking, urban – generally pretty fast company.” Another, in describing his academic experience, says: “we are given a lot of work and there is a lot of pressure to get all the work done.”
Enhancing the quality of student life outside the classroom is another major focus of the UAlbany community. We have invested more than $40 million renovating student residence halls, and just two years ago, we opened new apartment-style housing on campus, which is extremely popular with students. As the Interim President, I am fortunate to live in that dormitory. We are constantly improving classroom spaces and incorporating the latest technology that allows faculty and students to tap multi-media resources. We have an unusually rich array of campus events, which we actively promote to our students to build awareness of all there is to do and enjoy on campus. We have ambitious goals for UAlbany, and we have launched a major campaign to secure the private support necessary to help achieve our aims.
This is the reality at UAlbany. In the days and months ahead, we will be working as a community to counter the misleading picture presented by the Princeton Review. Please help this effort by spreading the word about the great things that are happening today at the University at Albany.
Thank you for all your efforts on behalf of UAlbany.