President Hall Emphasizes
the Importance of the Student Experience
by Greta Petry (May
Kermit L. Hall
President Kermit L. Hall called for "a
little home cooking, some basic planning, and
some recalibration," in his first spring
address to the University at Albany faculty
April 27 in the Campus Center Ballroom. "I
offer this view while keeping in mind Mark
Twain's observation that 'I am
all for progress, but it is change that I can't
stand,' " the president joked.
Then he turned to serious issues.
"Of all the issues before the University, the student experience has the
greatest urgency," he said. "If we can successfully manage the issues
involving the student experience, then I believe that a climb in our reputation
will be inevitable." He said the University is a place of many paradoxes,
one of them being the existence of a Phi Beta Kappa chapter on the same campus
that was named by The Princeton Review as the No. 1 party school.
Hall laid out his action plan for moving
the University forward. "I invoke
my office as a bully pulpit to urge us to act, not merely to discuss," he
said, in a tough-talking speech that was lightened by humor and which ended in
This plan includes: a change in the basic
planning and budget processes; a commitment
to improving the student experience, especially
for undergraduates; a re-energized alumni and
development program; renewed dedication to
an urban mission "to
the neighborhoods in which we teach and learn" and, to a revitalized program
for government, media, and public relations.
He talked about consolidating the many plans
around campus through a process called compact
planning, and zeroing in on the issues that
need to be addressed.
"Let's begin by dusting off the existing
plans, taking them into the governance system,
deciding what makes the most sense, and then
using compact planning and a revised budget
process to give discipline and, most importantly,
action, to them. In short, we have to find the courage to make choices," Hall
said, adding he expects a new provost to be selected by the end of
the current academic year. The new provost will be charged with overseeing
the compact planning process.
Hall said reports generated over the last
eight years suggest a wide range of items on
which action is necessary.
- living-learning centers
- support for nationally competitive scholarships
- an identity for the University
- greater involvement by alumni in recruiting
and placing students
- service learning and voluntarism
- undergraduate research
- course access
- legacy admission of students to the major
- more effective orientation for transfer
- better use of the Web
- more attention to the lives of international
- renewed attention to safe housing off
- a better system of allocating housing
Hall said he envisions naming an action group
that will be charged with improving the student
Among other institutional changes,
Hall said there will be a vice president
for Governmental, Public, and Media Relations,
a new position. This takes the function of
lobbying government out of the Office of
the Vice President for Out-reach, where it
originated. It moves the Office of Media and
Marketing out of the Advancement division,
joining it with government relations. Hall
said a search for a permanent vice president
for development is underway, and he proposed
opening a development office in New York City
to establish a University presence there.
In addition, Hall said he is renaming the
Office for Outreach, which will now be known
as the Office of Diversity and Community/School
Relations, and charging it accordingly.
He said, "I view the issues of diversity, community building, and school
outreach as reciprocal, reinforcing, and central to what we are as an institution."
Hall said the University needs to "foster a better working relationship
with the city, to help every way we can with the Midtown redevelopment project,
and to provide a safer community for our students living there."
On the subject of the Inaugural Scholarship
Fund that Hall established, he announced that
$241,000 had been raised from 500 contributors.
He announced that four donor organizations
have pledged $10,000 or more. Greg Coady of
Chartwells; Hil Estock of Barnes & Noble College Bookstore; Edwina Kaliku, senior class
president; and Jeff Luks of the Alumni Association presented pledges.
Hall announced that Bruce L. Miroff, professor
of political science, and Professor of Africana
Studies Leonard A. Slade Jr. have been named
Collins Fellows. He also announced that Kajal Lahiri of the Department of Economics
has been named Distinguished Professor.
Next, Hall recognized the 23 winners of the
2005 Excellence Awards. Then he introduced
four outstanding students: Dara Stofenberg,
a graduating senior and Presidential Scholar
with a 4.0 GPA; Min Xie, a criminal justice
doctoral student who is receiving the Eliot
Lumbard Award for Academic Excellence; Yuliana
Antonia De Los Santos, a graduating senior
and EOP student who is a biology major with
a minor in mathematics, chemistry, and physics;
and Goldwater Scholar Edgardo Sosa, a junior
and a double major in biochemistry-molecular biology and anthropology.
"Our task is simple but bracing: to
re-energize and reinvigorate this powerful
place of learning and to recalibrate the social
compact by which we exist and according to
which we will all be remembered."
Hall's complete speech is available