Remarks at Faculty/Staff Meeting
February 2, 2004
Thank you Marjorie. I will keep my comments brief. And thank you for coming together today on such short notice. Your being here is a testimony to your commitment to this institution and its future.
As you know by now, President Hitchcock requested an immediate leave of absence to tend to family health issues last week. Chancellor King has approved her request and has asked that I serve as Officer in Charge until such time as a decision is made to appoint an interim president of the University at Albany. I anticipate that such a decision will be made in the next several weeks.
I was unfamiliar with the title Officer in Charge until this last week. I now understand it means that the Officer in Charge must be available on two calendars simultaneously instead of one. More seriously, the position “Officer in Charge” refers to a responsibility not too different from one with which we are already quite familiar. Whenever the President is traveling or on vacation, the Provost serves in the President’s stead as the Chief Executive of the University. The phrase “Officer in Charge” is used when this arrangement is not a short-term, temporary one for a day or two, but will last for a somewhat longer period of time.
It has been a great privilege and an honor to work and learn for the last sixteen years at the University at Albany. I now feel duty bound to help out at this critical juncture in the institution’s history. I join you in expressing our support for President Hitchcock and wishing her and her family all the best in these difficult times and that our thoughts and hopes are with them. I also want to thank Chancellor Robert King for his immediate response and for the supportive position he took in light of President Hitchcock’s unanticipated request.
I have been at the University at Albany since 1988. As someone who grew up traveling from place to place every three or four years, Albany is where I have spent the longest period of time in my entire life. The University at Albany is my home and I have served it in many different capacities—as faculty member, department chair, Senate chair, Associate Provost, Dean of Graduate Studies, and Provost. I know this institution well and I am proud to say that I know virtually all of the faculty and staff in this room. And if I don’t know you yet, please stop by today or soon and introduce yourself.
It is particularly important for all of us—faculty, administration, staff, and students—to continue to work closely together to ensure that the institution not lose the momentum that has developed under President Hitchcock’s leadership and that of the academic deans. The senior administration of this campus—vice presidents, deans, and their staffs—looks forward to continuing our close association with faculty leadership and governance as well as student leadership, parents, alumni and friends, and our union partners. Like other SUNY institutions, we count on continued support from the State University of New York System Administration and its Trustees, our University Council, and the executive and legislative branches of New York State government to help us fulfill our mission on behalf of the citizens of this State.
On many different occasions, I have spoken about the difficulties facing public higher education across the nation. This is not an environment for the squeamish or for those who simply place blame and our fortunes in the hands of others. The faculty, in particular, through their scholarship, teaching, and service, must continue to lead the way in confronting our challenges and seeking outcomes that bring greater excellence in all that we do. The job of the senior administration on this campus is to provide direction, options, and opportunities. Nonetheless, this is a time of change and while change brings with it uneasiness and conceivably a sense of instability, change also provides an opportunity to markedly advance our institutional goals. I can assure you that our institution will stand by its commitments and I will do everything in my power to assure continuity in the weeks ahead.
We will do so by focusing on the task at hand:
- by continuing to recruit students of the highest caliber and providing broad access to higher learning;
- by providing a rich learning environment, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, that will be second to none
- by providing opportunities for public and private partnerships via our scholarly and service activities that will enable this institution to garner the resources necessary to move in the company of the top ranked public research universities;
- by continuing to invest in basic facilities such as classrooms and other teaching spaces;
- by moving forward our faculty hiring plan in the face of budgetary challenges;
- by ensuring a safe and healthy educational setting; and
- by ensuring that the institution is well positioned to attract a new president and leadership in the course of this calendar year.
I commit to you that I will work steadfastly on these issues. In turn, I ask that you too commit yourself to our shared purpose by bringing your finest efforts to our institution, especially by ensuring that the quality of our students’ experience is unaffected by organizational change and transition.
Let us commit to each other, as well—to collegiality and civility in our interactions and discourse—indeed to generosity with one another—in the important weeks and months ahead.
Together, we can sustain the momentum. Together, we can help our University Council, the Chancellor of the State University of New York and the SUNY Trustees attract the best possible leadership to lead this institution through the next exciting phase of its evolution. I look forward to working with each and every person in this room to preserve the tradition of excellence that is our hallmark here at the University at Albany.
I don’t want to keep you long so if you have questions or comments, I invite you to contact me via email. Thank you.