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Message from Chancellor Cantor
Dear SU Community:
It was just a month ago that we all celebrated the terrific news that the Campaign for Syracuse University was successful, reaching our goal of raising a billion dollars for programs, professorships, scholarships, facilities and more, three months ahead of schedule. “IT” (as our great colleagues in Advancement and External Affairs dubbed the collective commitment from students, staff, faculty, alumni, friends, partners and trustees to historic philanthropy for this university) provoked a joyous celebration on the Quad—one I’ll surely remember for a long time to come. It’s a good thing we got to the finish line early, before the snow came, because being outside together felt so good, so uplifting and energizing, as did the marching band’s serenade. It also reminded us all of how important it is to keep moving forward, and so it was especially gratifying to be able to announce at that celebration that we’ll soon have a full academic home in the heart of New York City, with SU on the map from Hollywood to the Big Apple!
And looking forward is what I’m writing about today. As I informed the Board of Trustees this morning, I plan to conclude my tenure as Chancellor when my current contract ends in June of 2014, after a decade of leading this remarkable place of opportunity and excellence. As we are doing with the Campaign, I am intent on sprinting to the finish line. There is much work to be done in sustaining our forward momentum as a university engaged with the world—work for us to tackle together in the coming three semesters, and for our next leader thereafter.
As we all know, the messages about higher education today in the media and in public opinion polls are certainly mixed at best, and on some days dismal. Families rightly worry about escalating costs and debt, students struggle to get to college and then to get a foothold in the job market, communities worry that we’ve forgotten them, and nations around the globe want our collaborative, not competitive, hand to be extended further. That is precisely why I look at what we are doing at Syracuse and I see how relevant we are, how we aren’t shying away from those critiques but instead figuring out how to be good institutional citizens in a difficult and constrained world. I see us working directly with our students on their debt burdens, replacing some of their excessive private loan debt with institutional grants. I see us partnering with excellent community colleges to create pathways to college that make the American dream more possible for more students. I see us empowering our students in the marketplace with our student entrepreneurship sandbox, helping them build businesses and social enterprises right here in Central New York, even as they garner venture capital from around the globe. I see our scientists and engineers collaborating with environmental justice advocates and industry representatives alike to restore Onondaga Lake, our journalists engaging residents in the South Side to start a neighborhood newspaper, The Stand, our architects working with the Near Westside Initiative on From The Ground Up, an international design competition, and our dramatists teaming with our Congolese refugee community to bring “Cry for Peace: Voices from the Congo.” I see us teaching the tools of intergroup dialogue, disability studies, conflict resolution, public diplomacy and the public humanities on campus and then practicing them in communities close to and far from campus. We have distinguished histories in this difficult work, and we know there is much more yet to be done going forward. We don’t shy away from challenge at Syracuse.
I firmly believe that SU is the place to be if one cares about higher education taking its rightful place in forging a more prosperous and just and sustainable world, at home as an anchor institution in our metropolitan center, and across geographies of opportunity nationally and around the world. In fact, I know we are the place to be, as I travel often telling our story. People are really listening, looking to us as a model in so many arenas—from the art, technology, entrepreneurship and sustainable design rising up along the Connective Corridor and throughout downtown Syracuse to our fervent commitment to pursuing cold murder cases from the Civil Rights movement across the South to dialogues on global citizenship and global security in Europe and the Middle East. When SU alums tell me their stories, they always preface it by saying, “SU took a chance on me, and I made the most of it.” That is a tradition we are proudly upholding today, whether in our embrace of post-9/11 veterans and their families, our collaborations in urban education through Say Yes to Education Syracuse, our Africa Initiative or our pioneering Haudenosaunee Promise Program.
We know at SU that to be educated and make progress in these vexed times, you need to build fulsome “communities of experts,” bringing more than one discipline together as we do in addressing the challenges of aging, public health, biomaterials or “the brain.” And we also know that “we” don’t have all the answers—so we collaborate with partners, as we do in our Global Enterprise Technology curriculum with JPMorgan Chase, or our “green” data center with IBM. There are so many more examples—and so much more work to be done; it’s a good thing that SU is a scrappy place where people join hands and roll up their sleeves. And this is the time to do it. It is exactly 150 years ago this year, when Abraham Lincoln, in the midst of the Civil War, bestowed on higher education the social responsibility of engaging directly to change the fate of the country. For Lincoln knew that higher education—in that case in the form of land-grant colleges—had to join the barn-raisings across agrarian America to ensure both social mobility and innovation in the midst of the divisiveness of the times. Well, we too, and all universities, have a lot to accomplish to play our part in today’s stressed and competitive economic, social, environmental and geopolitical landscape. And we can do it, if we do it together.
It is tempting to celebrate what we have accomplished, what we are doing on campus, in our community, around the nation and overseas. Still, we really can’t afford to take our minds off our responsibilities in the near term. This is especially true if we are to continue to be thought leaders forging an invigorated role for higher education in facing down the pressing issues of our time. It has been a true honor to join with this University community in so many geographies, on campus and beyond, to make a difference in the world, and I am savoring the opportunities that will surely continue in the remainder of my term as Chancellor, even as I want to say a deep felt thanks today for all that we’ve been able to already do together. As always, GO ORANGE!