Dear Members of the Syracuse University Community: Over the last several months, hundreds of students, faculty, staff, administrators and trustees have engaged in constructive, collaborative and respectful dialogue. The Board of Trustees created a Special Committee on University Climate, Diversity…
Chancellor Syverud Addresses March 28 University Senate Meeting
During the University Senate’s March 28 meeting, Chancellor Kent Syverud spoke about this year’s Commencement speaker, the University’s relationship with SUNY ESF and the upcoming disability services audit.
Chancellor Syverud also addressed the matter of rankings and the renovation of Archbold Gymnasium, specifically the new pool as part of the plans.
Below are the Chancellor’s remarks as prepared for the University Senate meeting:
Good afternoon. I’ll be brief.
I hope you saw the announcement last week that Kathrine Switzer, barrier-breaking athlete, author and activist, will deliver this year’s Commencement address. An alumna of both the Newhouse School and the College of Arts and Sciences, Kathrine is perhaps best known being the first woman to officially enter and run the Boston Marathon. I have known Kathrine for many years. I expect that she will have a thoughtful and inspiring message to share with everyone in the audience.
There has been a lot of news coming from SUNY ESF recently. Last week, President Quentin Wheeler announced his intention to step down at the end of this academic year.
What you may not have seen though, announced a few weeks ago, is SUNY ESF publicly shared its strategic growth plans, plans that have potential implications for Syracuse University. In particular, SUNY ESF announced its intention to:
- grow its undergraduate enrollment by as much as 50 percent, or about 1,000 students;
- create a College of General Education; and
- shift much of its general education instruction from Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences and other departments to providing this instruction in-house.
Given the longstanding partnership between Syracuse University and SUNY ESF, the newly announced strategy requires us at Syracuse University to seriously consider and reflect on our relationship with SUNY ESF.
In light of SUNY ESF’s announcement, I have asked senior leaders to make recommendations about how to achieve a mutually beneficial relationship moving forward that is supportive of our own academic strategic plan.
We will keep you apprised of any new developments and will ask for the participation of many as we do our due diligence.
Disability Services Audit
As you know, I have asked that we evaluate all of the University’s disability services and related policies. This audit is now underway. Michele Wheatly, vice chancellor and provost; Dolan Evanovich, senior vice president for enrollment and the student experience; and Pete Sala, vice president and chief facilities officer, are leading this important work.
They are currently populating the steering committee that will oversee the disability services audit.
A call for nominations went out last week. I understand that many students, faculty and staff have already expressed interest in serving on the committee. We intend to announce the steering committee in April.
I also want to briefly address rankings. I have been giving this subject a lot of thought over the last few months.
First, I have three immediate thoughts related to U.S. News’ 2019 edition of rankings of graduate and professional programs:
- We continue to have globally competitive graduate and professional school programs.
- Some of our graduate and professional school programs are doing better than others in the rankings.
- And finally, and most importantly: rankings are not our mission, not our vision, but some rankings are relevant to our academic strategy.
Our strategy is our academic strategic plan—the roadmap to take Syracuse University to the next level of excellence. We have begun implementation of many facets of this plan and have put funding mechanisms into place to help us achieve our ambitious but attainable goals.
Do rankings influence whether we can successfully implement our academic strategic plan? Some rankings do, most do not.
There are hundreds of rankings. Rankings and lists sell magazines or drive traffic to websites.
Every aspect of our university is ranked by somebody, and often by multiple outside entities. Our libraries are ranked, our landscaping is ranked, our dining hall services are ranked, our Greek life is ranked.
Our academic and administrative leadership at Syracuse believes, after a lot of research that included surveying deans and others, that certain rankings, while problematic in their algorithms and methodologies, are nevertheless salient to our success as a university.
This semester, we have started an effort to identify our rankings strategy given this reality. How do we remain driven by our mission and vision while also paying attention to salient rankings? That is the question I am thinking about.
There has been a lot of conversation recently about renovation of Archbold Gymnasium, specifically the new pool that will be built as part of the renovations. I understand that there has been concern about the number of lap lanes.
Considerable engagement has been done over the last several years on this question (including a survey of 5,000 students, faculty and staff). It is obvious to me that folks in Recreation Services and CPDC need to pause and update more people about the Arch pool. We are fortunate to have two pools on campus: one in the Women’s Building and the forthcoming pool in the new Arch. It is our goal to meet everyone’s needs, most importantly our students, but also faculty and staff. Both the Women’s Building pool and the Arch pool will have lap swimming in the future. However, the current plan for the Arch pool is to offer more modern, inclusive and accessible options. That approach came as the outcome of a lot of direct feedback from our undergraduate students and benchmarking national trends in university recreation centers across the U.S. And, because we know that prospective and current students place high value on health and wellness and that healthy students are more academically successful, we must ensure access to recreational and fitness activities that meet today’s students’ needs. While it’s important our pool offerings represent the interests of all of our community members, a student-centered approach emerged as the priority for the new pool. There has been some concern expressed about this. I have asked CPDC and Recreation Services to consult further on the issue of the number of lanes in the new pool. I suspect you will hear more from them shortly.
Finally, I want to remind the Senate that we need to focus in our April meeting on the pressing issue of sexual abuse and harassment policies, especially as it relates to relationships between faculty and staff and undergraduates. This work needs to be our collective priority. As I emphasized in December and in January, I hope we can make tangible progress on this important issue at our next meeting. It would send an unfortunate message to our entire community if the Senate is unable to make substantial progress on this issue in April and defers matters to the fall.
That is my report for today. Thank you.
About Syracuse University
Syracuse University is a private, international research university with distinctive academics, diversely unique offerings and an undeniable spirit. Located in the geographic heart of New York State, with a global footprint, and nearly 150 years of history, Syracuse University offers a quintessential college experience. The scope of Syracuse University is a testament to its strengths: a pioneering history dating back to 1870; a choice of more than 200 majors and 100 minors offered through 13 schools and colleges; nearly 15,000 undergraduates and 5,000 graduate students; more than a quarter of a million alumni in 160 countries; and a student population from all 50 U.S. states and 123 countries. For more information, please visit www.syracuse.edu.