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Chancellor Kent Syverud Addresses Study Abroad, Enrollment, Dean Searches at University Senate Meeting
Chancellor Kent Syverud delivered the following remarks to the University Senate on Oct. 30, 2019, in Maxwell Auditorium:
Good afternoon. We’re in the middle of the semester. There is a lot going on and so I have quite a few updates to share. Provost Wheatly is not here with us today because she is a peer reviewer for Boston University’s re-accreditation and is at a site visit today.
There are eight topics that I want to briefly cover today—some of which would normally be addressed by the Provost. I can take some questions but may refer them to others.
- Syracuse Abroad
- Fundraising and Campaign
- Financial Holds
- Dean Searches
- Free Speech Working Group
In Hong Kong, protests continue after many months. Our Hong Kong Center has been operating throughout, with appropriately heightened security measures. We have a real-time security service that keeps us posted minute-to-minute with neighborhood and block-to-block information. This has allowed our students to largely steer clear of the more dangerous moments during their months in Hong Kong. This center works on a modular curriculum broken into three parts: a travelling signature seminar, two months of classroom instruction, and then internships. We are moving into the third and final phase, and feel comfortable sending the students to internships around the city. We have been in close contact with the students and their parents throughout.
In Santiago, Chile, over a million people took to the streets for a peaceful rally on Friday. This follows weeks of protests that have been, at times, violent. The violence has mostly been outside of Santiago, but we have taken significant precautions for our students in Santiago. Those students take classes and live in home stays throughout the city. For now, our students have had some classes disrupted by the protests, which involve the transit system, so we have made some schedule adjustments. The students are safe and on track to end the semester on time.
For both the Hong Kong and Santiago centers, these protests have presented us with some security and safety challenges, and have threatened to disrupt the instructional schedules for our students. I have been blown away by the work of the Syracuse Abroad staff and many faculty and academic leaders on main campus who have been on standby to help out if the disruptions meant our students couldn’t complete their semesters.
Also in both cities, our students have been exposed to an unusual form of experiential learning. But this cohort of students have had a window on democratic movements that few of their peers will have. We are watching this for the spring semester.
We have just completed a comprehensive review of the model, quality and value of instruction offered by Syracuse Abroad at our centers around the world. As many of you know, Syracuse University has centers in seven countries, where our students and students from over 70 other universities take Syracuse University courses during fall, spring and winter terms. The study asked whether or not the centers represent a valuable way for Syracuse University to deliver on its strategic objective of giving an international experience to every student who wants one.
The answer was nuanced. I think if we could re-invent our center model, we would not create exactly the system we have now. There are some real challenges with our current model that the report identified:
- Our model is geographically unbalanced, with five programs in Europe, one in east Asia, one in Latin America and none in Africa and none in the other parts of Asia.
- Our model is tooled to support semester-long study. For some athletes, artists, researchers, working students, socially engaged students and others, semester-long study is either not possible or not ideal. So, whatever we do with the centers, we need to create more short-duration international options for our students.
- Our model does not now create a lot of opportunity for our faculty on this campus who wish to teach, research or contribute abroad. We have a lot of faculty at those centers, but, by and large, they are not from here. Here again, as with students who eschew semester study, we need to create options for these faculty. We would like our faculty to have this opportunity.
The study found some real strengths as well:
- Our centers’ instructional model provides very good curricular tie-ins for our students. Even students in professional schools or with rigorous curricular needs can find the courses they need, whereas they might not be able to with other providers of study abroad.
- Our centers provide excellent incentives for the schools and colleges under the RCM model. Deans and department chairs have incentives to encourage their students to study abroad. At other institutions, they encourage study abroad but the budget model discourages it.
- Our centers provide outstanding health and wellness, housing, travel academic support and student support services, which is increasingly in demand by students and parents.
- Our centers are very well known and respected in the academic study abroad marketplace and serve as terrific platforms for who we are as the University abroad.
The report finds that our center model is a real asset for Syracuse University, but we need to do a few things right away to improve it:
- Syracuse Abroad should work with schools, colleges and faculty to develop short-duration international experiential learning options, more of them connected with the centers or outside the centers.
- Syracuse Abroad must start a campuswide conversation to diversify the locations of our centers. I’d like to see them in several new locations in the coming years.
- Syracuse Abroad and Financial Aid have to work together to structure the Invest Syracuse investments in new financial aid to facilitate the goal of every student having a study abroad experience who wants one.
I want to thank all of the academic leadership, faculty and staff who visited the centers over the last 18 months who contributed to this report.
I’ll close this section by asserting that Syracuse University really is a global campus, and our centers are an excellent contributor to our internationalization objectives. But, like everything, we need to work on improvements in some areas.
As most of you know, we are now well past our census day—when we report our final enrollment numbers. We have met our enrollment targets while also improving the academic profile of the incoming class and holding steady on our diversity goals. Significant improvement in Hispanic and African American undergraduate enrollment. There are a lot of moving parts that must work in concert to get to this outcome. It is a coordinated effort, including Enrollment and the Student Experience, Marketing and Communications, and all of our schools and colleges and programs (including faculty who participate in student recruitment)—top to bottom.
We have also continued our upward trajectory for veterans and military connected students. We now have 1,375—the largest in years.
I offer two observations on these results. First, strong enrollment and strong demand drives our budget, because of how tuition dependent the University is. This, in turn enables us to invest in the Academic Strategic Plan. I know you all know that, but it’s worth celebrating. Second, this enrollment trend runs counter the experience of many institutions around us, in the Northeast and in the Midwest. The demographics coming at us mean we need to continue to work. I’m glad that we are succeeding now, but it’s not a complacent happiness.
I’m pleased to report that we finished last year well and have an approved balanced budget for this year. We are on track as of the end of the first fiscal quarter. Tiny surplus on our budget.
I show this to you once a year so that I can remind you of the difference between new business and cash. Cash received lags fundraising totals significantly. We ended the year with an 8.9 percent increase in total funds raised year over year. More than half of the total gifts came from alumni, and more than 61,000 donors made gifts of support—a 16 percent increase year over year.
As you may have heard, we are launching the public phase of the Forever Orange Campaign next week. This will happen before the next Senate meeting. There are a few aspects of this campaign that I want to emphasize that are different than in the past. First, we are seeking to significantly build our endowment. This is important for future generations of Syracuse University students and faculty. It gives us the margin to weather many things that may be coming at us. Second, we are seeking to deepen our engagement with a broader pool of donors and alumni outside of Syracuse and Central New York. We are going to launch a big public phase next week. The majority of donors are from outside Central New York and are new donors. Our donors should reflect that we are an international research university. Third, we need to double the proportion of our alumni who are actively engaged with us, whether through philanthropy or through helping us with student internships and employment or through being an advocate for Syracuse University in communities across the country and around the world. This is ambitious, but we will be measuring it.
While I am on the topic of the campaign, I also want to thank all of the members of the faculty-staff fundraising committee. Philanthropy that comes from the people who know the University best and care the most is particularly meaningful.
Next, I want to move to the topic of financial holds. It turned out to be a lot more complicated than most of us expected. I want to thank the ad hoc committee for their complete and thoughtful report. I will listen to the discussion of the report today, but I do expect to be supportive of the committee’s recommendations.
As I have shared previously, we recently came to an agreement with SUNY-ESF to extend our longstanding partnership related to instructional, recreation and co-curricular services and support. ESF has submitted that new agreement to the State of New York, and we are awaiting approval of that new agreement.
At the same time, for the past year, many members of the ESF community have been engaged in a SUNY-directed effort called the Discovery Challenge, designed to identify opportunities to build on the College’s strengths, assets and partnerships to position the institution for future growth. They are doing this at a time of change in leadership. The ESF Discovery Challenge Report was recently completed and made public, and I have told ESF leadership that we are committed to explore how Syracuse University can reasonably and appropriately support the long-term aspirations detailed in the Discovery Challenge Report.
Next, I’ll turn to the status of the dean searches. I want to welcome Cole Smith to his first University Senate meeting as dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science. Cole—would you raise a hand so people can see you? He joins us from Clemson and hit the ground running. He’s been here a week, and he still looks like his picture! We haven’t aged him yet. I want to thank Can Isak for his stewardship of the college as interim dean—he ensured a smooth transition. I also want to thank John Liu, who chaired the search committee, and all of the committee members for a job well done.
The searches for deans in the iSchool and Newhouse are progressing well. Campus interviews for the iSchool dean are scheduled through early November. Thanks to David Seaman for providing leadership continuity as interim dean, to Gene Anderson for chairing the committee, and all of the committee members for their service.
The Newhouse search committee is in the process of building a pool under the able leadership of Craig Boise and John Wildhack. In the interim, I am so grateful to Amy Falkner for her long service as interim dean.
As almost everyone here knows, I focused my remarks at the last University Senate meeting on the topic of free speech. The text of what I said was posted the next day and is available at this weblink.
I said last month that I think our university needs to provide an environment where people can discuss difficult issues, from different perspectives, even if those discussions at times make us uncomfortable. I expected that what I said would provoke comment and make some uncomfortable, and I have heard from a lot of people since then—many folks across the spectrum of constituencies and views on this campus were seriously troubled by aspects of what I said, and many folks across the spectrum of constituencies and views on campus were seriously engaged and supportive of what I said. I wish I could say that everyone agreed on what they are supportive of and troubled by. I have learned from some of the comments, and I hope to learn more today. So far, the only action I have taken in response to this discussion is to create and charge a free speech working group, which met for the first time yesterday.
Here are the members: three students, a graduate student, an undergrad and a law student, selected in consultation with the elected governance bodies of those three groups of students; three faculty members, including Roy Gutterman, director of the Tully Center for Free Speech at Newhouse; Gladys McCormick, of Arts and Science and Maxwell from the history department; and Marcelle Haddix of Education and chair of the Senate Agenda Committee. There are also three trustees and three administrators on the work group—Amy Falkner, Steve Bennett and Marianne Thompson, who is the dean of students.
I just want to read the charge for the committee again:
I charge the free speech working group to review policies governing free speech and civil discourse at Syracuse University and suggest revisions where appropriate. This review should assure the right to free speech and provide parameters to help secure that right. It should also address behaviors that provide barriers to a person’s access to free speech and outline how we should respond to such an incident or behavior.
I am acutely aware that these are hard questions that go to the heart of our community and involve academic freedom. I raised them in the Senate in the first instance because I knew they would require the Senate’s feedback and discussion. So, I think this process is just starting, and I am sure you will hear more about it.
Finally, there is an issue on which I have been hotly questioned much more than free speech in the past month. That is the issue of whether our student-athletes should be able to benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness. The NCAA yesterday announced a major change in position on this issue. Syracuse University has issued a statement in response, which John Wildhack, our athletic director made last night.
Statement from John Wildhack
“We appreciate and support the NCAA Board of Governors’ recent action that paves the way for student-athletes to benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness in a manner consistent with the collegiate model. As work begins on updating the relevant bylaws and policies to reflect the Board of Governors’ position, Syracuse University will continue to elevate all aspects of our student-athletes’ experience. This includes providing enhanced academic support, holistic health and wellness resources, and integrated academic advising and career planning. These actions, and others, further position our student-athletes for success on the playing fields, in the classroom and beyond.”