Syracuse Center of Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems has awarded grants to four New York State companies through its Innovation Fund. Since 2014, the SyracuseCoE Innovation Fund has helped companies overcome barriers to the commercialization of potentially transformative products…
Chancellor Syverud Discusses Micron Investment at University Senate
Greetings everyone. It has been a fast-paced and eventful fall semester already at Syracuse University. I would be remiss if I did not say that I am grateful that, starting in Fall ’23, we will have a fall break in the form of a four-day weekend midway between Labor Day and Thanksgiving. Lots of people worked on that recommendation from the Student Association. I’m grateful and I will be thinking of you very fondly during Fall Break ’23.
In the last month, we have hosted more than 1,500 alumni for a successful Orange Central reunion weekend. We had more than 7,000 family members for Family Weekend, the largest ever. And, we have had major speakers on campus, including Representative Liz Cheney, and an incredible array of classes, events, research and performances. Last week I taught 51 students all day Saturday and Sunday—they were from six schools and colleges, graduate and undergraduate students. They came from 12 countries and spoke more than 20 languages. And, it was among the finest group of students I have taught in 35 years. I feel very fortunate to teach here.
The biggest news from the last month is the announcement by Micron Technology at Syracuse University’s D’Aniello Building. Micron is building the largest semiconductor fabrication facility in the U.S. here in Central New York. This megafab, as Micron Technology refers to it, will include the nation’s largest cleanroom, which is the size of 40 football fields.
This is a $100B investment in our community—the largest private investment in the history of the state of New York. It will create 50,000 new jobs in this region, including 9,000 high-paying jobs directly with Micron. This involves $500M in education alone to train or retrain workers in our community.
This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to bring an economic resurgence to Central New York. The University was a key part of the team that recruited Micron Technology to our area. I am really grateful to everyone in our community who played a role in attracting Micron. For the University that included Vice Chancellor Mike Haynie; Provost Gretchen Ritter; Dean Cole Smith from Engineering and Computer Science; Dean David Seaman, currently both dean of Libraries and the interim dean of the iSchool; Vice President for Research Duncan Brown and Vice President for Community Engagement and Government Relations Cydney Johnson, among others.
It really is a tremendous opportunity for Syracuse University too. In courting Micron, our team demonstrated how the University can be a partner in many critical ways. These include collaborating on new research and development efforts, student internships, student success initiatives, creating a pipeline of capable and talented workers, and building the infrastructure to prepare our community for jobs in new and evolving technology fields.
I’ve spoken a lot in the last couple of years about the importance of being entrepreneurial in all we do. This is really time to put that approach into action. We must move quickly and creatively to realize the full potential of this opportunity. How prepared and proactive we are as a university will have a direct impact on our success and the success of the region. I think we can do this well. I’ve created a program office to coordinate all our Micron-related efforts at the University. Vice Chancellor Mike Haynie will serve as executive leader.
The program office will run point on all coordination with Micron from research to educational training to community relations. At the same time, Provost Gretchen Ritter, who you will hear from next, will be working on advancing academic and research opportunities with our Micron counterparts. Our hope is to make collaborating with Syracuse University simple for Micron, and to build on the successful partnership we’ve already established over the last few months.
Next, I’d like to address employee benefits. Open enrollment begins in five days on Halloween on Oct. 31. This year, unusually high inflation is impacting just about everything in this country, including health care costs and benefits costs. For this year’s open enrollment that created a challenge. Because of my experience with benefits changes last year, I sought counsel on how to manage benefits changes differently going forward. If we follow past practice and process and apply the standard agreed algorithm used to determine the employee contribution rate for employee health insurance this year, it would have resulted in very significant double digit increases in health premiums and contributions by all our staff. After in the last month consulting with some deans, some faculty experts and staff in the budget office, I have concluded those increases are untenable for our people and particularly for our lowest paid staff. I understand the increasing pressure inflation has had on our employees and their families. As a result, I have directed Human Resources to do two things. First, to invest an additional $1M this year to offset rising health care costs for this year. Doing this has lessened the overall impact of what would have been double digit increases. As a result:
- For Schedule A employees, the individual coverage increase will be less than 5%, and the family coverage increase will be less than 8%.
- For Schedule B employees, the changes will be even more helpful. Schedule B provides lower cost insurance to our staff who meet lower income thresholds. For Schedule B employees, the increase will be less than 4% for all plans.
- After listening to faculty expertise, and I’m very grateful for it, the University is also expanding Schedule B eligibility by raising the income limits for those who qualify.
- I’ve also asked Provost Ritter to use part of the extra funding to work with Human Resources to explore expanded support and coverage for part-time faculty as well.
- Finally, I have checked very carefully and been assured that there will be no increases in deductibles, co-pays and coinsurance regardless of your plan selection this year.
That is the first step I have directed, albeit late in the process of preparing for open enrollment. You will receive more detailed information about open enrollment and 2023 benefits in the coming days. Nevertheless, this has not been an ideal process. The second step is that I have directed Human Resources to work with leadership and through the University leadership and the University Senate and its committees and appropriate other bodies to refine the process of how health care benefits and changes in them are determined. I would like changes in that process be made on a timely basis so that new process can be in place by the end of this academic year and inform next year’s open enrollment.
Later on the agenda, we have the honorary degree revocation proposal, which is in draft. I drafted it at the charge of the Board of Trustees. I thank many of you who have provided input on this standard of process already and the University Senate Committee on Honorary Degrees, which comprehensively debated it and we may hear from a little more later. I welcome questions and discussion later in this meeting.
We’ll do an executive summary of all the feedback we’ve gotten. That will go to the full Board of Trustees with the current draft for the Nov. 4 meeting. I will provide an update on the board actions at the Nov. 16 University Senate meeting.
Finally, I’d like to recognize all the student-athletes who had a pretty amazing fall season. The Orange men’s soccer team clinched the Atlantic Division title and are currently ranked fourth in the country. The women’s field hockey team finish the regular season undefeated at home and ranked ninth in the country. The men’s and women’s cross country teams are going to the ACC championships on Friday. Both teams are nationally ranked in the top 15.
And, Syracuse Football is having its best season in 35 years, currently ranked 16th in the country. We are taking on Notre Dame this weekend. There must be somebody on this call who didn’t know that. It will be a sold-out game, the second this season.
It has been an incredibly busy and productive semester. We have much to be proud of and excited about for the future of Syracuse University. Thank you.