Mary E. Graham, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Sport Management, has been named Falk College associate dean of faculty affairs effective Jan. 2, 2024. This newly created leadership position reports to Falk College Dean Jeremy Jordan and is dedicated…
Chancellor Syverud Addresses Athletics, Benefits, Sustainability at University Senate
On Sept. 27, Chancellor Kent Syverud addressed University Senate at its first meeting of the Fall 2023 semester. His remarks were as follows:
Thank you, Professor [Kira] Reed. It’s a pleasure to see so many of you in person. We’re well into the fall semester and the new academic year, and it’s off to a great start.
Today I want to provide updates on our strong close to fiscal year (FY) ’23, on our ever-changing athletics environment, on benefits, and on sustainability. Provost Ritter is going to address, among other things, legacy admissions and changes to the University’s admissions process in light of the Supreme Court decisions this summer impacting race as a consideration in university admissions.
First, some key metrics: Last month, we welcomed 22,948 students to Syracuse University, 103 new full-time faculty members, many wonderful new part-time faculty members, and four new deans to campus. Two weeks ago we celebrated the career of a Syracuse University legend, Dean and Senator Diane Murphy. Last week, we surpassed 200,000 graduates from programs of the D’Aniello Institute for Veterans and Military Families. And yesterday we launched the implementation of a new academic strategic plan.
All this builds on an astounding finish to FY23. Syracuse University met or exceeded our goals based on just about every goal and metric. The Fall Census for enrollment last week confirmed the University has the largest total enrollment and undergraduate enrollment in our history. The University was more selective in our undergraduate admissions than we’ve been in at least the last 25 years.
The Forever Orange Campaign, launched in 2019 right before COVID, is now within 9% of our $1.5 billion goal. Our FY23 budget, which was completed on June 30, had a small, less than 1/2 of 1% of our budget, but a surplus, which is good. And we project a balanced budget for FY24. We have announced several new partnerships that are creating unique opportunities for growth for our students, faculty, staff, for this University, and for the Central New York region. We’re in a pretty strong position going into this year, including compared to our peers.
It is a good time to build on this strength. Because we have some pretty significant challenges coming at us.
I want to start with the challenges of athletics. The world of college sports continues to evolve, and we are far from done with changes. They are impacting the ACC [Athletic Coast Conference]. In June 2024, Stanford, the University of California, Berkeley, and Southern Methodist University (SMU) will join the ACC. These are fine schools. They align with our academic profile and athletic strengths, including in Olympic sports. I believe, and Athletic Director John Wildhack believes, these new schools provide stability for the conference in the short term. In the long term, I think we should expect more change. A lot happened over the summer. I did consult with academic leaders in the course of deciding how to vote and how to proceed on Stanford, and Berkeley and SMU.
In the short run, it protects our conference and does so with schools that are strong academic schools. It protects the ACC from the experience of the Pac-12. But, given the continuing change coming at intercollegiate athletics, we as a university need to be prepared for whatever comes. We need to be strongly positioned to be prominent in sports, including academically. But we also need to be prepared to realize that the current situation is not a stable one, for a whole bunch of reasons. I just want to reassure you that a lot of us are working to make sure Syracuse has a strategy.
Orange football is undefeated this season, which makes many people very happy. Four of our six teams are nationally ranked in the top 25 this fall. That includes men’s soccer, field hockey, and men’s and women’s cross country. We’re so proud of our student athletes, who continue to compete at the highest level and deliver on the academic level as well.
Next, I want to talk about benefits. This morning I forwarded to the senators and other University stakeholders a memorandum on a new process for evaluating proposed changes to our University’s faculty and staff benefits. It’s a long memorandum in the supplemental materials, and I don’t expect any of you to have read it all yet. It builds on hard work all summer by a working group chaired by Eric Kingson and Andy Gordon. I neglected to credit and acknowledge the other members of the working group, to whom I am deeply grateful.
- Suzette Meléndez, professor, College of Law
- PJ DiPietro, professor, College of Arts and Sciences
- Tom Dennison, professor emeritus, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs
- Dan Cutler, director of learning communities, Student Experience division
- Kristi Johnson, administrative specialist, College of Arts and Sciences
- Cory Wallack, associate vice president of student health and wellness, Student Experience division
- Alicia Madden, senior director of budget and administration, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs
- Pun To (Doug) Yung, professor, College of Engineering and Computer Science
- Matthew Sessler, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 200*
I would appreciate feedback on this report. As I said in the memo, I hope that feedback comes via email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or in the next Senate meeting or in the committees between now and then. After incorporating that feedback, we will implement the proposals on an experimental basis for this academic year. We’ll see how it goes and decide what the final process is. I thank everyone who helped with getting us to this point, including senators and committee chairs who wrote to me about this last year.
Next on sustainability, we made a commitment as a university last year at the April 19 University Senate meeting based on an extraordinary amount of work by the Student Association and other groups at the University. We accelerated the University’s timeline for achieving carbon neutrality to 2032, eight years earlier than our previous goal of 2040. That is going to be a lift, and the work on that lift has started.
First, I’ve established a Sustainability Oversight Council to make sure we’re on track and shared in that goal, and to oversee and audit the work being done by the Sustainability Management Office of the University. The Council has four members and those members have all agreed to serve. They include:
- Student Association representative Olivia Curreri, who is Student Association vice president of university affairs, and a senior in Maxwell and Newhouse;
- Charley Driscoll, University Professor in the College of Engineering and Computer Science and a faculty member with expertise in this area;
- Trustee Ken Pontarelli, who leads a group at Goldman Sachs focused on sustainable investing in transformative areas such as clean energy and waste; and
- the fourth new member I decided is going to be me so I can pay attention to this closely.
The Sustainability Management Office has been working hard in recent months to realize what we need to do to reach this new goal. The University replaced the Lally Athletics Complex arena lighting, which is expected to reduce carbon emissions by 141 metric tons per year. The exterior lighting in front of Smith Hall, the Hall of Languages, and Maxwell was also updated over the summer. This fall, lighting in the main Quad and the main parking lots on North Campus will be updated. But there’s more to come and not all of it has been realized yet.
Future sustainability projects in the near term are focused on the science buildings, which have the highest energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. Further steps and some shared changes to all our cultural practices are going to be needed as part of this. I need the Senate to realize that there may be habits we engage in that we need to change if we’re going to get to carbon neutrality by the deadline.
So those are my quick reports, and I’m willing to take questions on anything. But I want to speak lastly about the year ahead. It’s more than a little scary. What’s going on globally, what’s going on in politics—as our agenda committee chair referred to, what’s going on in climate change, what’s going on in the courts, and what’s going on in higher education, leaves a lot of us with some good reasons to despair. I know that. But I also believe many of the challenges really are opportunities for this University to step up and lead. It’s up to us working together to identify the opportunities and take them. This is a chance to show the world— certainly the higher education world—that Syracuse University is a different and better place than many others. We have done well as a community through challenging times. I believe that is because for all our warts, for all the constraints, we still have better values and better shared governance than most of our peers.
I saw this because all summer I have watched as preeminent institutions of higher learning in this country faltered on issues of academic freedom, and faltered on support for the full range of academic programs that define a great university. And, indeed, they faltered on basic understandings of principles of faculty authority and shared governance.
We should not go there at Syracuse University. We should actually listen to each other. Every year, I learn more about what I don’t know, which is a lot, by listening. I believe the key to success in this scary year ahead starts by each of us starting with an assumption of good faith in one another and truly listening to each other as scary things commence. I for one intend to practice that good faith.
I say that to you today because having studied pretty carefully where it has gone south, too often the deterioration of shared governance is preceded by the belief that criticism is made with evil intent. In my experience, that’s just not true here at Syracuse.
I urge us all to approach our interactions with students, with our colleagues, and with leaders with the belief that each of us honestly has the best interests of this University at heart. Our university will benefit. We’ll keep the incredible momentum Syracuse now has going strong, and we’ll be able to lead in some areas where other universities cannot.
*After the creation of the working group, Matthew was appointed to a non-union position and he stopped attending the working group meetings after July 1.