Message to the Skidmore Community - welcome to second semester
Members of the Campus Community,
Today marks the beginning of the spring semester with 816 courses, hundreds of independent studies and internships, and numerous formal and informal student groups all getting underway. And despite the snow and the cold, sooner than we realize, spring will begin to make its appearance on the campus. It also seems fitting that we resume our work just as we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., particularly given his commitment to advancing the agenda of justice and opportunity, both of which will be central elements of our efforts over the coming months. For now, I’d like to give a brief overview of some of what we will focus on this semester with the very large caveat that many of us will, of course, be engaged in various other important and worthy activities as well.
A number of student, faculty, and administrative groups—among them the I, Too, Am Skidmore campaign—will continue to advance a wide-range of initiatives focused on making Skidmore the community we all hope it can be and know it will be. Without diminishing the important work that all of these groups will undertake, I would highlight two events, both sponsored by SGA’s Speaker’s Bureau, that are especially timely in light of national conversations sparked by the cases of Treyvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner:
- On March 5, Ta-Nehisi Coates will lead a discussion on how race is lived in the United States today. Mr. Coates is a Senior Editor and National Correspondent for The Atlantic and author of The Beautiful Struggle, a memoir of growing up in Baltimore during the age of crack.
- On April 1 Bryan Stevenson will discuss his book Just Mercy, which details his role in the defense of Walter McMillian. Mr. Stevenson is the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama and a Professor of Law at the New York University School of Law.
Sexual and Gender-Based Misconduct Policy Review
The Advisory Council on Sexual and Gender-Based Misconduct will continue the work it started in the fall by focusing on incorporating the ideas gleaned from its open forums into proposed changes to both our policies and procedures. In addition, SGA will launch its Sexual and Gender-Based Misconduct awareness campaign aimed at stopping sexual assaults and building a culture of respect, while the Board of Trustees will take this topic up at its February meeting.
Student Workers' Minimum Wage
As of January 1, the College will increase student workers’ pay to current New York State minimum wage standards. This follows a very thoughtful and productive series of discussions among various groups on campus that culminated with a unanimous vote in support of this measure by the Institutional Planning and Policy Committee (IPPC) at its December 19 meeting.
Middle States Reaccreditation
Our work on Middle States reaccreditation continues apace with a particular focus on the concept of integrative learning. “Integrative learning” refers to the process by which students intentionally make connections among their courses, their curricular and cocurricular lives, and the many issues, ideas, and concepts that mark a high quality liberal education.
The College is exploring integrative learning from five perspectives: 1) General Education Review and Reform; 2) the FYE, the Sophomore Experience, and Beyond College; 3) Physical and Digital Spaces for Integrative Learning; 4) Diversity, Inclusion, and Integrative Learning; and 5) Responsible Communities: Civic Engagement, Sustainability, and Values and Ethics. Working groups have been developing reports on each of these areas. These should be complete by late spring and will be collected into a larger document for consideration by the entire community in the fall.
Staff Survey Results
Based on feedback from staff during our recent staff survey, we have taken the following actions:
- Changed our terminology to refer to all non-faculty employees as "staff."
- Changed email communication list names to combine “admin-prof” and “support-staff” to a single “staff” list.
- Revised the Inclement Weather and Other Emergency Closing/Delay Policy to include one additional inclement weather "floating day" to be used for bad weather.
These are just a few of the ideas we are considering and I expect to announce additional changes in the coming months.
Task Force on Divestment
Our advisory Task Force on Divestment has been meeting since last fall and we expect this work to become more public over the next few months. I refer you to Task Force Chair Jim Kennelly’s community email of 1 December 2014 for an update on the work of that group.
Fundraising and Communications
Since June 1, 2014, we have secured nearly $13.4 million in new commitments to Creating our Future: The Campaign for Skidmore. That brings our overall total to $75 million and we are seeking another $5–10 million by year’s end. And in the area of marketing and branding, we have recruited a group of alumni and parent experts to collaborate with us on developing a plan to more effectively leverage our brand. The next steps are to conduct a comprehensive audit of our entire communications operation and to develop an in-depth, multi-year brand strategy, both of which we expect to complete by late spring/early summer.
Our winter sports teams have been hard at work since late December.
Congratulations to the Women’s Basketball Team, which is in the lead in the Liberty League standings, and to the Men’s Basketball Team, undefeated in Liberty League play. Please come out and support all our teams. The “Big Green Scream” will be held this Saturday. The women will host William Smith at 2 p.m., followed by the men's game against Hobart at 4 p.m.
Office of the President
Following Liz Bourque’s retirement last year, Jeanne M. Sisson has taken on the role of Special Assistant; she manages my calendar and Marie’s and my travel for the College. I am also pleased to welcome Susan W. Koppi as our new Board Coordinator. She will handle all items related to the Board of Trustees, including honorary degrees and communications.
As I announced in my 8 January 2015 communication, this semester Mary Lou W. Bates, Vice President and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, is undergoing an administrative review, which is a routine performance review of senior administrative officers every six years at Skidmore. Professor Erica Bastress-Dukehart is chairing the review committee and has sent requests for the community to participate in the review. I ask that you please do so. Please note that your comments will be held in the strictest confidence.
Under the auspices of the IPPC, I continue to work on drafting the new Strategic Plan. Once a solid draft is available, we will be gathering community comment.
I will also continue to hold open Community Meetings, Fireside Chats, and Open Office Hours throughout the semester. Please take advantage of these opportunities to hear additional updates and to make your voice heard.
This partial listing of events and initiatives provides just an indication of the many facets of college life. I wish you well as we embark on what promises to be an exciting spring semester.
Thank you for your attention.
Philip A. Glotzbach, President