President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., MD
Print Speech 1 of 5
Delivered at University Convocation, September 19, 2012
President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. , MD
Three years ago I stood before the Stony Brook community, students, faculty, staff, alumni and our many friends, and delivered my inaugural address as the fifth president of this great university. It was a long speech. Very long. But I had a lot to say.
I wanted to express my excitement about Stony Brook University, the extraordinary accomplishments of those who built this great institution, how far we had come and how much further we could go. I wanted to remind everyone how vital Stony Brook is to SUNY, Long Island, the great state of New York and the world. And three years ago, in the teeth of one of the worst financial crises in New York State’s history, I talked about my vision for Stony Brook, and particularly the need to invest in our faculty. I was channeling the great late John Toll, who knew that the faculty — human capital — was the key to building a great university.
I argued that we must reinvest in the faculty if Stony Brook were to continue its extraordinary trajectory. In fact, we were at a crossroads. Enrollment had grown without any increase in the faculty. The result: bigger classes, and more important, fewer sections, making it difficult for students to get the classes they needed to graduate on time. Unchecked, this would be an obstacle to student success and ultimately a path toward mediocrity.
But how would we grow our faculty during a fiscal crisis? To do this, we would need a new revenue plan for SUNY — a rational tuition program with predictable modest increases, including a recognition of the higher costs associated with education at a research university — and an end to budget cuts. Achieving this change became my highest priority for Stony Brook University, and with leadership from the Chancellor and the support of many elected officials and friends, we worked to get legislation passed that would make this a reality.
Our first attempt, the SUNY-Flex legislation, failed. In the next fiscal year we had the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act (PHEEIA), which came so very close but ultimately died in the legislature. As you all know, the third time was the charm. With Governor Andrew Cuomo as our champion, NYSUNY 2020, groundbreaking legislation that contains all the elements we needed — rational tuition increases, an academic excellence fee for the University Centers and a maintenance of effort clause to combat future budget cuts — was passed and signed into law. On December 14, 2011, Governor Cuomo and Chancellor Zimpher came to Stony Brook to accept our NYSUNY 2020 plan, which allowed us to charge the academic excellence fee and receive $35 million in capital for our new Medical and Research Translation building. With NYSUNY 2020 in place, we have the opportunity to hire 250 new faculty over the next five years.
We have started already, so how appropriate that this occasion is about greeting our new faculty. Please rise so we can welcome you all to Stony Brook. You are the best and the brightest, and you join an outstanding faculty that is the best in SUNY and one of the best in the country. You are the first of a new wave of faculty at Stony Brook, and you and your colleagues will help take us to the next level. I hope you are as excited about the journey as I am. Welcome!
Three years ago I spoke about not just the need to hire faculty, but how that process should occur. We must be strategic, we must build on existing areas of excellence, we must identify programs that distinguish us from our peers, and we must find a way to support interdisciplinary scholarship and collaborations across the campus. What better way to do that than to engage the faculty in that process?
That is why I am so glad that Provost Dennis Assanis, with my wholehearted support, launched a competition in which faculty submitted proposals for some of our new cluster hires. The response was tremendous — maybe even overwhelming — with a tidal wave of more than 100 proposals initially submitted, but as you can see Provost Assanis handled it in style. A committee of SUNY Distinguished Professors and National Academy members has reviewed the proposals, and Provost Assanis will soon announce the five proposals recommended for immediate funding. I have reviewed them, and they are outstanding.