Innovation in Turbulent Times: Bruce Simon on Recruitment, Retention, Writing, and Changing How Fredonia Operates

“That’s where the larger budget–I think I will say ‘crisis’– that we’re facing can be a spur to innovation . . . I think to really turn the dial we’re going to have to commit to doing things differently and figure out what that means.”  ~ Dr. Bruce Simon

Dr. Bruce Simon

Dr. Bruce Simon is Chair of Fredonia’s English Department. He’s currently the University Faculty Senator on SUNY’s University Faculty Senate, and a past Chairperson and Vice Chairperson of Fredonia’s University Senate. In 2018 he received the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Faculty Service.

Our conversation, which took place in his Fenton Hall office on January 8th, focused on Fredonia’s enrollment and retention, how he and his colleagues are reimagining the English Department, and the desperate need for New York State to support public higher education:

Ryan Maloney: When you go home at night, what do you spend your time thinking about as it relates to higher education?

Dr. Bruce Simon: I have to say that when I go home I’m focused on my girls; they’re playing basketball and I’m their assistant coach. I have a lot of plays in my head, a lot of, “Why did we lose that game?” It takes up a lot of time. As Chair I’m here on campus longer than most faculty, so I have to try to find some work-life balance. But besides that I’m thinking about a lot of issues, and probably number one on my mind right now–especially from teaching in Fredonia Foundations–is, “How is our student body changing? What are students like now compared to five years ago, or twenty years ago? What can we do to better support those students and help them understand what college is all about?” I’m focused on the buzzwords that come from that, like “persistence”–fall to spring retention for freshmen–and “retention” from freshman fall semester to sophomore fall semester. I’m well aware that we’re facing, not unprecedented, but pretty extreme issues in that regard, and it’s making our overall enrollment hold steady instead of grow. Our recruitment is doing wonderfully, but our retention is not, and so as a Chair and professor I’m always thinking about, “What do the students coming in my door need, and how can I provide them with the right support? How can I find out why students are missing class?” I’m trying to find ways to keep them engaged and keep them motivated and help them through what are pretty extreme circumstances–whether they’re financial, mental health, or just the “culture shock” to academic life. We have a pretty high first-generation attendee rate; we have a pretty high Excelsior rate; we have a pretty high EDP and FOP rate, but frankly I think every Fredonia student goes through it to some extent, even if they grew up in the county and they’re living away from home for the first time. I don’t think you can single out any particular type of student or demographic; it seems to be something that’s happening across the board. So issues about student support are at the heart of what I’m thinking about. As a chair I’m also thinking about my faculty, and especially what mix of courses we offer, what requirements we have in our majors, what courses we’re contributing to Fredonia Foundations, and how we staff those. We have a good amount of contingent faculty, although we haven’t had to rely as much on contingent faculty as other English departments, which sometimes have very few full-time people and dozens and dozens of contingent faculty. We’ve kept the part-time contingent in the single digits. We have been trying to make a push for more full-time contingent faculty to address needs in areas we see students are heading. When students are signing up for classes they’re very interested in writing, whether it’s creative writing, expository writing, or professional writing.

Maloney: I wouldn’t have expected that.

Dr. Simon: Yes. Ten years ago we were offering maybe a third of the seats in writing we’re offering now. We were capping the creative writing minor because we only had a certain amount of staffing and support for it. The idea of offering a lot of upper-level writing courses was just starting to happen ten years ago. Well, now we have the most-ever seats we’re offering for the spring; we’re actually oversubscribed because faculty have been generous and let students in over the maxes. So we have the most students signed up for writing courses that we’ve ever had at Fredonia.

Maloney: With the intention to just try it?

Dr. Simon: That’s the thing that we’re trying to figure out. Even though our numbers of creative writing minors are going up slowly, our numbers in the Writing and Rhetoric minor–which is the other minor that a lot of these courses count towards–are staying pretty steady. We’re talking maybe 60 students in Creative Writing and a dozen in Writing and Rhetoric. Maybe those students are taking multiple courses and filling multiple seats, but we believe that we’re attracting students who haven’t yet declared those minors, or who have no intention of declaring those minors. Frankly, I think a lot of those courses would be beneficial to somebody, say, in business, or in music education, or in the sciences. These are the students we’re trying to attract to our minors, but maybe we’re more successful at attracting them to our courses, or it could be that they have a lot of time to declare a minor and they’re going to wait until the very last second.

Maloney: Either way that’s encouraging: People are interested in writing.

Dr. Simon: It is encouraging, and one of the reasons we’ve been able to accomodate this interest is that for a long time we were having fewer English Adolescence Education majors and fewer concentrators; we saw a big drop in interest in teaching as a career during the worst of the Great Recession and so a lot of our professors who were teaching those courses could be freed up to offer more writing courses. The thing is that in the last two or three years we’ve seen our teacher education numbers going way up, and we expect them to keep going up, and so the question of how we’re going to staff these writing courses is looming. So that’s where the question of, as a department, how do you make a case for more tenure-track lines? How do you make a case for more full-time lines?

Maloney: How do you make that case, given our current situation?

Dr. Simon: One of the things we do is we try to develop a strategic plan. We did that three or four years ago. When I first became Chair we brought in consultants from other public regionals in the northeast and they really helped us focus on some core goals. One of the things that came out of that strategic planning is that we really need to consider a writing major. That’s one of our next big steps. The minors might be attractive internally, but if we have a major we might attract students from outside the university who want to come here to do that for four years. So instead of relying on students already here to add a minor we’d want to bring them here for a new writing major. Because we’re having this enrollment boom it’s been pretty easy to make the case that we need to better support those courses. We did, fortunately, get permission to do a tenure track search for a creative writer; we’ve been without tenure-track creative writers for a few years now. We’ve had great, quality teaching from visiting assistant professors–and now for the last two years from these visiting lecturers–so we’re approaching the stage where we’re going to bring the finalists to campus and have on-campus interviews at the start of the semester.

Maloney: That’s exciting.

Dr. Simon: It’s a really exciting time. We were hoping for two lines right off the bat, but to get any given the budget situation is a huge, huge deal.

Maloney: Do you get questions from other departments like, “Oh, we’re in this budget crisis and they’re hiring? What’s going on? Why are we still hiring people?”

Dr. Simon: Absolutely.

Maloney: How do you respond to that?

Dr. Simon: My response is that we need to be investing in growth as well as saving money. English is one of the cheaper disciplines out there when you look at how much revenue we draw in from tuition and fees versus how much it costs to pay English professors–it’s not that much money. I think in one of our RSRS (Right Sizing Right Serving) documents we referred to ourselves as a “cash cow” for the university. Part of it is saying, “We can make more money for the university if you allow us to grow.” Now, the larger context is important. We used to have 25, 26 full-time, tenure-track faculty; we’re now down to 16. So through retirements, through people leaving, we’ve shrunk a great deal. I think in some ways you could argue that the size of our full-time faculty has kept pace with declining enrollment, but now as enrollments are going back up we think we can offer something that’s distinctive in Western New York through this writing major. It wouldn’t just be a creative writing major; it would incorporate both of our writing minors, drawing on the best of what’s going on on other campuses within and outside the state. There are some places that have grown explosively from this emphasis on writing. But the question is, “How do you grow it strategically?” We know students come here–from our Open Houses and Fredonia Exploration Days–we know they come here wanting to do creative writing, wanting to have those experiences writing for The Leader, wanting to write for The Trident, our literary journal, but we also know that it’s a really tough market out there to make a living as a creative writer, so if we do have this major, how do we position our students to be successful in all kinds of career options? We’re really looking at this multi-genre model where whoever we hire is not going to have a traditional literary focus–like on poetry or on literary fiction–we want people here who have interest in multiple genres, including genres not normally part of creative writing, so somebody could teach a course in, say, advanced fiction, but might also be able to teach a course in, say, professional writing. Over time, we think if we build this major correctly and market it well we’ll be able to have the faculty grow as student enrollment grows.

Maloney: Listening to you talk it’s a lot easier for me to understand why academic departments pay so much attention to enrollment and retention. As enrollment has gone up, as you mentioned, retention has gone down. How do you think about that? You have such a unique perspective, being a Chair, being involved with Senate, being in the classroom. From your perspective, why has retention gone down, and how does it relate to the change in the student that’s come here over the years?

Dr. Simon: Any organization has turnover, and the question is, “What’s a normal rate of turnover?” I would be super happy if, on average, we lost only 15% of a freshman class from first-to-second year. Some people leave just because they have another college in mind as the better fit. I had somebody in my intro to the major course who was one of the better students in the class. He really wanted to get into Geneseo; he didn’t get into Geneseo; he was able to transfer to Geneseo; he did what he wanted. I actually think, should he get his degree, as an institution we should get some credit for getting him on the right track and allowing himself to prove that he could get that degree at the school he wanted to be at. Right now, retention is so broad that this student’s decision only counts as a negative for the school and the department: “We lost a student.” But if his life is better, or he’s happier, to me if we could track wherever our students go–if it’s to community college, if it’s to a research school, if it’s to a liberal arts school–and find out how many of them are actually getting their degrees, we should get a little bit of credit for that.

Maloney: Can we do that?

Dr. Simon: I don’t think the federal government tracks that. I was just reading an article about a group of philanthropies that are trying to come up with a better tracking system than the federal government offers, and especially given the political climate–and the current Secretary of Education–it’s probably a good way to go for the time being. But even when we had Democratic presidents we didn’t have people who had the vision or follow-through to track what happens when someone graduates from high school–when they leave the post-high school system, where they finish, and can they follow them through that increasingly multi-institutional path? Because that’s the new normal; more students are putting together a degree like a menu: some from “Column A,” some from “Column B,” some from “Column C,” and again, I don’t think that reflects on any single one of those institutions; it’s partly what the SUNY system has been trying to do, with this seamless-transferability focus. This is something that’s happening in many states, where state systems are trying to make it easier for students to bring in credits from another institution, to move from one institution to another more flexibly and freely than they used to in the past. The idea is that ultimately it will improve student success rates and that they’ll finish and get better jobs out of it. We’ll see–it’s a big experiment. SUNY is now trying to track students through its own seamless transfer system and better understand where the roadblocks are, and where they’re finishing, and how long it’s taking them.

Maloney: So as an institution, what is it most important for us to be measuring?

Dr. Simon: That’s a great question. We are measuring a lot of things. I was just looking at the list of majors and I could see pretty much anything I wanted to see about GPA’s, number of credits completed, the amount of financial aid they’re getting; we do have a lot of information at our fingertips. I think it’s not always really at our fingertips though. There’s a lot of raw data that we have to sift through and there’s only so many hours in a day. We have retention groups right now that–in the college and at other colleges–are sifting through the data we have and trying to figure out exactly how useful is it and what would be better, so unfortunately I’m not the best person to answer that question. One of the things we are doing though with the English 100 Team is that–in addition to quantitative data–we’re trying to get a little more qualitative data. We’re trying to understand, when our students aren’t coming to class, why? When they’re withdrawing: why? When they’re getting D’s or F’s: why? We’re trying to come up with some really simple ways to pass that along to people who need to know it. One of the really simple questions for us right now is, “How many sections of English 100 (The Craft of Writing) and English 260 (Introduction to Creative Writing) should we be offering in a few weeks?” So what data would help us predict that? We’re always trying to figure that out. The problem is that all the data is backward looking, and things are changing among students, among the system–the way institutions are set up and how they interact with each other–it makes for a greater possibility that the future is going to be different, and I think that’s really what we’re weathering. I’ll give you a really concrete example: With English 100, since I’ve been Chair, and I know for years before as well, we’ve been pretty accurate in our predictions of how many seats we need for spring. It’s always smaller than fall; it’s between three and seven or eight sections smaller. This semester we planned conservatively, and nevertheless, for the first time we had to cancel two sections of The Craft of Writing. Now, whether after the academic dismissal appeals go through we’ll need to bring them back online, or whether we’re at the right number, or whether we need to cancel another, remains to be seen. I don’t think from looking at the numbers we’ll need to cancel any more, but we’re usually full to the gills at this point and have no available seats. But now we have plenty of seats, and that’s the first time in my time as Chair that that’s happened. That’s a clear example of the problem I was talking about, where we have the biggest incoming class as of census day in the fall, but what is it going to be like come census day in the spring, fifteen days into the semester? The signs are not looking good, not looking good at all.

Maloney: That’s scary.

Dr. Simon: I think we need to do a better job–going back to that qualitative idea–of attaching data to the individual and really understand that person’s circumstances, then look for patterns across individuals. It’s more qualitative research and it’s going to be more intensive and fuzzier, but I think that’s going to be the better way to figure out what we need to change. I don’t think you can sit there and say, “Students today are less prepared than my generation.” Every generation of professor says that. That kind of saying goes back centuries in American higher education. It’s more about institutional transformation. So one of the things I’ve been really interested in as a liason to the FCCC (Faculty Council of Community Colleges)–which is the statewide governance body for the 30 two-year colleges in the SUNY system–they’ve been really wrestling with this problem too because they’ve been experiencing a real rollercoaster in enrollment, in some counties even worse than we have. One of the things they’ve been trying to do–and they’ve been getting a lot of media attention, awards, and actually a lot of investment from philanthropists to expand this–is looking at disciplines that are bottlenecks for students. So whether it’s introductory math courses or introductory writing courses, there’s some really interesting initiatives happening. If you look up the phrase “Guided pathways,” you’ll find out a lot about this research-based model that, if it is done right, very much involves the faculty, professionals, and the administration together in figuring out how you reorient the institution to better support students all the way through.

Maloney: It’s interesting you bring up community colleges, because I’ve always heard that they tend to be the best at supporting students.

Dr. Simon: I think what it is is they’re the most accustomed to dealing with the population of students we’re now dealing with. Everybody knows that community colleges have way lower retention rates, persistence rates, and completion rates. To me, one simple correlation is it’s the economics of the students involved. If their families are depending on them to work–whether it’s their own families or an older generation–of course they’re going to face harder health outcomes, more financial emergencies, there are so many things correlated with lower income that just make it harder to finish school. So community colleges have had to be ahead of the curve–in comparison to four-year schools–in coming up with innovative ways to support those students. Now, CUNY’s gotten a lot of attention for their “ASAP” program. The pilot was incredibly successful and they’re fighting right now to expand it and get more funding for it. It’s another one of these more structured ways of approaching student advisement, course selection, academic support, financial support, and emotional and life support. The thought used to be that the more choices you offer students the better it will be; they’ll be able to customize their path through the institution. But what you’re finding–especially for students who may be the first generation to be in a college–is that it’s paralyzing. It’s a crazy bureaucracy they have no experience navigating, and depending on their experience with other educational bureaucracies they may come in with some assumptions about what to expect, or some distrust based on their past experiences. The idea that they’re coming in fully autonomous and able to make rational choices–and all we need to do is allow them the freedom to customize–it may have been what students said they wanted in the Sixties, but I don’t think it’s nearly as relevant to today’s student.

Maloney: I came here in 2005 and I don’t think I could have dealt with that much customization.

Dr. Simon: In the community colleges you’re seeing some concerns about this because it involves the faculty sharing even more control of the curriculum, really not seeing the classroom only as theirs. There are worries that it’s too much like Common Core and that you’re deprofessionalizing the faculty. Now, I think there are good answers to that. It should never be off-the-shelf: “Here’s your template. Adopt it.” It should always be a bottom-up decision of all the campus constituencies deciding whether to do it. FCCC has been pretty good about laying out how they think it should happen, and I think SUNY system administration has been really responsive and the local campuses have a growing understanding that institutional change can’t be top-down. It has to involve everyone, and it’s difficult to rethink–at places that are used to having siloed divisions, and even offices–to rethink how you do things. But I think there’s some evidence from places that have done this in other states, from CUNY, from leaders among the two-year schools in SUNY, where you can get big payoffs for the students and the institution. That’s something that I think we should learn from. I don’t think any four-year schools are taking this model–and I don’t think we necessarily should either–but I think we can learn the principles and figure out how to do it ourselves. That’s where the larger budget–I think I will say “crisis”– that we’re facing can be a spur to innovation. It can’t just be about, “How do we protect what already exists?” Or, “What that already exists do we salvage and what do we sacrifice?”  I think to really turn the dial we’re going to have to commit to doing things differently and figure out what that means. In English, since the early 2000’s we’ve been getting fewer and fewer grad students, fewer and fewer teachers who want to get their permanent certification and master’s with us, fewer people in English who might consider going on for a PhD, or use their MA in English for other job purposes. So last year we decided we’re not going to accept students into the master’s program. We had developed this certificate of advanced study in professional writing, thinking that since our undergraduate writing courses were increasingly popular maybe a post-bacc thing of 30 credits–not a master’s degree, but an advanced certificate–would be of interest to students who would want to stay with us for another semester or year. Maybe professionals in the area wanted to upgrade their skills or go for career changes. We stopped accepting students into that program last spring as well. We could never generate a robust cohort. In English, we totally understand the need to let some things go as part of the strategic planning process. We decided that we’re not going to keep throwing professors at the problem, having them teach courses with fewer than five students. We’d rather rethink how we do general education, how we contribute to Fredonia Foundations. We’d rather reimagine our two existing majors in English and English Adolescence Education.

Maloney: I talk to professors and I hear, “Well, cutting this program would only save us a small amount of money. Why are we doing this?” When people say that to you how do you respond?

Dr. Simon: That’s what I meant when I said that sacrificing some to save others isn’t going to work because you’re not going to save much money. Usually the ones that end up being sacrificed are the smallest ones anyway that have the fewest students. By closing the CAS and the Master’s we’ve already made all our changes; we’re not saving any money by officially eliminating them. We’ve already reassigned the faculty; we’ve already invested in developing a proposal for an innovative teacher education program that we hope gets approval from SUNY and NYSED. So as an English department we’re betting on growth, and growth in new areas: growth in teaching and growth in writing. What I would much rather see in the future–because we’re already down this PEPRE road–as a regular part of the department review, is to always be monitoring the key indicators of the health of a particular degree program. If it falls below a certain threshold you have a certain amount of time–say, two or three years–to come up with a plan for doing something differently that gets results. But you’re just always assessing it and always determining if you’re offering the right mix of degree programs for what students need today. So I don’t think PEPRE is going to get us very far very fast. For the bigger programs–if those are even closed–all the students have to finish, you still have to offer the courses, the professors still have to be here, and retrenchment–this idea of closing departments and firing tenured professors–is a morale-killer. That’s where we need to be more innovative in terms of, “What are the students of the future going to need, and how do we build our institution to address that? How do we restructure this institution to help students today?”

Maloney: Do you have any answers to that? It’s such a broad question, and the world is changing so fast.

Dr. Simon: It’s funny because there’s such a disconnect between what CEO’s and HR folks in businesses say that they want–which are liberal arts skills–and what students and families think is in demand. By “liberal arts” I don’t just mean arts and humanities; I mean a liberal arts approach to any discipline–whether it’s natural sciences, social sciences–it’s the idea that you may not become the world’s greatest expert in sociology, but you learn enough sociology to be useful in your life as a citizen and in whatever career path you take on, and learn how to learn more, as needed, for the rest of your life. The vision of that is even more relevant as we head deeper into the 21st century: the ability to deal with unanticipated situations and unexpected problems; to look over the horizon and see what’s coming; to deal with ambiguity and imperfect knowledge, and to deal with multiple perspectives and debates over facts, opinions, values, and decisions to be made. I think liberal arts are–again, whether it’s English, or economics, or physics–they uniquely prepare students for a much more uncertain, faster-changing world that we’re objectively in.

Maloney: I just read this book, Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, and I assumed they would touch on liberal arts, because that’s something a robot can’t do, but that was actually a major part of the book. I was shocked by how many things we’re already doing that prepare students for today’s world.

I have an understanding of how much less money we get from the state, but I don’t understand where all that money is going. Where is that money going? And if you can also touch on your thoughts about student debt, because I see that as a coming crisis.

Dr. Simon: The trendlines are really clear: As state support has declined, the price of tuition has gone up and student debt has gone up. The more institutions become tuition-dependent and enrollment-sensitive, the more they’re likely to hire contingent faculty to act as a buffer, so when times are good you hire more contingent faculty and when times are bad you let contingent faculty go. That’s been the traditional model since the ‘80s. You can track this nationally and statewide: The investment per college student–whether you look at per-student, as a share of the general fund of the state, or as a share of per-capita income in the state–the trendlines are down everywhere, and especially when you focus on core operating budgets. The Great Recession exacerbated it; in some states it bounced back up pretty quickly; in some states it’s leveled off. At Fredonia alone, we lost five or six million-a-year for the last six or seven years in state support for our core operating budget. Part of what we’re trying to tell the state is that this is a problem you’ve created. You’re thinking that education is a private good, that students should bear more of it because as individuals they’re the ones receiving the benefit. Everyone knows about the one million dollar salary bonus over the course of your working life with a college degree; people have calculated it out to about $33,000 per year on average. What people are consistently underestimating are the social goods and the non-market benefits that come from individuals completing their degrees. I quote Chris Newfield in his book The Great Mistake: How We Wrecked Public Universities and How We Can Fix Them, where he calculates that two-thirds of the benefit of a college education is this “dark matter,” social, non-market benefit. By another calculation maybe it’s about fifty-fifty as to what accrues to the individual and what accrues to the society. What I take from that is simple–it’s what UUP has been advocating for as long as I’ve been here–that the state contribute its fair share, which we think is about fifty-fifty. Right now it’s not fifty-fifty; it’s not even close to fifty-fifty. A few days ago, the Governor vetoed this Enhanced Maintenance of Effort Bill that repeatedly comes to his desk with near-unanimous support. He always vetoes it because he says he wants it to be part of the regular budget process.

Maloney: What does that mean, “be part of the regular budget process.”?

Dr. Simon: The regular budget process is kicking into gear right now. Traditionally, the Governor gives the State of the State Address, then he presents his executive budget. The legislature responds to it with their own budgets, and what emerges is a one-house budget. Then you get the “three men in a room” situation, and what’s different this time is it’s going to be all Democrats in the room, and not all men. The other thing that’s different is the Governor is approaching his third term with some urgency. He gave a speech in December called “What Would FDR Do?” He’s really trying to position himself and the state as this progressive alternative to Trump. Well, you look at his social agenda for 2019, and you maybe see one or two things that could deal with higher education, but he seems to still believe in this idea that the more the students are paying for the operating cost of SUNY the better–they have skin in the game, they get the benefit, the debt that they incur should be easy to pay off, and it’s a virtuous cycle. To me it’s such an old, and outdated understanding. When you get to the student debt question, I’d really like to know what’s happening to student debt on Governor Cuomo’s watch. We brought to campus Sara Goldrick-Rab, who has a great critique of our existing financial aid system. It starts with this idea that the federal government has pulled back from its commitments with Pell, and the state has pulled back from its commitments and with TAP. There’s a gap between what those programs will maximally cover and what tuitions are at public universities across the country. Governor Cuomo’s own Excelsior Scholarship Program also has a little gap built into it. In essence, some students’ tuition is going to help pay for the free tuition of other students because neither the U.S. government nor New York State is paying for the full price of the ticket with Pell and TAP. But most students–even many getting the maximum Pell and TAP awards–are likely still having to take out loans for the other two-thirds for the part that’s not free: the fees, the residence halls, the meal plan, and books, which really, really adds up. I think what New York politicians don’t understand as well as they should is that we’re reaching the point where just the sticker shock alone is pricing people out of a SUNY education. This idea of providing the people of New York educational services of the highest quality, with the broadest possible access, and the mission of SUNY and CUNY is really in danger. As part of Fredonia’s University Senate Executive Committee and the statewide University Faculty Senate executive committee, I’ve been really trying to push both bodies to say this clearly to the state: “You can’t keep reducing state support by the rate of inflation every year,” which is what the current agreement does. “You can’t keep giving us these unfunded mandates,” the well-deserved raises that we all got as part of the negotiated salary increases. “You can’t keep putting that on the institutions to cover it. If the state negotiates it the state should cover it.” And then, what about actually advancing SUNY’s mission? We turn away so many students who want to be in the EDP program–it’s something like 30,000 students–it’s harder to get into EDP than many selective liberal arts colleges.

Maloney: I didn’t know that.

Dr. Simon: And yet Albany plays the game every year: The Governor says, “I’m going to cut EDP,” then the legislature restores it and everybody’s happy, except for those tens of thousands of students who don’t get in. New York is still one of the richest states in the country. We pride ourselves as being a leader in the country, but when you look at all those measures I was talking about we tend to be in the middle of the pack, and there’s no good reason for it. When you look at the impact–whether it’s the immediate impact or the longer-term effects of enhancing democracy, and civic engagement, and the workforce, and community life, and the arts–you just ask yourself, “Why is New York acting like a southern state when it comes to higher education?” From the vantage point of Fredonia–and I’m the convener of the comprehensive colleges sector–many comprehensive colleges are facing very similar issues to us, with retention issues, with enrollment issues, with rapidly exhausting reserves, all of us are going to be forced to innovate or die. Why should it be that choice though? If the state would just contribute its fair share that work of transformation could happen in a more creative, innovative posture rather than in a crisis-management posture. I think you’re going to get results either way, but I think you’re going to get better results if you’re not holding a gun to people’s heads.

_____

The day after my conversation with Dr. Simon, Fredonia’s Executive Committee released an open letter to Governor Cuomo, created a change.org petition, and mailed letters to some three dozen key state legislators calling for a “new deal for SUNY and CUNY.” Several days later the statewide University Faculty Senate unanimously approved an even more aggressive resolution than the one the Fredonia University Senate approved in late December.