Student State of the Campus Address - January 2016

Welcome home!

I'm glad you're here.

I hope you got some rest over the break, because there's a lot going on this semester and we want you to be involved.

First, why is the year 2016 a really big deal? It's officially our bicentennial year. We are now 200 years old! Over the next year, you are going to hear me mention our bicentennial in just about every public address I give. That, and the fact that we are still number one in the SUNY system for food service.

So, get ready for a big party on Charter Day, March 25, when we are going to have our grand Charter Day birthday party. But we'll have many other events too, such as our bicentennial LoKo festival of the arts, our bicentennial commencement and party in the plaza, our bicentennial Winterfest . . .You get the picture.

When you're as old as we are, you have a lot to celebrate.

But a bicentennial can also serve as a time to reflect. And in that spirit of reflection, I want to acknowledge that last semester was a challenging one for many of us on campus. It was difficult to learn that the warmth of our Potsdam family isn't felt by everyone. That some members of our community do not feel included and valued in the way that we want them to be. It was heard to learn that not everyone on campus felt safe. But I take that as a challenge: a challenge to do better. A challenge to become more inclusive. A challenge to put our long-held values of community and caring into practice.

Over the break, many of us on campus worked hard to get ready for your return. Many of our front line staff participated in professional training on inclusion and diversity, and more professional development is coming.

The search committee for the chief diversity officer worked all through the break to screen candidates, so in the first weeks of February, three candidates for that position will be coming to campus. Please participate in the open forums for these – this is your opportunity to weigh in and help chart the future for our campus.

In the meantime, Dr. Carlos Medina, SUNY's chief diversity officer, will be coming back to campus for a couple of days very early in the semester.

The Diversity in Action Coalition has prepared a full calendar of events and opportunities for learning and reflection, so please keep checking their website for more information. Coming up this Sunday is the second annual Marade, a combination of march and parade in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., followed by a reception with spoken word, hot chocolate, and cookies.

We'll have official grand opening celebrations for two exciting new spaces on campus:

--the newly expanded Center for Diversity in Sisson Hall and

--the Center for Applied Learning in Crumb Library, which houses our internship and study abroad opportunities.

Please come! Everyone is invited to check these out!

Some of you may be wondering about campus safety. Over the break, we continued installing security cameras, and we now have about 150 across the campus. You'll note that we are continuing to ask people to enter buildings through the main doors so that we can better manage the flow of traffic.

The investigation into the hate crime continues, as university police continue to work with our village, state, and federal partners. Please, watch for ongoing bulletins about campus safety from Interim Police Chief Tim Ashley.  And know, whenever we have news or information to share, we will share it with you.

The review of the student conduct code is ongoing. Last semester, you'll recall, students and faculty had the opportunity to meet with Dr. David Bugg, one of the members of the review team, to express their concerns. We are waiting for the report from the external reviewers, and when we receive it there will be an opportunity for campus comment and feedback. While that review is ongoing, I've asked Dr. Alan Hersker, chair of the anthropology department, to serve as an ombuds for anyone going through the student conduct process who has concerns.

The most important thing you can do at SUNY Potsdam is to succeed. In and out of the classroom. So in that spirit, let me offer you some advice for this semester.

  1. Check out our new Center for Applied Learning and try an internship. Commit to doing an internship in our bicentennial year. You'll notice that the Pointercounts are missing a couple of students at their performance tonight. That's because two of them were interning at NAMM, the North American Music Merchant convention in Los Angeles. We had 19 students working the booth at places like Yamaha, getting real world experience with folks like the former CEO of Guitar Center, and having a blast.
  2. Try going abroad. Check out the Study Abroad opportunities in the Center for Applied Learning and see where you could go. Student teachers could get experience leading a classroom in Australia for a semester, or Spanish majors could be fully immersed by studying in Mexico. Don't have that much time to get away? There are also opportunities for Winterim or summer study abroad courses led by faculty, or short service learning trips through the Jamaica Field Service Abroad program.
  3. Present a creative idea or an idea for a business at our second annual Economic Fusion Day on March 16. The creative idea competition recognizes students with innovative ideas for creative or entrepreneurial projects. There are cash prizes, and all participants will get the chance to practice pitching their ideas and connect with distinguished alumni judges. All students who submit entries will be entered in a raffle to win an Xbox One or a flat screen TV—winner's choice. Even if you don't enter, mark your calendars for the Schmooze-A-Palooza, happening the same day on March 16. You can mingle with area employers, to network, practice your elevator pitch and connect with business and organizational leaders.
  4. Become engaged in the community. Volunteer. Find a way to express your voice. Work with others to improve our campus and our community. Whether you're involved in Greek life, athletics, student government, or one of the dozens of organizations on campus, please find a way to get involved with something bigger than yourself.
  5. Support each other. Go out of your way to join the fan section for the next Potsdam Bears hockey game, take a front row seat for a dance performance, and don't miss the next BFA art exhibition. I am constantly amazed by the determination and talent constantly on display here at SUNY Potsdam. You are amazing. You inspire me. I hope you inspire each other, too.

As we develop a vision for a better Potsdam, a better community, I ask you to get involved. We know that social change only happens when people join together. When people do things together.

The process of democratic change is messy. It's often loud and unruly. We saw some of that last semester. But we really make progress when we seek to understand each other. We make progress when we disagree with each other. When we listen to each other. When we learn to respect and even treasure those whose ideas and beliefs are different from ours. My hope for us, as a campus, in this bicentennial year, is that we will find a way to accomplish this.

We will go far, this semester, if we can do that simple thing. Listen, and seek to understand. Thank you.