In his remarks to the Senate today, Chancellor Kent Severud discussed planning for Spring 2022, school year goals, and the search for leadership.
The full text of his notes is below.
Good afternoon. Forty-eight hours until the end of the fall semester 2021. I know it’s been a long academic experience, like all of 2021. I know many of you will be grading or finishing final exams or projects for a while now, but I hope you’ll be able to spend time with your loved ones And some rest.
I am so proud and grateful for how successful you all have been in the class. It required commitment from faculty, staff, and students. I truly believe that everyone has done their part to keep the campus safe and to help students continue to make progress toward their degrees. Our students have responsibly followed the COVID guidelines, and, with the help of all of you, we have brought back the vibrant campus life that is so important here.
We’ve had about 15,000 undergraduate, 6,000 graduate and professional students on campus this semester and over 500 students studying abroad who are on their way home safely soon. Applications for new students for 2022 are doing very well by any measure. It is a sign of hope for the coming year. We will welcome a very strong new group of students to the university for the spring semester in January.
Our current plan is to open for the spring semester on January 15th on schedule. This plan includes the hope that if there is another wave of the virus, which I suspect there is, it will wane by mid-January. All I can say is the team and I spend a large part of every day watching the situation and preparing for the different scenarios we might face.
This afternoon, I will provide an overview of our planning for Spring 2022, a review of school year goals, and an update on some key leadership searches.
Last week, we announced everything Valid Students, faculty, and staff are required to receive a booster dose prior to the start of the spring semester, and non-eligibles are required to do so as soon as they are eligible to do so. Again, exceptions will only be made for those with medical or religious exceptions. This is partly due to the federal requirement that all contractors’ employees be vaccinated. For our New York City employees, new requirements are in effect in New York City on December 27.
There are judicial challenges to the federal vaccine mandate for federal contractors, which is where we are now. Some universities, and a large number, are backing away from their vaccination requirements. At this point, the legal challenge does not affect Syracuse University’s decision on vaccinations and boosters. We are going. It is dangerous to delay planning for reinforcements until the courts provide clarity. As a private university, we are in the expectation that our supporting requirements will be ready for the spring semester.
We have logistical pieces for faculty, staff and students to provide proof of vaccination. All faculty and staff received instructions on how to submit documents through MySlice. The Barnes Center contacted all students to instruct them to upload their documents. While it may be a lift to make this happen, our public health team believes it is the right thing to do. me too. We intend to continue to trust the science and follow the advice of public health experts on our campuses and those at the county and state level on this issue.
We are monitoring developments with the omicron variant and with another wave of the virus closely. On Monday, Onondaga County announced its first locally identified Omicron case. We are seeing an increase in local cases in our community. We can assume that more will follow and that a large number of them will be an omicron variant.
Throughout the semester, our case numbers remained low. Over the past 11 weeks, we’ve had a positivity rate of less than 1%, and we’ve done a lot of testing. However, there has been a rise recently. With the advent of the omicron, we just have to keep an eye on this day in and day out because we saw on a college campus not far from us that the situation could change very quickly. Cornell announced yesterday that they are moving all finals online and shutting down all in-person activities due to the doubling of cases since last weekend. They had just under 1,000 student cases as of yesterday. We are less than a tenth of that. We are not there yet. I think we’ll go up in the next report later today. I think we’ll be over 100 but we haven’t finished very far. Again, when studying Cornell, what we see is that things can go up very quickly. We will have to be very careful in our day to day planning, including the remaining events we have planned at the university over the weekend and next week. We’ll communicate about this as we go along as we have been. We’re ready to spin if we have to. However, it looks like we’ll reach the end of the semester in 48 healthy hours.
This has taken a lot from everyone, and I just want to acknowledge that and thank everyone in this meeting for your contribution.
In terms of progressing toward the 2021-2022 goals and the overarching goal of promoting academic excellence in a university that welcomes everyone, I have six things to highlight since we last met.
In terms of student experience, Orange Success has launched a mentoring program that will connect first-generation freshmen and transfer undergraduates, including students starting in January, with sophomores and junior mentors at Syracuse University.
Second, academic affairs, and we’ll hear more about this from Provost Ritter in a moment, began reviewing the group recruitment program and began our research process. Thank you to all of you who participated in this effort. These reviews will be critical in updating the academic strategic plan.
There are a lot of major searches for faculty members in progress. I think this is great news. I hope everyone involved helps keep this moving forward quickly so we can be competitive in recruitment this year. To hire early, not late.
In the area of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, we look forward to initial feedback from the recent campus-wide survey of our draft strategic plan. I know there has been substantial input from Senate committees. Thank you for the time and thought you brought into this process.
Moving forward, in order to meet our annual goals and our Forever Orange fundraising goals, employees resumed travel and in-person activities this summer. This fall’s fundraising has been very strong. I will report more on that after the end of the calendar year on December 31st.
This is the time to acknowledge that while many of us appreciate orange appreciation days, there are many who continue to work at full capacity during orange appreciation days. This includes not only applicant staff but also facility staff and student support staff for students who are unable to return home. I thank them all.
Finally, in the field of the Campus Framework, design planning is underway for the new Allyn Innovation Center, the renovation of Link Hall, and Phase 1 of the Athletics Framework.
I want to say more about the Campus Framework, which has been a fairly massive campus-wide effort that Sasaki & Co. recommended nearly five years ago. The framework has done a great job informing our design and construction decisions on our campuses over the past five years, but perhaps it’s time to update it because the world has changed. In addition to the issues highlighted by COVID, we are working on a strategic approach to housing and academic space. In the upcoming semester, we will collaborate across campus to update the Campus Framework.
These are just a few examples of the progress we’ve made so far.
Turn to the main searches for leadership. The search for the Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion is proceeding as scheduled. The search committee, chaired by Siri Banks and Brian Koncol, has met several times. The committee participated in a training session on implicit bias to ensure that the research process was inclusive. The description of the situation has been widely circulated. We are building a very strong pool of candidates. First round interviews are expected in early February.
Next, the search is in full swing for the Associate Vice President and Head of Campus Safety and Emergency Management Services, which is headed up by Allen Groves. The Search Committee examined a list of nearly 10 semi-finalists. I did virtual interviews last week. The Search Committee recommends moving forward with three finalists with in-person interviews scheduled for January. Our plan is to fill the position as soon as possible and no later than the end of the spring semester.
As you all know, after more than 40 years in law enforcement, Bobby Maldonado will be retiring later this month.
Last week, the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees honored Bobby Maldonado for his leadership in helping the department achieve accreditation from the gold standard for law enforcement accreditation agencies. He cited his work in strengthening training programs and community policing. It commended him for hiring employees from underrepresented communities, which has led to the identification of 43% of the current Public Safety Department team as people of color. We are grateful to Bobby for his work here in Syracuse, and we wish Bobby all the best!
In the early spring of 2022, we will begin the search for a new CFO for Syracuse University. In the meantime, I thank Gwen Judge for her excellent service as Interim Senior Vice President and CFO throughout the upcoming semester. I will consult with the leadership in the next 48 hours.
This semester and the last 48 hours are like the rest of the semester. There are new developments every day and we have to adapt to them. I have one request for all of you before I conclude. The deadline for nominations for the Chancellor’s citation for Excellence has been extended to Thursday, January 6, 2022. Full instructions are available on the Chancellor’s citation webpage on the Academic Affairs website. I would be grateful if you would nominate your colleagues who you feel are worthy of recognition at the university level. Faculty members may be nominated for academic excellence and scientific excellence. Faculty and staff can receive the award for contributions to the student experience and university initiatives. Students can receive the Excellence in Research and Work Excellence Award for graduate and undergraduate students. Finally, anyone can be nominated in the Lifetime Achievement category.
You know, we’ve had a lot of retirements we’ve had during COVID or about to happen, so please consider who we should be recognizing at the end of their careers in particular with the Universitywide Lifetime Achievement Award. I don’t think I and others can say thank you enough for the exceptional work.
I want to conclude with a few words of gratitude. Thank you for rising to the occasion all this past year. Thank you for doing everything in your power in a very difficult year at Syracuse University. I hope you break up and relax, enjoy your time with your loved ones, and have a happy holiday!