What follows is the text of Father McShane’s fall 2018 State of the University address, as prepared for delivery to the University community on Sept. 20.
Welcome back. I hope and pray the summer was kind to you, and that you managed to squeeze in a good vacation in the course of the past few months. Dr.Freedman’s death has affected all of us deeply. I would ask you to continue to pray for his family as they continue to mourn his loss.
As you know, the Search Committee charged with identifying his successor has already been empaneled and hopes to complete its work by the end of January. In the course of our time together this afternoon, I would like to address the following topics and issues:
• Introduction of New Senior Staff and faculty members.
• The Progress Made by the various task forces created last year.
• Admissions and Enrollment Figures
• Development and the Campaign for Financial Aid
• Rankings and Recognition
• Strategic Planning Themes
I. The Introduction of New Senior Staff and the New Members of the Faculty
A. Dr. Jonathan Crystal has been appointed the Interim Provost of the University.
B. Dr. Peter Stace has been named the Senior Vice President for Enrollment Services and Planning.
C. Mr. Frank Simio has been named the Vice President for Lincoln Center, replacing Dr. Brian Byrne (who retired after forty years of service to the University.)
D. Mr. John Buckley has been named the Vice President for Admission and Student Financial Services.
E. Mr. Rafael Zapata has been named the University’s Chief Diversity Officer, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and my Special Assistant for Diversity.
E. Dr. Arto Woodley, who comes to us from Swarthmore College, has been named the Executive Director of Community-Engaged Learning.
F. Mr. Kareem Peat, who comes to us from Cornell, has been named the University’s Title IX Coordinator.
G. Mr. Shaya Phillips has been named the Interim Chief Information Officer.
H. This year, we have also welcomed 26 scholars to the faculty of the University.
A remarkably talented and diverse group, they will add immeasurably to the life of the University and to the growth of the students entrusted to their care. I would ask the new faculty members who are with us to rise to be acknowledged. Thank you for choosing to spend your professional lives at Fordham. (You will find more information on these new scholars in one of the traditional opening-of- school memos that I sent out two weeks ago.)
II. Task Forces
A. The Budget Planning Task Force: Co-Chaired by Stephen Freedman (now, Jonathan Crystal) and Martha Hirst, this task force has worked through the year to help us create a budget process that is more inclusive, data-driven and more attuned to the strategic needs and dreams of the University. They were assisted in their discussions and deliberations by Huron, Inc. At the end of the 2017-18 Academic Year, they finished the first draft of their report, a report that contains a number of recommendations. Those recommendations are now being reviewed and refined. Once the final report is completed, I will distribute it to the University community.
B. The Retention Task Force: Chaired by Dr. Joe Desciak, the retention task force worked through the year to prepare a recommended action plan that would enable us to address the issues that lead students to transfer out of the University. In response to the task force’s report, we created a small Retention Working Group to determine the next steps. Among the actions taken so far, the University has purchased the software called Student Success Collaborative which is the current state of the art application for tracking student progress as well as identifying students who may be in trouble academically. This software is only as good as its users, though. Over the next year, we hope to have faculty and administrators actively engaged in using the SSC platform for better understanding and supporting the student population.
Fordham College at Rose Hill has hired an assistant dean for student support and success, Ms. Cristie-Bell Garcia. Retention will be a strong component of Ms. Garcia’s responsibilities. Currently, there is a myriad of reasons why a student decides to leave Fordham, from financial to a personal family crisis to a decision to pursue a different academic path. To help understand the motivation, the Retention Working Group is developing a student exit survey. The Retention Working Group will continue to push and examine the retention dilemma. A strong retention rate is important for many areas of University life.
C. The Transfer Admissions Task Force: Chaired by Dr. Jonathan Crystal, the transfer task force also worked through the year to prepare an action plan that would address the barriers that stand in the way of our being able to attract more transfer students to the University. Their work has been wide-ranging, and has involved conversations with the cognizant offices on campus as well as with the Core Curriculum Committee. In the coming weeks, we will create a Transfer Working Group to examine the task force report and determine the next steps.
D. The Diversity Task Force: As you know, the Diversity Task Force completed its work and presented its final report at the end of the 2016-17 academic year. Once its report was presented, the University created its Diversity Action Plan. Among the first actions taken when the plan was completed was the appointment of a Chief Diversity Officer, Mr. Rafael Zapata along with the creation of a three- person team (Mr. Zapata, Kay Turner and Juan Carlos Matos) to lead our diversity efforts. That team has been hard at work for the past year-with telling and positive results. Their work, however, has just begun since the Action Plan is an ambitious one. You will read more about their work in a letter that I will send out next week.
E. The First-Year Experience Working Group: consisting of personnel from Academic Affairs, Student Affairs and Mission Integration, the first year experience working group met for several months over the last academic year and submitted a report during the summer. Studying models from other universities, the working group formulated an initial proposal for a “first year experience course containing a significant diversity component,” as suggested by the Diversity Task Force Report action plan. Among the recommendations was a course to be piloted, not in Fall 2018 but Fall 2019, as well as further committees to develop the course and to review multiple aspects of the Fordham first year experience. We look forward to further development of this course to be piloted next fall.
Undergraduate Admissions and Enrollment: on the undergraduate level, we had our twenty-fifth year of application growth. In fact, this past year, we received and processed 46,167 applications for admission to our three traditional-age undergraduate colleges, a 2.4% increase over last year’s number. We offered admission to 46% of those who applied. At the end of the cycle, we enrolled a total of 2,265 students. The quality indices for the class are very strong indeed: the average entering SAT for the class is 1355, up 11 points over last year’s average. The average high school GPA is 3.65. The number of National Merit Scholars is 45 and the number of National Hispanic Scholars is 57. The number of Presidential Scholars is 6.
As for demographic breakdown, the following states are our top ten feeder states, with percentages:
New York: 35%
New Jersey: 13%
In addition, we have 207 international students in the freshman class.
As for gender breakdown: the class is 44 percent male and 56 percent female.
As for ethnicity, 37% percent are from traditionally underrepresented groups in American society.
Finally, we enrolled 110 students in our HEOP program.
On the graduate level, several of our schools continue to deal with challenging national and regional trends. The following schools are experiencing either gains or are in a steady state: Law, GSAS and GSSS. The following schools continue to roll with challenges that are affecting schools throughout the region and the nation: GSE, Gabelli and GSRRE.
Allow me to share an important observation on graduate enrollments: There continues to be significant turmoil in the graduate and professional school markets—some of which are due to the dramatically changed demographics in the Northeast, and some of which are due to uncertainty in international markets with regard to American immigration and economic policies. As a result, we continue to see a rebalancing of the component parts of our student census. That is to say, we continue to find ourselves more dependent on undergraduate enrollments to balance our budgets. (We have more than 9,000 undergraduates out of a total University headcount of roughly 16,250 students. This is, as I pointed out last year, a rather remarkable change from what we saw in the past—when we had far more graduate than undergraduate students at the University.)
While we are still doing well in the undergraduate market, I must point out that those markets are also in some turmoil, especially in the Northeast. (On a related note, we are continuing to watch how the Excelsior Program is affecting private colleges and universities in New York State. So far, we have not been adversely affected by its introduction, but many of our sister schools have significant declines in enrollment as a result of its introduction.)
In the course of the past year, we raised $49.5 million. In addition, as a result of the hard work done by the Development Office in the course of the past three years, we have made good progress on our new capital campaign, the campaign for financial aid. Indeed, we have raised $140 million toward our $175 million goal. Of course, the work of fundraising is never done. Once we have completed this campaign, we will have to gear up for our next campaign, a campaign that will be tied to our facilities needs on both campuses, and the work that we are doing on the strategic planning front.
In order both to complete the present campaign and to prepare for the campaign that will inevitably follow it, we are continuing to cultivate three groups of people in our base: first, those members of the Fordham family who have helped us in the past and who have a clear philanthropic interest in Fordham; second, our younger alumni to foster in them a spirit of giving; and third the parents of our present students. Since they have already invested in Fordham by entrusting their sons and daughters to us, we believe that we can convince them to do so again. At the same time, the Development Office continues to work with our alumni both to solicit gifts and to line up job opportunities for our present students.
V. Rankings. Ratings and Recognition
I would be less than honest if I didn’t tell you that the past year has been a mixed one for us in the world of ratings and rankings.
US News & World Report:
Undergraduate Teaching: 52
Counselor Ranking: 62
Faculty Resources: 44
Financial Resources: 104
Alumni Giving: 56
Veterans’ Ranking: 37
Gabelli School of Business:
Undergraduate Overall: 62
International Business: 8
Gabelli School of Business Graduate Program:
51 in part-time MBA
Graduate School of Social Service: 24
Graduate School of Education: 70
School of Law:
3 in part-time program.
On a far more promising front, College Consensus (a group that claims that its rankings are based on a critical reading and evaluation of all other ratings and rankings) has a far more positive read on Fordham:
19th best dorms.
11th best school for veterans.
58th best national research university.
In addition, the Chronicle of Higher Education has ranked us #10 among private colleges and universities for improving the upward social mobility of students who come from families of very modest means.
Frankly, I am both dismayed and disappointed that we have not fared better in the rankings. Our student profile has gotten significantly better in the past decade. Our faculty has gotten stronger. Our programs have become more creative and stronger as well. Lest you think that I am indulging in idle boasts, let me share with you the following evidence for my statements:
1. Improvement in our student profile: since 2003, our average entering SATs have gone from 1186 to 1355. In addition, during the past year, we have the following to report:
A. Prestigious Fellowships and Scholarships: 122 Awards, 4 Alternates, 6 Finalists, 8 Semifinalists
Highlights included seven Fulbright Scholarships (with three alternates); one Newman’s Own Fellowship; three Graduate Boren Fellowships; three Gilman Scholarships; one Rangel Fellowship; one Coro Fellowship; one DAAD; one Carnegie Endowment James C. Gaither Junior Fellowship; one Henry Luce Fellowship; one Gates Cambridge finalist; one White House Fellow finalist; three Gates Millennium Scholars attending the University; five Clare Boothe Luce Fellowships; 10 Clare Boothe Luce Scholarships; and three Clare Boothe Luce Summer Research Grants.
B. Acceptances into medical and law schools:
At Rose Hill, 85% of applicants to Medical School programs have been accepted while at Lincoln Center the percentage is 62. Among all health professions, 83% have been accepted.
Among the three traditional undergraduate schools, 91% of those who applied to law school were accepted.
2. Faculty Achievements:
Scholarly Work: In the past year, our faculty published 241 books and book chapters and 413 articles, with the following breakdown:
Arts and Sciences: 155 Books and Book Chapters, 246 Articles
Business: 18 Books and Book Chapters, 54 Articles
Education: 13 Books and Book Chapters, 24 Articles
Religion and Religious Education: One Book, Two Articles
Social Service: 14 Books and Book Chapters, 19 Articles
Law: 40 Books and Book Chapters, 68 Articles
In addition, our faculty have won grants in the amount of $13.2 million.
In light of these achievements, I really do believe that our ratings and rankings are off–and significantly so. Because of this, we have looked ever more closely at the reports that we submit to the various groups that publish rankings to make sure that we have not been shortchanging ourselves. We will continue to do so in the coming years.
The past year has been a year during which we did not have any large-scale constructions underway. We were not, however, idle. Far from it. At the Lincoln Center campus, we undertook a gut renovation of the sixth and eighth floors of the Lowenstein Center. In addition, we overhauled the dining facility on the first floor of Lowenstein. Finally at Lincoln Center we spruced up the corridor linking the south end of the campus with the buildings on West 62nd Street. In the coming year, we will begin the renovation of the admissions offices on the second floor of Lowenstein to make it possible for us to accommodate the very large number of prospective students who visit the Lincoln Center campus. (We have invested $400 million in improvements at Lincoln Center in the past 15 years.)
At Rose Hill, we worked on upgrading the computer science spaces in John Mulcahy Hall and have begun the preparatory work for the installation of an elevator in Collins Hall. (We will also improve the overall accessibility of the building as we proceed with the elevator project.) We also installed a solar field on the roof of the garage as part of our sustainability efforts. (This project will result in both savings in our budget and help us achieve the goals that we have embraced as part of our participation in the Mayor’s Challenge on Sustainability). In addition, we have begun a phased process to upgrade our electrical systems (which will require a great deal of work at Thebaud Hall.)
As I mentioned at last year’s Convocation, since we have added over 570,000 square feet of new space to the Lincoln Center campus and gut-renovated more than 181,000 square feet, the time has come for us to focus more attention on the needs of the schools that are housed on the Rose Hill campus.
One final bit of news on the facilities front: since the British Province of the Society of Jesus has decided to close Heythrop College (on whose campus we operated our London Centre), we had to find a new home for our London-based programs. After a great deal of study, we acquired and renovated a new facility in London. Located in the Clerkenwell neighborhood, it is close to the University of London and offers us enough room to expand our operations in Britain. (The new facility will be dedicated in late October.)
VII. Strategic Planning
As you know, for the past three years the University has been engaged in an effort to create a continuous planning process aimed at making us a more agile institution, and therefore an institution that is better equipped to deal and respond to changes in the world of higher education. Led by the members of CUSP, planning has proceeded apace—and in phases.
In the first year of its existence, CUSP identified six overall priorities to direct our efforts to achieve our vision of becoming the Model Urban Jesuit University for the 21st Century:
1) Innovative Jesuit Teaching and Learning
2) The Challenge and Inspiration of New York City
3) Strategically Focused Research
4) Global Engagement
5) The Creation of a Diverse and Inclusive Community
6) The Creation of a Strategic and Nimble Institution.
In its second year in existence, CUSP invited the divisions, schools and departments of the University to form local planning bodies. On the basis of my reading of the annual reports that were prepared by the departments, schools and divisions of the University, I can tell you there has been significant—but uneven progress on the local level. Some schools and divisions have, in essence, completed their local strategic plans, while the plans in others are still works in progress. (This is due to differing levels of complexity in the schools and
At the end of its third year in existence, CUSP suggested that the time had come for the University both to retain CUSP in existence, and to turn its attention to the creation of a more traditional strategic planning document (one that would have the more familiar elements of Vision Statement, Themes, Goals, Objectives and Action Plans). Therefore, in the coming year we will do just that. As we move into this new phase of planning, I would like to present you with a little environmental scanning to provide you with the context for all that we will be doing in the coming year:
1. Demographic challenges: the college-age population in the Northeast, the market from which we have traditionally drawn most of our students (on both the undergraduate and graduate levels) has contracted rather dramatically in the course of the past two decades. The decline in the number of students in the Northeast has
been matched or accompanied by waves of school closures or consolidations. As a result, we have worked assiduously to open new markets in other parts of the country and throughout the world.
2. Success with Challenges: thanks to the hard work of our admissions team, we have been able to meet the demographic challenges of the moment. In fact, we have seen our undergraduate population almost triple in size in the course of the past two decades. The growth of our undergraduate schools has coincided with a significant decline in our graduate student enrollments. (In 1992, we had roughly 3,200 undergraduate students and roughly 12,500 graduate students. This year, our undergraduate student population will be nearly 10,000 while our graduate student population will be roughly 7,000.) While the rebalancing of our student population has enabled us to remain fiscally sound, I continue to worry about the fact that we are now more dependent than ever on undergraduates—at a time when the demographics of our primary markets is declining.
3. Public Attitudes toward Higher Education: As you know, recent surveys and news reports have made it very clear (painfully clear) that the public views higher education with increasing suspicion. Moreover, these same surveys and news stories make it clear that the public’s concerns with higher education fall into a number of categories: cost (and return on investment), political attitudes, a suspicion that higher education is out of touch with the economic needs of the nation (and therefore a belief that colleges and universities should be more concerned than they appear to be with work-force development than with character development and the education of informed citizens.) Connected with this, it is sadly the case that the liberal arts have suffered acutely. In fact, the public’s loss of faith in their ability to prepare students for jobs has led to their becoming what one writer in the Chronicle has called “fragile disciplines.” Since we are and have always been an institution devoted to the liberal arts, this is an especially troubling trend.
4. Political Attitudes Toward Higher Education: although there are some differences in the way in which the two major political parties view higher education, it is undeniably true that both parties view what we do with some suspicion, and that both parties are concerned with the cost of higher education, the need to focus on work-force development and a desire to rein higher education in in significant ways. (For my part, I must tell you that I am deeply concerned with the government’s pull-back from the post-World War II covenant that called for the creation of a partnership of families, schools and the government to make college education available to all who wish to seek a degree. The government’s contribution to the fulfillment of that dream/promise has simply not kept pace with the rising cost of living in our country.)
5. Recent Political Action: Interestingly enough, while politicians have called the higher educational enterprise into question and while overall they have shown a willingness to cut government investment in the enterprise, there has been a call to make college free (or at least tuition-free). In New York State, this has given rise to the creation of the Excelsior Program, a program that has had a devastating impact on some of the more than 140 private colleges and universities in the State.
6. International Affairs: As I mentioned a few minutes ago, in the course of the past two decades (and especially in the course of the past five years) we have opened new markets abroad. We have also become rather heavily dependent on those markets for both our undergraduate and some of our graduate programs. Therefore, the present tense state of relations between the United States and other countries is a source of genuine concern for us at Fordham.
7. Delivery of Services: As we are well aware, the world of higher education is not only being changed by these forces. It is also being changed—and changed radically—by the introduction of new methods for the delivery of instruction. These new modes of instruction have called for an adjustment in the way in which we operate and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Moreover, the ways in which the new generations of students understand, encounter, and engage with the world challenge us to find new ways to educate them.
8. The State of the Church: Since we are a Catholic and Jesuit university, we cannot think that we’re going to be immune from of will be immune from the fallout that’s going on in the church. sexual abuse crisis that has engulfed the Church worldwide is a source of concern for us—as it should be. To be sure, we should expect that we may see a hesitancy on the part of parents to entrust their sons and daughters to us. But that is an issue and a challenge that pales in comparison to the other challenges associated with the sexual abuse crisis. Let me pause here for a moment to address this issue.
As a priest, I am ashamed, embarrassed and furious with and by what my brothers in the priesthood have done to young people in our country and around the world. As a priest, I am furious that some of my brother priests have used their positions of trust in the Church to engage in criminal and sinful behavior. They have destroyed lives. They have used the most vulnerable in society for their own pleasure. They are criminals. Criminals. Despicable human beings. I hope and pray that Pope Francis will take the steps that are necessary to address the many issues associated with the crisis, including the removal of those who enabled these criminals in their actions. The Church may be impoverished by the actions that he takes. So be it. The survivors are our primary concern and must remain our primary concern. Their stories must be heard. Their lives must be given back to them. They must be healed. We at Fordham must be attentive to them and their needs.
Fordham’s Value Proposition:
It is against this background that I would suggest that in spite of all of the challenges that we face, we have a value proposition that is compelling and (I hope) compellingly attractive to offer to prospective students. At its heart, the value proposition is born of our distinctive identity as the Jesuit University of New York. Fordham grew up in and with the City it was founded to serve. Therefore, it has evolved with the City, and has been enriched by the City’s energy, innovative spirit, inclusive embrace of “outsiders” and its unique urban culture. (That culture is one that is visionary, pragmatic, open-minded, brash, experimental, innovative in the face of challenge, welcoming and inclusive.
It is also a culture that has valued the arts and put a premium on that civic virtue that inspires the thoughtful, and values the individual citizen–no matter what that citizen’s social status may be. It
is as a result of its possession of these characteristics that, over time, New York has become what it is today: one of the world’s few idea/thought capitals and one of the very few cities in the world in which the future is being created every day—through the creative interplay of vision, pragmatism, openness and exertion. As a result, it has solidified its claim to being the Capital of the World. It remains at heart a harbor city, but now it is as much a metaphorical harbor city as it is a literal harbor city. In this new age, it seeks to capitalize on its role as a harbor that draws dreamers to itself and that plays a major role in the creation and exchange of ideas and discoveries.
Fordham’s evolution has been fostered by the changing and urgent needs of the students whom it has served. At the same time, however, it has never lost its recognizably Jesuit character and mission. That is to say, it has never shed its devotion to the liberal arts, dialogic learning, innovation and a firm belief that education has to be about the preparation of ethical leaders who can transform the world. This combination of the traditional and the innovative have served it, its students and its city quite well.
At this challenging moment in the nation’s and the City’s history, a moment that could be referred to as an inflection or (in Jesuit terms) frontier moment, I believe that Fordham’s history and peculiar culture have prepared it to serve as the necessary university in New York and in America once again. Allow me to explain.
And so we come to the key question concerning our value proposition: What exactly does Fordham offer students that other schools don’t?
For my part, I think that we make some fairly standard promises that all schools rooted in the liberal arts make. That is to say, in both the core curriculum that we offer our undergraduates and in the curricula that we offer to our graduate and professional school students, we promise students that at Fordham they will learn how: to read critically, to think analytically, to appreciate art in all its rich and enriching forms, to write with precision, elegance and persuasive power, to speak with eloquence, to frame penetrating questions, to read and respond to the signs of the times, to set their moral compass so that they can be strong moral agents in the world, to engage in strong and rigorous debates, debates that require the discerning use of evidence and logic, so that they can live their lives with a sense of noble purpose: the transformation of the world through leadership marked by wisdom, integrity and passion.
In addition, however, Fordham challenges its students in several ways that are not so readily either embraced by or celebrated in other schools. To wit, we challenge our students to learn how to plumb the depths of faith. Moreover, since Fordham is a school that lives under the mandate to seek the magis (the “more” in secular terms, and the greater glory of God in religious terms), we both warn our students to be uneasy with intellectual smugness and/or triumphalistic orthodoxies (wherever they are found or however they are framed), and exhort them to live lives marked by a humble sense of wonder (which is the sign of a truly educated person). I would also submit that since they are advised/exhorted/expected to engage and/or embrace the world from this vantage point, our students are invited to live their lives with a restless or bothered excellence. In other words, they will be forever open to further questioning—and further discoveries.
These emphases would be useful in any age and any city. In New York at the present time, a time of turmoil, polarization, dislocation and the emergence of new ways of knowing and communicating, they are simply indispensable, even necessary. Therefore, I would like to make my case for thinking that Fordham is the necessary university for the City, the nation and the world at this time by placing before you a series of forthright statements that I believe make my case:
In an age of political polarization, we exhort our students to be and to become informed, critical citizens.
In an age fascinated with the glib, our devotion to the liberal arts leads our students to frame discerning questions and to seek wisdom, and not mere throwaway lines.
In a xenophobic age, we remain a school that welcomes and values immigrants and that even believes that they are a gift to our country and the world.
In an age in which both the world and our nation wrestles with religious pluralism and religious violence, we take religion seriously. We take pride in being a place where faith is honored and respected, and where interreligious dialogue is fostered. We enshrine the study of religion in our core curriculum to ensure that our students understand both the power and promise and the volatility of religion.
In an age of digital overload, we seek to provide our students with the intellectual tools that will enable them to be both savvy and critical consumers of cyber knowledge, and to become players in the development of a new and responsible digital culture.
In an atomistic age that values and canonizes rugged individuals, we stress the need for the development of the kind of civic engagement and civic virtue that lead to responsible citizenship and responsibility for all.
In an age that can be all too utilitarian, we honor creativity. We continue to believe that the arts offer timeless insights into the human heart and affirm the transcendent value of the human soul.
In an age that can all too frequently value people on the basis of wealth and devalue people on the basis of race, we teach our students that each person has intrinsic worth and is endowed with a dignity that must never be abridged or attacked.
In an age that is awash with what is referred to as fake news, we teach our students to question easy answers to difficult questions and to weigh all claims on the basis of hard evidence, no matter how unsettling that evidence may be – even to their own sensibilities.
In an age filled with competing orthodoxies, we teach our students that the art of the question is just that: an art. And a saving, balancing art at that.
In an uncertain age, we are serious about, and remain committed to the proposition that education is about character development, and that the world needs men and women of character, wisdom, integrity, and strength.
This is the work, the mission of Fordham, the Jesuit University of the Capital of the World and the Necessary American University for the 21st Century.
This is what we offer, and what should guide us in all of our planning.
May God bless our efforts with success but protect us from complacency as we seek to carve out a challenging niche as the necessary university for our age.